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Why women don't reach self-transcendence

I'm writing to you from Odessa, Ukraine. Totally did not plan on being here. The only thing I knew about Ukraine is that it produced Oksana Baiul, the 1994 women's figure skating gold medalist. And I knew Odessa is by the sea. I like the sea <3

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Last week, we followed Mona, Julianne and Aneela on their discovering the Swirl Factor to ensure they stay sane, happy and free on their entrepreneurial quest. Today, I'd like to share why women, especially overachievers, don't reach self-transcendence.

You may be familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:

Physiological needs: air, food, water, shelter, warmth

Safety needs: protection, security, law, income, stability, health, insurance

Love & Belonging needs: friendship, family, connection, intimacy, support, affection (This need is especially strong in childhood and can override the need for safety as seen in children who cling to abusive parents. Neglect can adversely affect the individual's ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships!)

Esteem needs: ("lower" needs) status, recognition, attention; ("higher" needs) self-respect, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom

Cognitive needs: pursuit of knowledge, self-awareness, meaning

Aesthetic needs: pursuit and appreciation of beauty, balance, inner reflection

Self-actualization needs: realize your potential, self-fulfillment

Self-transcendence needs: spirituality, helping others to self-actualize

An Overachiever's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs looks like a pyramid. A woman overachiever's hierarchy of needs looks like an Inukshuk.

An Overachiever's Physiological Needs

Have you ever been “in the zone” and forgotten to eat? Or to sleep? Have your bladders ever screamed at you, but you held it in to answer one more email or make one more phone call? When was the last time you got some fresh air or slept for 8 hours every night for a whole week, free from caffeine or anxiety?

It’s not like you don’t eat well or exercise, but you’re not the queen of self-care either.

This shrinks your Physiological needs: 

An Overachiever's Safety Needs

Do you never have enough time? Is your world dominated by busy-ness? Do you bear a smile, but come home exhausted and overwhelmed. Does your life feel like chaos even though you love spreadsheets and are slightly OCD?

Because you cherish growth, your life always seems unpredictable. Because you love travel, you're always looking over your shoulder for danger. You make good money, but always worry about not having enough. You have a safety net, but never feel safe or taken care of. 

This shrinks your Safety needs: 

An Overachiever's Love & Belonging Needs 

You've always been different. Never felt like you belonged. You outgrew your "small town" and family of origin very early on. You grow so fast that you no longer have anything in common with the people who were closest to you. Yes, it can be infuriating. 

You learn to do everything yourself, becoming a lone wolf, and this sometimes leads to loneliness, social anxiety and clinical depression.

So this tilts your Love & Belonging needs:

An Overachiever's Esteem Needs

You are already successful (unless you've forgotten about your 6 mile long resume)! You’ve had good jobs. You've moved up the ladder. People around you admire you. Heck, people want to be YOU!

But you get sucker punched by your inner critic. You get whacked on the head by self-doubt. And you get shackled by perfectionism. On the inside, it's a hard life!

So this has your Esteem needs slide sideways:

An Overachiever's Cognitive Needs

You love learning and the pursuit of knowledge. You have multiple degrees and certifications. You follow your favourite gurus and teachers religiously. You are hyper self-awareness and love deep “meaning of life” conversations.

You even know the importance of balance and practice it as best you can.

So this has your Cognitive needs massively expanded, but precariously balanced:

An Overachiever's Aesthetic Needs

Yes, you love beauty, and balance, and inner reflection, but rarely have time for it.

So your Aesthetic needs slide off to the side too:

An Overachiever's Self-actualization Needs

You have a 6 mile long resume, built schools in Africa, completed marathons, travelled all over the world, and/or run businesses or entire departments. You continually strive to be your best self, but you wish it would happen faster.

Self-actualization is such a bit part of your life that it often squashes your aesthetic needs. Why smell the roses when you can work like a robot, right? No. Not right! When you are in a state of beauty and grace, the self-actualization comes to YOU! Elegantly. Powerfully. Effortlessly. 

So your Self-actualization needs end up lop-sided:

An Overachiever's Self-transcendence Needs

Lastly, I see two things happen to women overachiever's Self-transcendence needs:

1) Stuck: the Self-transcendence ball rolls and gets stuck between your head (Cognitive) and your heart (Self-actualization). You want to help others self-actualize, but you, yourself, are stuck:

2) Missing: the Self-transcendence ball rolls right off the map, no matter how spiritual and altruistic you are. You want to help others self-actualize, but you haven't yet.

What to do about it all?

This explains why so many women don't reach self-transcendence, no matter how much kale they eat or how much meditation they. 

There are hundreds of things you could do, but there are only a very small handful of effective things that will level your wobbly Inukshuk of Needs back into a solid Pyramid of Needs. I'll tell you all about them next Sunday, during my morning tea time reflections.

xo, Ella