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, but do you know exactly what it is? 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 may be different for others. It is only you who can determine what self-actualization really means for you. If you’re on the journey of trying to attain self-actualization, this article is for you.
Before anything else, let’s get to know Maslow’s Theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. There are five categories of needs for humans 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 at the 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, be aware of your potential, be content with what you have, seek personal growth, have the desire to accomplish your purpose in life, and appreciate life itself.
Having a lot of money, being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or being the richest person on earth does not mean you have reached 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.
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 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, the qualities below describe a self-actualized person:
You’re in the process of self-actualization when you stop caring about other people’s opinions and are not easily persuaded by society’s expectations. You prioritize your happiness and are not easily affected by other people’s negative opinions.
We must learn to appreciate simple moments: a hug, your friends, nature, and the little things in life that give you joy. You don’t need expensive vacations or go on a shopping spree to make you happy if you’re self-actualized. The simple things in life like good health and a complete family are enough to make you happy.
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. As a consequence, you build meaningful and long-lasting friendships.
Having a sense of spontaneity and accepting the unknown is another characteristic of self-actualized individuals. No one knows what the future holds, and living a life where you accept and adapt to the unknown is self-actualization. Being spontaneous and fun means you don’t worry too much, which is good for your mental health.
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.
Being able to laugh at yourself even though you made a mistake is a sign of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness. Seeing 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 are moments of pure bliss or elation. They are described as moving experiences where you feel utterly happy. The experiences strike 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. You are a self-actualized human being if you learn to accept and thrive even in the most challenging situations.
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.
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, especially with the busyness, hassles, and problems in life. But give it a try. Smile at a stranger, stop and smell the roses, or figure out what makes you happy.
Talk to a therapist if you want to begin your self-actualization journey but are not quite sure where to start. Your therapist can help you figure out what steps to take to begin this journey. Not only will you find yourself on your journey to self-actualization; you also get to take care of your mental health along the way.
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 is 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.”