Self-actualization is not just what you learn in school as the highest level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid. You heard this word many times, you heard, but did you listen? What does self-actualization really mean? Do we all achieve self-actualization?

Self-actualization does not have that ‘fixed standard’ because it differs from one person to another. What may be an achievement of self-actualization for you, maybe different for others. It is only you that can determine what self-actualization really means for you. If you’re on the journey of trying to attain self-actualization, this article will help you. 

What Does Self-Actualization Mean?

Before anything else, let’s get to know the Theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Abraham Maslow. There are five categories for humans need to survive and live a fulfilled life; basic human needs, safety and security needs, love and belongingness, self-esteem needs, and self-actualization. Self-actualization is on top of the pyramid, as this is the point where a person can say, “I have reached my full potential.” 

Self-actualization means a person reaching the development of self-fulfillment, self-realization, self-transcendence, self-growth, and self-respect. In other words, you can accept your strength and weaknesses, being aware of your potential, being content with what you have, seeking personal growth, the desire to accomplish your purpose in life, and appreciation for life. 

Having a lot of money, being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or be the richest person on Earth does not mean you reach self-actualization. Persons from different walks of life may achieve self-actualization without the abundance of material things in life. Not everyone can reach self-actualization, but it is achievable. It has no endgame; it is a work in progress. 

What Are the Characteristics of a Person Who Achieved Self-Actualization?

When you achieve self-actualization, you can genuinely say that you’ve truly found and accepted the best version of yourself. So what are the personality or characteristics of self-actualized individuals? Remember that self-actualization differs for each individual. It’s possible for a person to achieve it without attaining each characteristic. Generally speaking, a self-actualized person thinks, act, and behave like these:

Untroubled About What Others Think

When you stop caring about other’s opinion and is not easily persuaded by society’s expectations, you’re in the process of self-actualization. You prioritize your happiness and is not easily affected by other people’s negative opinion.

Simple Joys

We must learn to appreciate simple moments: a hug, your friends, nature, and the little things in life that make you happy. You don’t need expensive vacations or go on a shopping spree to make you happy; the simple things in life like good health and a complete family makes you happy.

Have Compassion for Others

Having love, compassion, and kindness to all the people you meet is characteristic of a self-actualized person. You also have that sense of justice because you’re compassionate to other people. You care for what’s right and just because you have empathy for others. This also includes helping others who are in need without expecting anything in return. In return, you build meaningful and long-lasting friendships. 

Spontaneous and Fun

Having a sense of spontaneity and accepting the unknown is another concept of self-actualization. No one knows what the future holds, and living a life that accepts and adapts to the unknown is self-actualization. Being spontaneous and fun means, you don’t worry too much, which is good for your mental health too. 

Be Grateful for What You Have

Instead of complaining about what you lack, you are grateful for what you have. You strive to do better and set goals, but you are content and happy with what you have. Material things or money does not necessarily excite you. 

Good Sense of Humor

When you can laugh at yourself even though you made a mistake, you are confident about yourself and accept your mistake. Seeing the humor in challenging situations is also a characteristic of self-actualization. It does not mean that you’re carefree; you just have a more calm personality. 

Peak Experiences

Peak experiences are moments of pure bliss or elation. It’s described as a moving experience where you feel utterly happy. The experience strikes an emotional chord in you that changes how you see and appreciate life. Some people go through a peak experience when reading a great book, watching a touching movie, traveling alone, or going on a nature trip. 


Self-awareness means accepting your strengths and weakness and being aware of your actions. When you learn to accept and thrive even in the most challenging situations, you are a self-actualized human being. 

Related: 8 Life Hacks to Build Your Self-Awareness

Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is a driving force for self-actualization. Doing the things you love involves experiences that make you happy, and surrounding yourself with the people you love is the pursuit of happiness. This may include gardening, exercising, dining with friends, or going on a nature trip with friends. 

Begin Your Journey to Self-Actualization

These characteristics of self-actualization are like developing a habit. It will take time and conscious effort to change. Tuning in with yourself is challenging, most especially with our life’s busy hustle and bustle. But give it a try, a smile on a stranger, stop and smell the roses, or figure out what makes you happy. 

If you want to begin your self-actualization journey but not quite sure where to start, talk to a therapist. Your therapist can help you figure out what steps to take to begin this journey. Not only are you finding yourself, but you’re taking care of your mental health too.

Just don’t get too caught up in achieving all the characteristics because there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for a self-actualized person. This a process, and if you want to live a fulfilling life, there will always be room for improvement. No one is perfect; just become the best version of yourself. To quote Abraham Maslow, “Every person is, in part, his own project and makes himself.”

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