Monday, January 7, 2013

Hierarchy of Needs

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My school does a program with a school for girls from difficult family situations in Pinsk, Belarus. Students travel to Pinsk over their winter break and hang out with the girls. Last year, I didn’t have the privilege of going, but two of my best friends did. One of them told me that they played a game with the Pinsk girls called Priorities, where they went through cards that said things like “family,” “friends,” “being skinny,” etc. and prioritized them. All of the girls put “being skinny” last. 

This really shows how cultural and situational differences really impact a person’s mindset. 85% of these girls have one parent or less; many of them can’t afford things as basic as pajama pants. The last worry on their minds is how they look.

Obviously, they live in a different world than we do, and it wouldn’t be fair to tell a middle class Western girl that she’s being ungrateful when she feels down about how she looks or her weight. I think this really gives perspective, though, and makes us grateful for all of the things that we have.

In psychology, Abraham Maslow has the pyramid of needs: physiological needs required for survival; safety needs, from physical to economic security; love and belonging needs, whether from friends, family, or a partner; esteem needs, to be valued and respected by others; then, finally, self-actualization, when the person  realizes his or her full potential and become all that he or she can possibly be. 

If we accept Maslow's pyramid of needs as true, the girls in Pinsk are stuck on the lower levels of the pyramid of needs, where Western girls have the privilege to be a little higher up. Again, I don't want to fault Western girls for having an advantage, but thinking about how much privilege we do have does put things in perspective, at least for me. 

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