Understanding Self-Actualization

Self-actualization is a state in which an individual achieves his or her full potential. Human beings struggle and work hard to continuously meet various needs. This, in turn, motivates us to reach increasingly higher levels of achievement. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who first developed the concept of the hierarchy of needs in human beings in his paper, ‘The Theory of Human Motivation.’

In his paper, he said that human beings feel motivated by various needs, which moves from the basic ones such as food, safety, etc. to more advanced needs such as happiness, self-esteem, etc. As we fulfill our needs at each level, we achieve happiness, and also feel motivated to fulfill our next level of needs.

Maslow believed that all human beings are born with an inherent desire to achieve self-actualization or to be all they are born to be or to reach their full potential. But before we can achieve self-actualization, the more basic needs such as food, security, and others have to be met. Maslow postulates five levels in his hierarchy of needs, which is represented as a triangle with the most basic need right at the bottom and the self-actualization at the peak. Maslow’s five levels of the hierarchy of needs include:

  • Physiological
  • Safety
  • Love and/or sense of belonging
  • Esteem
  • Self-actualization

The first and most basic needs of human beings include those that offer physical comforts such as food, sleep, clothing, and warmth. When these physiological needs are met, then we move on to the next level in the hierarchy, which are mostly targeted towards safety and security.

As we climb up the pyramid, our needs become increasingly social and psychological, and sooner than later, our needs of love, intimacy, belonging, sense of identity, etc. become more important than physiological needs.  As we climb to further levels on the pyramid, feelings of accomplishments and deep needs for self-esteem take precedence over others.

Therefore, self-actualization is a process of learning and development towards the pinnacles of our life purpose until we believe we have achieved our best. Typically, we find peace and happiness when we achieve this level of self-actualization.

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Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

So, now that you know you need to work towards self-actualization, how can you recognize the qualities of such an individual? Let us look at some traits of self-actualized people:

They have frequent peak experiences – During peak experiences, people feel the highest levels of possibility, happiness, and harmony. These feelings range from feelings of intense pleasures to seemingly supernatural moments of experiencing enhanced levels of consciousness.

When self-actualized people undergo these peak experiences, they know and are aware that these moments are distinctly different from and superior to the usual normal experiences. These moments in life transcend the ego and the ordinariness of humankind.

During peak experiences, we are fully aware, alert, alive, and conscious. During these moments, one gets a privileged peek into the true ‘reality’ of human existence and human life. Psychology experts believe that peak experiences should be the norm rather than the exception of an ideal human life. When we experience life at less-than-peak levels, we access only a part of human capabilities.

Each peak experience strengthens and transforms an individual’s life and its perspectives.

They accept themselves and the world as it is – Self-actualized people have realized the power of diversity and understand that everything in this world is unique and special in its own way. This sense of acceptance of all things imperfect including themselves enables them to live life fully and without guilt.

Once self-actualized accepted themselves the way they are, they work towards changing their bad habits. They embrace all kinds of people irrespective of any culture and/or socio-economic background.

They have a realistic outlook – Instead of cowering in fear and worry about uncertain and unknown elements of life, self-actualized people view life with a sense of realism approaching each unfolding event with a rational and logical outlook.

They are problem-solvers – Self-actualized people are great problem-solvers and love to use this expertise to help themselves and others lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life than before. They have a deep sense of responsibility and personal ethics. They are not deterred by temporary obstacles and bounce back on their feet ready to start again.

They are independent people – People who have achieved self-actualization depend on themselves to be happy. They don’t need others to feel complete and find contentment. This independence empowers them to live and enjoy the wonder of each life experience fully.

Additionally, self-actualized people don’t allow themselves to be blindly influenced by any one culture. They deliberate, question, and only when they are satisfied with the answers, do they accept the validity of any cultural, religious, social, or community-based tenet.

They enjoy privacy and solitude – While self-actualized people can be great socializers and enjoy the company of other people, they need their personal and private moments in which to recover and cultivate their potential.

They have a good sense of humor – Self-actualized people don’t hesitate to laugh at themselves and tend to have a good sense of humor with a philosophical touch to it. They can see things to laugh about in all kinds of situations. However, they don’t mock or ridicule others.

They revel in spontaneity – Self-actualized individuals are very spontaneous, open, unconventional, and transparent in their interactions with everyone around them. Although they know and follow the accepted rule of society and community in general, they don’t feel confined or trapped by these societal expectations. Also, they don’t use their spontaneity to hurt or harm others in any way.

