People who study Psychology, Public Administration and Management (and those other inquisitive knowledge-seekers) are sure to be aware of Abraham Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy. I won’t go on to explain the theory, but will put in a diagram for easy understanding.

‘Need for Recognition’ is a part of a broader category of needs called ‘Esteem Needs’. To be recognized, satisfies the inherent esteem need of an individual.

The Need for Recognition, though inbuilt in all, finds prominent expression in some, is suppressed in some others, certain others know the art of projecting it in a balanced manner, while a handful have recognition thrust on them without any explicit attempt to be recognized. And so we have these four broad categories of people around us.


Each of us has been created uniquely with lots of gifts and potentialities embedded into us. A validation of these by significant others gives a sense of confidence to move on ahead in life. Let’s take for example a painter. A painter may paint out of sheer passion and expertise. However, when his paintings are put up for display in the State Gallery for visitors to see and maybe even buy, his talent stands recognized. Though he may still continue to paint due to his passion and talent, the recognition accorded to him satisfies an inherent need.

In contrast, if his work faces rejection, his esteem needs become badly bruised and plummet to an all time low. It takes an individual high in intrinsic motivation to keep afloat amidst repudiation. To bring out the best in an individual, s/he needs to be recognized.

Whether or not an individual actively desires recognition, it is a sure fact that recognition makes one feel good. Don’t you remember how you felt when you won that competition and were awarded that trophy in school to the applause of many?


While all have an inherent need to be recognized, for some it becomes a craze. Such an obsession arises out of deep insecurities and anxieties within the individual. An adult who was a victim of abuse as a child and suffered from low self-esteem may decide that she definitely deserves better. So far, so good. If she channelizes her esteem needs in constructive ways, it benefits her. However, if she resorts to certain undesirable attention-seeking behaviour (like joining a strip-club, leading protests in her college, vandalism, bullying, etc.), her anxieties and insecurities continue to build up rather than healing. The modelling industry is one such arena that is ruled by the craze for recognition. This leads some to starve themselves to size zero, some to put on weight to the verge of obesity, the dusky to appear fair and the fair to appear tanned and for many others to go under the knife.

The need for recognition is inherent. The craze for recognition is not.


A few days back, I got to watch the LIVE webcast of ET PRIME Women Leadership Awards-2019. It was an award ceremony organized by ET (Economic Times), one of the leading business newspapers in India, to recognize and encourage women entrepreneurs. Women below 35 years of age were recognized and awarded in various categories for the different start-ups that they were leading. Each of these women shared their dreams that had led them to battle all odds to secure a place for themselves and that how great it felt to be recognized by an illustrious panel in front of a distinguished audience. And then there were women with decades of business experience who were recognized for being able to sustain and excel in the business world – the likes of Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Anu Aga. Each woman who was recognized resolved to continue to improvise, innovate and give something better to the country and to the world.

Some time back, Britannia Marie Gold had endeavoured to help women start their own business with the belief that every woman has great ideas to start their own venture. Some help and support are all that women need. In a country like India, where the patriarchal mindset is still very much prevalent, it sure is essential to provide the much-needed exposure and support to women to come out of their shells. Britannia Marie Gold organized a ‘My Startup Contest’ which invited contestants from all over the country. Ten winners were declared recently. To hear their tear-filled testimonies gave me joy! They were all full of ideas. Their eyes were full of dreams. But, they didn’t know if anyone would ever care to believe in their dreams and recognize them. They were awarded INR10lakhs to start off with their dreams.

Recognition itself is rewarding, whether or not it is accompanied by a material reward.


To be recognized feels good. However, to recognize others is of equal importance. Often we hesitate/forget to recognize others who need to be. At times ego comes in the way and we feel others are not worth the recognition. At other times we feel the individual in concern did what s/he was supposed to do – and so, what’s the need for recognition. The Bible says, “. . . in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you . . .” If you feel good when recognized, look for ways to recognize others around you. A senior Govt. officer shared on one occasion how he organized a small function in his office to recognize and reward one of his peons who travelled a long distance but was never late to office, while many officers staying close by reached late to work on some pretext or the other.


It is easy to allow the feel-good factor to go on increasing and to let the ego go on inflating when recognized for some reason. This is where the caution lights should start blinking and the alarms should start ringing out loud. Recognition should not be for mere name and fame. If recognized for a purpose, continue to further it. If recognized as a way of motivation, translate it into a purpose.

An example when I could have used recognition for a purpose comes to mind. During International Women’s Day observation at my workplace this year, as the programme was about to come to an end, some of my lady colleagues spoke out my name aloud suggesting that I would speak a few words. I was surprised, unwilling and unprepared, not knowing what made them make such a suggestion. When my name was called by the coordinator, I had no option but to go to the front. I picked up the microphone and spoke a few words which were appreciated by the guest speaker and my colleagues. However, later on, I thought that I could have utilised that opportunity to convey much more (after all one doesn’t get to address a room of around 90 people every day!). What held me back was – ‘What if most people don’t want to hear me’, ‘what if others think that I am trying to project myself as someone significant’, ‘better to limit what has to be said and speak for the sake of formality’. Though I did speak my mind I felt later that a couple of issues related to the occasion could have been shared. On that occasion, though I was recognized by my colleagues to go up and speak, I could not convert the recognition into a full-fledged purpose. A lesson learnt for the times to come!

Don’t work for recognition. You may not be recognized and that’ll leave you shattered. Accomplish your tasks to the best extent possible pouring your heart into it. And if recognized, be sure to further it for a purpose.


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