Self-actualization is the concept of individuals striving to reach their full potential and fulfil their unique purpose, driven by an innate desire for personal growth and development.
What is Self-actualization?
In humanistic psychology, the process by which a person reaches their fullest potential is referred to as self-actualization.
Self-actualization indicates the desire for personal growth and development that persists all through lifetime. Self-actualized people tend to work harder to grow, achieve their true potential and become whatever they want to be in life.
Self-actualization is closely linked to psychological well-being. When individuals are able to achieve their full potential and become who they want to be, they tend to experience greater satisfaction and happiness in life.
Self-actualization allows individuals to align their goals and values with their actions, leading to a sense of purpose and fulfilment. In order to achieve psychological well-being, it is important to strive for self-actualization and continue to grow and develop throughout life.
Human motivation is closely tied to the concept of self-actualization. As individuals strive to reach their full potential and fulfil their unique purpose, they are driven by an innate desire for personal growth and development. Self-actualization is not a destination, but rather a lifelong journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. By embracing this journey and continuously striving for self-actualization, individuals can experience greater satisfaction and fulfilment in all areas of their lives.
What is Abraham Maslow’s theory about Self-actualization?
One may find many definitions of self-actualization depending on who they ask. However, the most accurate and widely accepted definition of self-actualization was proposed by the American humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow.
True self-actualization according to Maslow's theory is not just about achieving personal goals or reaching one's full potential. It involves a deeper understanding and acceptance of oneself, including both strengths and weaknesses.
This process requires self-reflection, introspection, and a willingness to confront and work through personal challenges. Only by embracing one's true self can one achieve a sense of inner peace and fulfilment.
According to Maslow's theory, Self-actualization needs are the highest level of human needs. These needs are characterized by a desire to achieve one's full potential and experience personal growth.
Maslow believed that self-actualization needs could only be met once basic physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem needs had been fulfilled. The path to self-actualization is unique to each individual and requires a deep understanding of one's own values, beliefs, and motivations.
Maslow's pyramid of needs
According to Abraham Maslow, the process by which a person becomes everything he is capable of becoming, is termed as self-actualization. A well-known therapist of San Diego, Kim Egel, defined self-actualization as the ability to become the best version of themself.
Both these definitions sound good — but how to actually become the best version of oneself? And how to know one has already achieved it?
Most of the research about self-actualization came from Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow theorized that individuals need to satisfy four basic types of needs before satisfying a 5th need to achieve self-actualization.
One of the basic needs that Maslow identified was mental health. He believed that individuals need to have a sense of emotional and psychological well-being in order to achieve self-actualization. This means that individuals must be able to cope with stress, manage their emotions, and have a positive outlook on life.
Without addressing mental health needs, it is difficult to move up the pyramid and achieve higher levels of self-actualization. Therefore, it's important to prioritize mental health by seeking support when needed and taking steps to maintain emotional well-being.
Maslow arranged individuals’ needs into a pyramid; the hierarchy of needs has the most basic needs (for example, shelter and food) at the lowest stage.
- Safety needs are found at the second stage.
- Relationship and belonging needs are at the third stage.
- Respect and esteem are at the 4th stage of pyramid.
- Self-actualization is at 5th stage/ tip of Abraham Maslow's pyramid.
Although Abraham Maslow’s pyramid model may show the path toward achieving self-actualization, but according to it's critiques, many people do not have ample amounts of food and shelter but still enjoy and maintain mutual relationships and respect for others.
Different people see self-actualization differently. But, it would be helpful to see what must not be considered as self-actualization. For instance, self-actualization does not guarantee that things will always go smoothly. One may still face difficulties while being self-actualized.
In fact, a significant component of self-actualization is identifying one’s limits alongside focusing on individual strengths such as artistic talents, parenting, or practical skills.
Like Kurt Goldstein, Abraham Maslow perceived self-actualization as the ability to achieve fullest potential in life. But, in his explanation of self-actualization, Abraham Maslow solely referred to people, not all the organisms. Also Abraham Maslow’s theory asserts that the drive to self-actualize will only arise as a motivator after one’s lower-level needs have been accomplished.
What was Carl Roger’s contribution to Self-actualization?
The American humanistic psychology expert, Carl Rogers believed that one might only self-actualize by having a positive view of himself (positive self-regard). It only occurs after getting unconditional positive regard from people in the surrounding – if one feels that he is being respected and valued without any reservation by people around him (especially parents in a person’s children).
Carl Rogers proposed that one may only achieve self-actualization if there is congruence between how he sees himself and his ideal self. Carl Rogers believed that a lot of difference between these two, will lead to negative feelings of self-worth that will make it impossible to achieve self-actualization.
According to Carl Rogers research, a person’s environment and who he interacts with, can either assist or frustrate his natural destiny. If it is positive, it will assist; in case of oppressive, it will frustrate.
What was Kurt Goldstein’s contribution to the theory?
The process of self-actualization was first described by a German Neurologist, Kurt Goldstein during the mid 20th century. Kurt Goldstein considered each behavior and perceived self-actualization as the ultimate target of each organism. However, it was Abraham Maslow who actually popularized the term 'self-actualization.’