They focus on the joy of the journey as much as that of the destination – Self-actualized people typically have concrete and clear-set goals and purposes. In fact, having a life purpose is another important trait of self-actualized individuals. However, they don’t view the journey to those goals as merely being a means to an end. They immerse themselves in the journey and find joy at every stage instead of focusing only on the final destination.

They are motivated by learning and growth – Self-actualized people’s needs are beyond the basic physiological and psychological requirements of food, clothing, shelter, protection, love, etc. They want to get increasingly better at what they do and achieve enhanced levels of perfection in their own style. They are ever ready to get out of their comfort zone to learn and grow.

They show gratitude and humility – Self-actualized people don’t take anything for granted and are grateful even for the smallest blessings in their lives. This sense of gratitude keeps their awe and wonder for the universe alive always, helping them achieve peak experiences frequently.

They are also very humble and acknowledge that compared to the universe outside; they know very, very little. This sense of humility helps them learn from anyone who is a willing teacher. Each lesson learned takes them closer to self-actualization.

Self-actualization can, therefore, be described as the psychological process that helps each of us achieve our maximum potential. Each person’s potential may vary. However, every human being should try to achieve his or her maximum potential, which is what self-actualization, is all about.

With self-actualization, we achieve the peak of our social, creative, and intellectual potential. As each person’s potential is unique, the path of achieving self-actualization is also different for each individual. So, as Abraham Maslow said in his definition of self-actualization, it is that that makes tells a musician that he must make music, or that tells a writer that he must write, that tells an actor he must act, an artist to create, and so forth.

Self-actualization is connected with multiple elements including the pursuit of excellence, achieving a high state of well-being, hope, happiness, and positivity. It is important to note here that self-actualized people are not perfect. They are people who are trying their hardest to become the best version of themselves.

Get the Audiobook Self-Actualization ===> HERE

Get a paperback of the book “Self-Actualization” and get a free ebook copy ===> HERE

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Good morning, Although I am familiar with Malso Hierarchy of Needs, this blog post held new information “Characteristics of Self-Actualized People” that I was glad to receive. Thank you for for sharing this information. I would like to thank you as well for liking my latest blog post “The Best of You Pearl ??”. It meant so much to me. Have a lovely day ?

  2. I first heard the term “self-actualization” through Dr Wayne W. Dyer’s work. This was probably sometime in 1996, perhaps a year into my recovery. Dyer often stated it was his life’s work to expand and spotlight Maslow’s teachings and ideas with one significant difference, Dyer believed people could choose to become “self-actualized” whereas Maslow felt those with such “gifts” were predisposed to the structure as he laid it out.
    I feel one of the biggest differences, what separate humans from every other animal on earth, is that we can choose to evolve, that is, we have the ability to supersede our instincts. Many of the qualities of those who make a conscious decision to step beyond their basic programming are indeed listed in Maslow’s observations. The idea intrigued me; how far could I take this? What would happen if I opened my mind to the traits, tendencies, and honestly, ethics of those who fell under the definition of this rare breed of mankind?
    Some were easy for me, and more than likely already being subconsciously practiced or maybe embedded from birth. My sense of humor (see entry number 106. The Seventh Sense on my blog) is partially based on laughing at myself AND definitely refusing to laugh at the misfortune of others. In fact, I (gently) point this out to others when my acquaintances try and share such drivel.
    As far as privacy and solitude are concerned I, for one, have never felt lonely. I have no idea what it feels like and must say it seems like I’m damn lucky in this aspect. There were YEARS of solitude in my life, and while I wanted companionship, I was never depressed or angry if it wasn’t there. I’m just as comfortable with others as I am alone in a room with my own thoughts. I’ve never felt there was “someone out there” to make me feel whole. Even on my worst days of using (up to two fifths of vodka a day towards the end) I still convinced I was 100% complete, if that makes any sense
    The problem-solving thing… WOW. MacGyver is my hero. I see EVERY conundrum as an equation waiting to be discovered, I have fun with this and it’s a great skill. I could go on with how I align with each idea as put forth by Maslow, but there’s really no need. I know where I stand and am indeed “independent of the good opinions of others.” I talk about this in entry number 27 on my blog which address a very septic part of becoming self-actualized.
    A few years ago, someone I was working with said I was the most self-actualized person they’d ever met. This was perhaps the highest complement I’d ever heard, not because I let it inflate my ego, but because I knew, as did they, what it meant and the significance of such an observation. Not many do, and that’s too bad.
    I’m glad you are spreading the word. It’s a wonderful way to live, free from the chains of excuse and blame so many insist on carrying throughout their lifetimes. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to your continued message.

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