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Table of contents

  1. Hierarchy of Needs of the Blind Side
  2. References:

Hierarchy of Needs of the Blind Side

The Michael Oher StoryThe Blind Side is a movie based on the true-life story of former Carolina Panthers left tackle Michael Oher and the Tuohy family. Michael played with the Panthers for two seasons and was a member of the team that played in Super Bowl 50. Before joining the Panthers, Oher spent five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and one season with the Tennessee Titans.

Michael was raised in the “Hurt Village” housing projects with his mother and 11 siblings in Memphis, Tennessee. His birth mother struggled with severe drug and alcohol addictions which made it next to impossible for her to care for all 12 of her children. Michael’s birth father was not involved in his life. At the age of 8 Michael was removed from his mother’s care by social services and separated from his siblings. For the majority of Oher’s childhood, he lived in foster care with different families. Michael kept running away every time he was placed with a new family and ultimately became homeless around the age of 15 or 16.

During this time Michael attended different schools around the Memphis area. His life began to change when his friend’s father spoke to Burt Cotton, the football coach of Wingate Christian School. He wanted Coach Cotton to help his son and Michael enroll in Wingate. Coach Cotton was impressed by Oher’s size and athletic ability. Despite his poor grades, he was able to get Michael get in school. The Blind Side is a story that followed Oher’s life from being a homeless runaway to becoming a member of the Tuohy family and ultimately making it to the NFL.

The Tuohy family

The Tuohy family includes husband and wife Sean and Leigh Ann. They have two children, a daughter, Collins and a son, SJ. Sean owns several fast food franchises and Leigh Ann is an interior designer. Collins and SJ attend Wingate Christian School.One evening as the Tuohy’ were headed to the gym to watch Collins play volleyball, Sean and Leigh Anne notice Michael getting off a city bus wearing a short sleeve shirt and long shorts in the middle of winter heading to the school gym for heat and shelter. Leigh Anne sees Michael again and ask where he was headed. Michael does not have a home as he was not able to stay with his friend’s family any longer. Leigh Anne offers to let him spend the night at her home. Michael begins to make a connection with his new family.

The Tuohy’s and Michael are a mismatched group of people that form a new family. Michael’s large size, race, and the fact that he is from a poor part of town differs from his new white family with a great deal of money and who live in the suburbs. Sean and Leigh Anne learn about Michael’s background and they decide that they want to help him improve his situation. They start slowly by giving him a permanent place to live. Leigh Anne takes Michael to buy new clothes, and gave him his own room with a bed, which Michael states that he has never had his own bed. The Tuohy family bring Michael into their home where he becomes a part of their life. Sean and Leigh Anne eventually adopt Micahel making him an official member of the family. Michael’s new family wanted him to feel as he is a true member of their family. It was important to Michael’s parents that he was treated like his siblings and for his birthday they bought Michael a new pickup truck. Michael, with Leigh Anne’s help begins to perform well on the football field. Leigh Anne took charge ensuring that he had every opportunity to succeed. She went all out to help him, including giving his football coach tips on how best to use Michael’s skills.

Leigh Anne hired Ms. Sue to tutor Michel to help improve his grades so he would qualify for an NCAA Division I athletic scholarship. With their help, Michael went on to attend Ole Miss. Michael graduated from college and became a first-round pick for the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL draft.Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and The Blind SideIn the 1943 Psychological Review, a scientific journal, Abraham Maslow proposed his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” a hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1943). It was Maslow’s mission to understand human motivation. He developed a list of basic human needs that had to be fulfilled for maximum psychological health. Through his research he came to categorize a hierarchical list of needs that must be fulfilled for a person to truly enjoy life. He explained those levels in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belonging” and “love”, “esteem”, “self-actualization”, and “self-transcendence” to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through. (Maslow, A theory of human motivation, 1943)