Kurt Goldstein's theory about self-actualization is rooted in humanistic psychology, which emphasizes the importance of individual experience and personal growth. According to Goldstein, self-actualization involves a process of becoming more fully oneself, which requires a deep understanding of one's own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
By embracing one's own individuality and striving to reach one's full potential, Goldstein believed that individuals could achieve a greater sense of fulfillment and meaning in their lives.
Goldstein's theory of self-actualization centers around the concept of personal potential. According to Goldstein, every individual has within them the capacity to achieve their highest potential, and it is through the pursuit of this potential that one can experience true self-actualization.
This involves identifying one's unique strengths and weaknesses, setting goals, and working towards achieving them in a way that is authentic and aligned with one's values and passions. By tapping into their personal potential, individuals can experience a sense of purpose and fulfillment that transcends material success or societal expectations.
What are the characteristics of self-actualization?
According to the theory and wider literature, self-actualized people have the following characteristics:
- Live autonomously, as their life does not revolve around the opinions of others. They do not change their opinion after receiving social feedback. Most of them, do not need a company and demonstrate an appreciation for solitude.
- Have no fear of the unknown. They are ready to face whatever their future holds for them.
- Have a strong sense of truth. Mostly, they understand actual possibilities and recognize fake behaviour of others.
- Show kindness, compassion, as well as acceptance both for themselves and others.
- Have a good and cheerful sense of humor as they can make others see humor in difficult situations and they can even laugh at themselves if they make a mistake.
- Are more spontaneous because they do not stick to or follow a rigid routine and do what they think is appropriate in the current situation.
- Prefer long-lasting and meaningful friendships with a few people rather than casual friendships with a lot of people.
- Tend to be more creative. Whether its related to possessing artistic abilities or having a knack to look at problems in new ways, they lack inhibition.
- Cherish peak experiences or a moment of joy, wonder and euphoria, while staying attached to the universe.
- Focus on bigger things and may even dedicate their life for a cause, mission, or intense purpose.
- Appreciate each joyful and positive moment such as a film, a sunset, a child’s laughter — irrespective of how many times they have already experienced it.
- Hold a sense of justice, care and compassion for everyone, and discourage acts of unethical behavior and injustice.
- Show concern and interest in positive well-being of others.
People must not forget that self-actualization is an ongoing process, not an endpoint. No one should stop this journey at any single point. One may develop self-actualization even without developing the above characteristics and possess all the above characteristics and still lack self-actualization.
How can we self-actualize?
Self-actualization is a commendable goal to achieve. If someone is living his life with authenticity and purpose and demonstrate concern for others, they are on the right path. Following are the tips to develop self-actualization in one’s own self.
1. Practice acceptance
To achieve self-actualization, it is suggested to learn to accept things as they are. For example, instead of wishing things had occurred in a different way one must be ready for rain while planning an outdoor event.
It means, people must be prepared for unknown in life and see things in life more realistically.
Acceptance also involves human potential as it might be difficult to accept individuals with problematic or unkind behaviour. One may, however, still show compassion by thinking that everyone has a unique and different way to deal with people.
Accepting someone does not mean to like or to spend m time with a person with problematic behaviour.
2. Be spontaneous
To become spontaneous, one must enjoy how things are, without worrying about what he must do. Spontaneity can be as simple as using a new clothes brand or trying a different cuisine one has never tried before. One must listen to what his heart says and pay attention to his gut instincts.
3. Being comfortable with our own company
It is important to build a relationship with own self. Self-actualized people mostly feel at peace and calm on their own. Therefore, one must try and reconnect with own self until he becomes willing to spend as much time with his own self as (or more than) he spends with others.
4. Appreciating minor things in life
Appreciating a variety of life experiences that mostly go ignored in the busy life is a major step to self-actualization. Self-actualized people appreciate small things in life such as good weather or a delicious meal.
5. Live authentically
It involves honoring one’s truth and avoiding negative things like manipulation, lie or dishonesty. Also, one must be honest with own self and care for his individual needs and desires. A self-actualized person worries about his own fulfillment of potential not someone else’s.
6. Develop compassion
Self-actualized persons think deeply for other organisms. Their compassion does not stop at their closest social circle or those they know in life. It extends to humanity and then the entire world as a whole. One may try and develop compassion by learning about people with different experiences in life through media or reading books written by the authors belonging to different backgrounds.
A self-actualized individual is one who feels accomplished and has achieved everything he is capable of achieving in his life through peak experiences as well as personal growth. A self-actualized individual is:
- Highly creative
- Problem-centred (rather than self-centred)
- Ready to work hard and take responsibility
- Having ethical standards
- Honest and avoids purporting
Everybody chooses a different path towards self-actualization and there is no one-size-fits-all phenomenon. Hence, one must keep eyes open and accept whatever comes his way. Working to enhance potential and becoming the best of one’s individual self is recommended for a more fulfilling life.
Human potential is limitless and embracing self-actualization is the key to unlocking it. By taking the time to explore our strengths and weaknesses, we can identify areas where we can grow and improve. This process requires introspection and self-reflection, but the rewards are immeasurable.
As we embrace self-actualization, we become more confident, more self-aware, and more fulfilled. We begin to see the world in a different way and to appreciate the beauty and complexity of life. With dedication and perseverance, we can achieve our full potential and become the best version of ourselves.