Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

Do You Need to Be What You Can Be?

At some point you've probably heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. Abraham Maslow was a psychologist and researcher who first proposed his theory in 1943. That was a long time ago, but some of his ideas on human motivation may be having a big impact on creative people like you today.

If you haven't run across Maslow's hierarchy before (or if you just need some clarification), here's a definition from Wikipedia:

"Maslow's primary contribution to psychology is his Hierarchy of Human Needs, which he often presented as a pyramid, with 'self-actualization' at the top as the highest of those needs. The base of the pyramid is the physiological needs, which are necessary for survival. Once these are taken care of, an individual can concentrate on the second layer, the need for safety and security. The third layer is the need for love and belonging, followed by the need for esteem. Finally, self-actualization forms the apex of the pyramid."
Self-actualization (a term originated by Maslow's colleague, Kurt Goldstein) is "the instinctual need of a human to make the most of their unique abilities." Maslow described it further with one of his most well-known quotes:
"A musician must make music, the artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization."
I'll paraphrase one of Maslow's sentences with a gender-inclusive spin: "What someone can be, he or she must be."

What a powerful concept. To truly be at peace with yourself, you must act on the innate, natural and instinctive talents and passions that reside within you. Otherwise, you will not realize your true potential and be plagued by a nagging feeling that some aspect of your soul has gone unfulfilled.

Am I being too dramatic here? Some people have labeled Maslow's theories as little more than psycho-babble. Or is there something to this drive for humans to aspire to something greater once their basic needs have been met?

Whatever you think of the psychology, let me ask you this: What could you be if you put your mind to it? How far away are you from being that right now? And what must you do to actualize your potential and be at peace with yourself?

Are You Self-Aware or Self-Critical?

It's no secret that many artistic people are their own worst critics. That can be good or bad, depending on the way each person processes their self-assessment. On his excellent Occupational Adventure blog, Curt Rosengren ponders this very topic:

"Are you self-aware or self-critical? One can open the door to growth, improvement and understanding, while the other can weigh you down with an endless loop of negative thoughts."
Rosengren makes reference to an article by Skye Thomas called Taking Personal Stock. Then he continues:
"As this article describes it, honest self-awareness is key to growing and improving. Self-criticism, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. Self-criticism isn't about looking at reality and looking for ways to positively grow, it's looking at yourself, finding the flaws, and reinforcing the message, 'You're not good enough.'

"And so often, we mistake self-criticism for self-awareness.

"Next time you catch yourself picking apart what you did wrong, what you could have done better, what you need to do differently next time, etc., ask yourself, 'Is this coming from a perspective of awareness or criticism? Growth or self-loathing? What is my attitude as I take a look at these things?'"
And, as I'm sure you know, your attitude can make all the difference in the world!