This is a concept that has intrigued me, so I thought I write a post on it. This term was first popularized by Abraham Maslow. What is exactly a self-actualized person? What does it mean? Why exactly does it have significance to our lives and well-being?
The definition Maslow used for ‘self-actualization” is it “represents growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs—those for meaning in life, in particular.”(Psychology Today). Maslow used a hierarchy of needs that we go through in life. Going from the lowest level(Physiological needs), to the highest(self-actualization). Maslow believed people who were self-actualized fulfilled their greatest potential. To do so you must got through a hierarchy of needs.
I do like this concept, but I see ‘self-actualization’ a bit different. I perceive self-actualization more as knowing who you are, rather than focusing on potential, talents, or your highest needs. I think knowing who you are, what you can be, what you are best at, what you can’t do, knowing your weaknesses, and strengths can lead you to a fulfilling life.
To me self-actualization is acceptance of the person you are at the moment. I don’t like the emphasis on potential, as it can lead one to focus on potential, and it can lead to disappointment and misery if they can’t reach it. It can also be a motivator, and it can be part of a self-actualized being, but it shouldn’t be the only focus. If you know, and accept yourself, than being able to reach your potential should come.
Focusing on the self, learning to improve the self, working on developing the self can lead to fulfilling your potential, which can lead to self-actualization. It is all about knowing who you are as an individual. Your weaknesses, strengths, characteristics, traits, triggers, personality, and talents. The awareness of the holistic human part of your being is self-actualization to me.
Now I am not saying he is wrong. We all have different ways of defining things. Other Psychologists disagreed with him, others put their own spin to the term. We all have our own way of perceiving things in life, and what truly life is about. It is okay to have different opinions.
Now I like to post some characteristic of self-actualized individuals according to the articles I read.
- Accept themselves & others
- Enjoy solitude
- Enjoy the journey, not destination
- Portrays empathy/compassion
I found these characteristics interesting, because these characteristic are similar to being a mindful individual. Practicing mindfulness can also cultivate these characteristics. I have written about all these topics on my blog. I say the self-actualization path is similar to the mindful one. Both leading to peace, calm and fulfillment of our well-being.
Below is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.