What is Self-Actualization
Self-actualization is a term that is used regularly in many psychology theories, often in different ways. It was originally introduced by theorist Kurt Goldstein to mean the motive to realize one’s full potential. As he says, it is a being’s chief motive: “the tendency to actualize itself as fully as possible is the basic drive… the drive of self-actualization.”
Carl Rogers, one of America’s most influential psychologists, believed that it is the most healing force in psychotherapy, is a “man’s tendency to actualize himself, to become his potentialities… to express and activate all the capacities of the organism.”
Abraham Maslow further discussed self-actualization and brought it most fully to prominence in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He stated that the final level of psychological development that can be achieved is when all basic and mental needs are essentially fulfilled and the “actualization” of the full personal potential takes place.
“”What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” – Abraham Maslow
Self-actualization in simple terms is to become your best self. It is to express your full potential in everything you do. People who are the most self-actualized tend to know what they want to do, love what they do and do it to perfection. They perfect their art and take everything to a genius level.
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
― Joseph Campbell
In this article I will discuss the different ways to self-actualization and the characteristics of someone who has achieved this level.
How to Become a Self-Actualized Person
- The most important step is finding out who you are. Find out what your passion is, find out what you love to do and what you don’t like to do, search for your deepest core desires and discover how you can benefit the world. Open yourself up to your fears and take the courage to transcend them.
- Be honest with yourself. When you’re searching for who you are, don’t cover things up with ego. Before you can change and become your best self you must not be afraid of your short comings. Embrace them so you can change them. The worst kind of fear is the one you don’t know you’re in. Become conscious to what you’re good at and be honest with the ones you aren’t. This is the only way to self-actualization.
- Transcend your ego. In the process of self-actualization you find that ego is just an illusion. It is unnecessary to be pulled by the urges of your ego as it can lead you to doing things for the wrong reasons. Do it for the sole purpose of growth and progress, and you’ll find that this is more powerful than doing it for fame, respect and acceptance. Society doesn’t care if you become successful. Do it for yourself and for the enjoyment of the experience.
“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” – Albert Camus
- Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the feelings of an experience. When you do something, experience it as vividly and selflessly as you can. Dive head first into the experience, and do it for the sake of the experience itself. Put back all the fears and pre-conceptions of what it is you’re doing and allow yourself the benefit of firsthand experience.
- Listen to your instinct and intuition. Do things from the point of view that you feel like doing it, not because you’re meant or told to. This is how new paths are discovered. Following what your gut is telling you do to even if your mind thinks different.
- Do things through love. This isn’t the romantic or relationship style of love but the feeling of love. Do things through the state of love and acceptance. Work in partnership with all those you come across, and don’t be afraid of competition. Don’t knock your competition, allow them to influence you to be better and don’t be afraid of the challenge as this is a growth potential. Try to see competition as cooperation.
Characteristics of a Self-Actualized Person
Here is a list of the beliefs and values of a self-actualized person as described by Abraham Maslow. Use this as a guide to keep your own beliefs and values in check. Keep them on the right track and you’ll be on your way to becoming your best self.
- The self-actualized person has more efficient perception of reality and more comfortable relations with it. He can accept the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, and he can tell the difference.
- Acceptance of self, others, and nature. The self-actualizing person sees reality as it is and accepts responsibility for it. He is as objective as a subjective being can be in his perceptions.
- The self-actualizing person has spontaneity, simplicity and naturalness. In other words, this kind of person is not hung up on being as others think he should be. He is a person who is capable of doing what feels good and natural for himself simply because that’s how he feels. He does not try to hurt others, but he has respect for what is good himself.
- Problem Centering. The self-actualizing person is someone who is generally strongly focused on problems outside of himself. He is concerned with the problems of others and the problems of society, and is willing to work to try to alleviate those difficulties.
- The quality for detachment, the need for privacy. For all his social mindedness, the self-actualizing person has a need to be by himself or a need for solitude. He enjoys times for quiet reflection and doesn’t always need people around him. He can be with the few people that he would be close to and not need to communicate with them. Their presence is sufficient in and of itself.
- Autonomy, independence of culture and environment. The self-actualizing person is capable of doing things for himself and making decisions on his own. He believes in who and what he is.
- Continued freshness or appreciation. The self-actualizing person experiences a joy in the simple and the natural. Sunsets are always beautiful and he seeks them out. He can still enjoy playing the games he played as a child and having fun in some of the same ways he did many years before.
- he mystic experience, the peak experience. Self-actualizing people usually have experiences in which they literally feel they are floating. They feel very much in tune or at one with the world around them, and almost feel as if they are, for a momentary period in time, part of a different reality.
- A feeling of togetherness. Self-actualizing people have a feeling for all of mankind. They are aware and sensitive to the people that are about them.
- Interpersonal relations. Self-actualizing people have deeper and more profound interpersonal relations than other adults. They are capable of fusion, greater love and more perfect identification that other people could consider possible. They generally tend to have relatively few friends, but those relationships are deep and very meaningful.
- The democratic character structures. Self-actualizing people tend to believe in the equal nature of human beings, that every individual has a right to say, and that each person has his strengths and each person has his weaknesses.
- Discriminating between means and ends, between good and evil. Self-actualizing people know the difference between means and ends and good and evil and do not twist them in a way that hurt themselves or others.
- Philosophical and unhostile sense of humor. Self-actualizing people tend to enjoy humor. They like to laugh and like to joke, but not at the expense of others. They are generally seen as good natured, even though they are capable of being very serious.
- Creativeness. Self-actualizing people are capable of being highly creative. Creativeness can be expressed in many dimensions by writing, speaking, playing, fantasies, or whatever, but self-actualizing do have moods of being creative. Maslow has said that a first-rate cook is better than a second-rate painter. Hence, creativeness can be expresses in many dimensions.
- Resistance to inculturation, the transcendence of any particular culture. Maslow feels that the individual is above his culture in some way, that he maintains a strong individuality and is not so absorbed that he cannot evaluate the culture objectively in such a way that he can make decisions about what is best for him and those he cares about .
- The imperfections of self-actualizing people. Self-actualizing people are individuals who are aware of the fact that they are not perfect, that they are as human as the next person, and that there are constantly new things to learn and new ways to grow. The self-actualizing person, although comfortable with himself, never stops striving.