Physiological Needs“The Physiological Needs such as breathing, food, drink, sleep, and sex, is largely a biological and physical requirement. When they are not fulfilled, people can become preoccupied with filling those needs above all else” (Maslow, 1987, pp. 15-17). In the Blind Side, Michael struggled with the basic physiological needs of life from an early age. Born to a poor mother who suffered from addiction, she struggled to provide Michael with steady basic needs of food, shelter, and water. Throughout the movie, Michael did whatever was necessary to provide these basic needs for himself, when he met the Tuohy family they provided those essential needs more consistently. This internally motived Michael and helped him move to the next level, which is the safety level.Safety needsOnce the basic needs are fulfilled, other needs invariably arise (Maslow, 1987, pp. 17-18).

In Maslow’s hierarchy, safety follows physiological needs. Maslow used the word “safety” to mean more than just physical safety. Personal, emotional, financial, health and well-being security all fall underneath the second level of human needs. When Leigh Anne showed Michael “his” fully furnished room it left him in complete shock, Michael said, “I’ve never had one before… I’ve never had a bed before” (Hancock, 2009). This was the moment Michael developed a sense of security with his new family. It provided him with the internal motivation to do whatever necessary to help keep his new family safe. This new sense of security was on full display when Michael and SJ were involved in an accident in Oher’s new pickup truck.

When the airbag deployed, Michael stopped it from hitting SJ directly in the face, saving his younger brother from further possible injuries. When Leigh Anne arrives at the accident scene she finds Michael sitting on the curb crying, when she asks him if he is ok he simply replies “I stopped it” referring to the airbag. Leigh Anne goes on to tell Michael that she loves him and is happy he and SJ were ok. This moment in the movie shows how Michael was able to reach the third level on the hierarchy which is belonging and love. Belongingness and love needsStudies show that healthy and happy people tend to be more involved in their communities because having social connections and relationships are an important part of life. People who lack interactions, relationships and a sense of belonging can result in depression or loneliness while an abundance of love and community often sustain people through difficult times (Maslow, 1987, pp. 20-21).

When the Tuohy family asked Michael if he would like them to become his legal guardians, he says to them, “I thought I was already a part of the family,” with a smile on his face (Hancock, 2009). Michael life turns around when he becomes a part of his new family, as a young child he didn’t have a community or love from family. We see in the move Michael’s self-esteem start to improve. Esteem needs“Maslow felt there was a clear distinction between love and esteem. The ability to feel self-esteem and personal uniqueness sprung from being loved and embraced by families and communities. As individuals, we naturally wish to excel or be exceptional, to be noticed for our unique talents and capabilities. Once an individual has some measure of self-esteem and confidence, they gain the psychological freedom to be creative and to grow as well as to be more generous to others” (Maslow, 1987, pp. 21-22). Michael internally wanted to improve his life because of the standards his new family set for their lives and encourage him to become the best version of himself. For Michael, this means improving his grades, becoming an outstanding football player, and working towards going to college on a sports scholarship.


The fifth level of Maslow’s hierarchy is “self-actualization.” Maslow studied happy people to determine what it was that made them happy or, self-actualized (Maslow, 1987, p. 22). Michael realized his full potential as he reached the last level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Michael serves as a great example of the goal setting theory, because all his hard work pays off. Michael set the goal to graduate from high school with a full-ride football scholarship to Ole Miss which he accomplished. Michael also went on to have a very successful football career. His success showed when you set goals and have the simple basic needs of life met, the sky is the limit.


1. Burton, N. (2012, May 23). Our Hierarchy of Needs . Retrieved September 19, 2018, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/our-hierarchy-needs

2. Hancock, J. L. (Director). (2009). The Blind Side [Motion Picture].Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50 (4): 370–96. doi:10.1037/h0054346

3. Maslow, A. H. (1987). Motivation and Personality. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Harper & Row. doi:ISBN 0-06-041987-3

4. Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2017). In Organizational Behavior (17th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.