The Overachiever's Hierarchy of Needs

You probably already know about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. But an overachiever's needs are quite different.

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Maslow Pyramid

  • 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!)
  • Worthiness needs: "lower" needs: status, recognition, attention | "higher" needs: self-respect, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom
  • Creativity needs: pursuit of knowledge, self-awareness, meaning
  • Beauty needs: pursuit and appreciation of beauty, balance, inner reflection
  • Self-actualization needs: realize your potential, self-fulfillment
  • Self-transcendence needs: helping others to realize their potential, spirituality


EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack self-transcendence

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs looks like a pyramid, but an overachiever's Hierarchy of Needs looks more like an Inukshuk.


EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack physiological

Is your bladder screaming at you, but you're just gonna answer this one email first, and that email too, and oh that newsletter, and that video? And just that e-book as well and I swear I'll go pee. Have you ever been on a creativity binge or so "in the zone" that you forgot to eat or sleep? When was the last time you moved out of desk rigor mortis or inhaled some fresh air? (Observe the boys/men around you: liquids in, liquids out, solids in, solids out. Now. When they need to go, they go NOW.) 

Overworked women overachievers are notorious for neglecting their physiological needs. This compulsion comes from:

  • the curse of self-sufficiency
  • being a skyholder
  • one of the Wounded Child Archetypes
  • having hearts 50,000 larger filled with service to humanity and/or
  • a third-eye 5,000,000 larger filled with a vision for a better world.


EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack safety

Let's face it, Earth in the 21st century, is not a safe place for girls or women. From sexual assault, bullying, being orphaned at a young age, ostracized from a peer group for being too smart / daring / different, to neck hair standing when walking through a parking garage, physical / emotional / cultural / professional abuse, rape, persecution, witch hunting and being burned at the stake, why would a woman ever feel safe?

Add to that lone wolfing, overwhelming busyness, entrepreneurial risk-taking, financial instability, and/or an unpredictable nomadic lifestyle, no wonder you're always looking over your shoulder for danger.

You may have a roof over her head, but no one has your back. When was the last time you felt safe and/or taken care of?


EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack love belonging

Love and belonging, what's that?!? You've always been different, never felt like you belonged. You outgrew your small town, culture, religion and/or Family of Origin before you even started kindergarten. You're too ahead of your time!

Being such a super-doer, you're an over-giver of love but a very poor receiver of love. Yes, you have friends, besties even. But they have their own lives, priorities and busy schedules too.

Technically, you'd score 7/10 for love, but the loneliness, social anxiety and/or clinical depression of non-belonging drag the "Love + Belonging" score down to 1/10.

Worthiness NEEDS

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack worth

You have a mile long resume, walls covered in degrees and certificates, and enough accomplishments to make anyone around you swoon in envy. Heck, adults even want to be you when they grow up.

But because your parents, school, work, the media and society have told you your entire life that you're not enough, smart enough, fast enough, productive enough, rich enough, tall / short / skinny / fat / <insert every adjective in the dictionary>, it's a miracle you even have any self-esteem left.

The 4Ps of Patriarchy (pleasing, perfecting, performing and producing) further crush your self-worth. How often do you hear a woman open her mouth with, "I'm sorry to bother you, but..." She lives her life as if she was a living breathing bother to the world.

The hierarchy pyramid is lop-siding!!

Creativity NEEDS

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack creativity

As overachievers, you thirst for knowledge, hunger for wisdom, and binge on novelty! With a curious mind, open heart and old soul, you're the classic self-development junkie and raving fan of Brené Brown, Oprah and/or Louise Hay.

You need to create. You need to make things out of pure hobby, passion and/or for professional advancement. Otherwise, your soul shrivels up and you feel languid, apathetic or depressed.

So you read every book, sign up for every webinar, listen to ever podcast, attend every workshop, and learn every healing technique because you enjoy learning / growing... and because you are overcompensating for the lack of love + belonging and worth. It's a comforting, but illusory sense of balance and wholeness.

Beauty NEEDS

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack beauty

You're not blind. On some level, you recognize the imbalance, overcompensation and precarious stacking of your hierarchy of needs.

In an attempt to soothe oneself and rebalance one's needs, some women overachievers finally allow some beauty, pleasure and delight into their lives. They buy flowers for themselves, eat out more often with friends, makeover their wardrobe or go on long overdue vacations.

Others use restlessness, addiction, self-harming hedonism and/or spiritual bypassing, masked as beauty and pleasure, to cover up the imbalance and lack.



EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack self-actualization

Here's where your self-development junkie gets to shine again! You genuinely strive to become your best self. You run into a teacher or training program that blows your mind, body, heart or soul wide open. Now you see it: if you work persistently enough, your dreams could actually come true! You could actually become fierce, fulfilled and free! 🤯

But when self-actualization takes up such a huuuuuuge part of your life and is stacked on such precarious lower tiers, anytime the "love + belonging" or "worth" tiers wavers by just a hairline, everything comes crashing down like a house of cards.

This overly dominant self-actualization tier also threatens to squeeze out the beauty needs. Why smell the roses when you must work like a robot, right?

Achievaholics are notoriously addicted to meeting their self-actualization needs.


EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Stack self-transcendence

Self-transcendence is reached when one is self-actualized and can guide / teach / mentor others to self-actualize. Some call it awakening, some hear it as a siren call from the Universe.

Women so (desperately) want to transcend the ego / fears / limitations and help self and others find meaning and joy, but they rarely self-transcend because:

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Success Paralyzed

Reason 1 • Paralyzed Success: Self-transcendence gets stuck between their big head (Self-actualization needs) and their big heart (Creativity needs). They want to help others self-actualize, but they themselves are stuck in: the Matrix of Fears, the abyss of The Heroine's Journey, the chubby fists of a Wounded Child Archetype, PTSD, apathy or depression. They can't sustain this hierarchy of needs. Any tiny move and wham, the house of cards will come tumbling down!

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Success Fleeting

Reason 2 • Fleeing Success: Oh, there goes your self-transcendence. You spend your days trying to be everything, to everyone, every second, of every day, running around like a chicken without a head, setting yourself on fire to keep others warm. No wonder self-transcendence rolls right off the hierarchy of needs, off to Never Never Land.

You are Not Wrong

You aren't doing anything wrong. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not wrong. 

Your needs are simply different in a world not made for the different.

So then, let's make it our sacred mission to co-create together a world where all of our needs are met, gracefully and joyfully!

A Shout Out to my Fellow Canadians

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Canadian Inukshuk

And A Shout Out to my Fellow Digital Nomads 🤗

EL - Overachievers Hierarchy of Needs - Digital nomads wifi

Live fierce and free,

xo, Ella

(First Published Dec 7, 2016)



Having navigated 131 countries, 87 emotions, 46.5 traumas, and 16 careers, Ellany Lea inspires and guides phoenixes, overachievers, entrepreneurs and wayshowers to live fierce, fulfilled and free.