What about my Self-Esteem and Self-Actualization?


Previously, I discussed how I can control my own desires to “lower the bar” of expectations of what I truly need.  Mostly, I was speaking of material things and basic sustenance.  But what if I’ve already mastered those things?  What if I am just fine with the house I have, with the meals I eat, and with the money I earn?

I am on to bigger and better things. I want a job that is fulfilling, I want to feel self-actualized!  To be a hero!  I want meaning in my pursuit of life!

To gain a perspective on meaning and purpose in life, I always return to control, fate and impermanence.  To be self-actualized, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I have done my best, at what I must do in my pursuit of virtue.”  It’s that simple.  If you can honestly tell that to yourself about your pursuits, then you should be self-actualized.  When it comes to your pursuits, this is all you have control over.  Everything else is external.

As Seneca reminds us, “For if a man engages in many affairs, he often puts himself in the power of Fortune, while his safest course is rarely to tempt her, always to be mindful of her, and never put any trust in her promises. Say, I will set sail unless something happens, and I shall become praetor unless something hinders me, and my enterprise will be successful unless something interferes.



In short, if you are involved in a pursuit that is unwholesome, then stop.  If you are putting your best efforts toward betterment of yourself and those around you, then you need to do no more.

So, you can control your self-esteem and self-actualization needs with your contemplation and philosophy.

Self-Actualize, Philosopher!

The Problem with Maslow


In all of my studies of Maslow (which are limited to brief undergraduate and that for this article), nowhere does anybody speak of the fact that we can CONTROL our desires.  People throw around Maslow’s Hierarchy like humans are just animals, acting instinctively with little control over our minds.

Maslow's Hierarchy

Maslow’s Hierarchy

On the spectrum of things we can control, our desires are one of those things that we have quite a lever on.  This is where a Heroic Stoic can use the tools of philosophy to modify the hierarchy.  For example, if I must have caviar and filet every day, then certainly I have set a high bar for fulfilling my physiological need of food.  What about shelter?  Do I need a 5,000 square foot home or a tent?  These things are for us to decide.  Certainly they are not easy decisions, and they require some judgment.  Many human beings live in simple dwellings with no heat/cooling, while I cannot imagine not having a powered system that controls my indoor environment.

Live here?

Live here?

Or could I?  My awareness of this fact is half the battle, isn’t it?  Could I live without central heating?  Well, first of all I live in a mild climate so I am ahead of the game.   But seriously, could I?  At first, I think it would be difficult, but eventually I can imagine that I would adapt with less clothing in Summer and bundling up in Winter.  Imagining this is therapeutic.  It allows me to see that my life as I know it can change, and it also helps me appreciate the needs I have fulfilled.  In a sense, this awareness allows me to jump up the ladder of needs fulfillment.  It helps me realize that central heating is not physiological but maybe a safety need.  When I don’t need caviar and filet for my food, then I can move on to higher needs.

...or live here?

…or live here?

Then, I can control the higher needs as well using what I know about control, fate, and impermanence.

More on that, later.