Long Reads

Psychology: you’re not the only one feeling “meh” right now – this theory explains why

Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs? This viral Facebook post breaks down the psychology perfectly…

Let’s face facts: nobody is feeling 100% at the moment. Indeed, a straw poll of my nearest and dearest has revealed that they’re finding themselves more irritable, more easily overwhelmed, and more prone to making mistakes than ever before.

When I asked them to describe their current emotional state, there was one word that cropped up more than any other: “meh.” As in, yes, the verbal equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders.

So what’s going on? Well, a viral Facebook post from Revelatori – an artist who has become popular on social media thanks to their drawings about life and mental health – has served up a pretty compelling theory.

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The post begins with a simple sketch of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs, which is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: 

  • physiological (food, water, warmth, rest)
  • safety (health, resources, security)
  • belonging (intimacy, friendship, community)
  • esteem (respect, dignity, feeling seen)
  • self-actualisation (realising your full potential)

The post then goes on to explain the idea behind the theory: that your higher needs cannot be met if your lower ones remain unfulfilled.

“2020 has been wreaking havoc on so many of our critical lower needs,” explains Revelatori.

“Unemployment and economic damage threaten the physiological needs of millions. And even if you are so fortunate to have a place to live and food to eat, how can your need for safety be met in the middle of a global pandemic, a direct threat to your health?

“How can you feel secure in the face of political turmoil, and systemic injustice, and general uncertainty?

“How can your need for belonging be met in isolation, in a time when we are separating ourselves, avoiding community, unable to safely connect?”

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The artist continues: “So, if you are struggling to feel whole and productive, or even just generally OK (let alone anything like self-actualisation), show yourself some compassion.

“You are trying to build a pyramid on a shaky foundation. You are trying to be normal in a world that is anything but.

“And, even if you can’t quite see it, you are doing beautifully.”

“How can you feel secure in the face of political turmoil, and systemic injustice, and general uncertainty?”
“How can you feel secure in the face of political turmoil, and systemic injustice, and general uncertainty?”

The post has been shared by 1,200 people and counting, with many taking to the comments section to share how learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs made them feel.

“Thank you,” said one. “I just keep reminding myself to breathe.”

Another said: “Love this, and it’s so true. Let’s be kind to ourselves and others and get through it. As the saying goes ‘this too shall pass’.”

“Very well said,” another noted simply. “This thing affects us all in one way or another, regardless of who we are or what we do.”

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With this in mind, then, let’s all strive to be a little kinder not just to one another, but ourselves, too.

To this end, we suggest that you try to do something that brings you joy every single day. This doesn’t have to be a big thing – see the list below for some examples:

  • Do some drawing
  • Go for a walk
  • Write in your journal
  • Write short stories
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Read a book
  • Spend five minutes away from your desk
  • Download a podcast to listen to
  • Turn your phone off for an hour
  • Treat yourself to a proper tea break (maybe with slice of cake to nibble on, too)
  • Sing like nobody’s listening
  • Get an early night

This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the picture. Just make sure that, whatever you decide, you give yourself some “me time” each day.

Because, to paraphrase Revelatori, we 100% deserve a break from our struggle to achieve normality in a world that is anything but. 

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