Most people are familiar with self-help. It dominates bookstores and libraries with promises of personal satisfaction through lifestyle changes. But where did it come from? Self-help is a single aspect of humanistic psychology, the 20th-century movement that focuses on psychology of the individual. It recognizes self-concept and self-actualization, improving society by improving the individual. Famously, it delineates Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Groundbreaking work in humanistic psychology influenced the civil rights, women's liberation, and antiwar movements and has gained popularity in the broader culture.


1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In A Theory of Human Motivation

, Abraham Maslow outlined a hierarchy of needs that motivate humanity. These include basic (physical, safety), social (love, esteem), and self. From basic, to social, to self, human needs are arranged according to influence. Physical needs must be satisfied before social needs, and social needs before self-fulfillment. To act unselfishly, a person must have met their most basic needs, an achievement that leads to growth and self-actualization.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs Plateresca / Getty Images

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