What is Self-Actualization?

Self-actualization is a very important but less talked about skill. It is the apex of all personal skills and hence, goes without saying that a self-actualized person is a self-realized person.

Self-actualization refers to the need for personal growth and development that exists throughout your life. If you are self-actualized, you work hard to grow and become who you want to be in life and reach your full potential.

It is important to note that self-actualization is a continual process of becoming rather than a perfect state one reaches of a ‘happy ever after’. Being truly self-actualized is considered the exception rather than the rule since most people are working to meet more pressing needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow outlines what is known as a hierarchy of needs, representing all the various needs that motivate human behavior. The hierarchy is often displayed as a pyramid, with the lowest levels representing basic needs and more complex needs located at the top of the pyramid. At the peak of this hierarchy is self-actualization. The hierarchy suggests that when the other needs at the base of the pyramid have been met, you can then focus your attention on the need for self-actualization.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Characteristics of Self-actualized persons

  • Self acceptance: Self-actualized people accept themselves and others as they are. Other individuals are treated the same regardless of background, current status, or other socio-economic and cultural factors
  • Sense of realism: Rather than being fearful of things that are different or unknown, a self-actualized individual is able to view life as it unfolds both logically and rationally.
  • Solution centered: Self-actualized individuals are often motivated by a strong sense of personal ethics and responsibility. They enjoy applying their problem-solving skills to real-world situations and they like helping other people improve their own lives.
  • Spontaneous: Self-actualized people have a tendency to be open, unconventional, and spontaneous. While others are able to follow generally accepted social expectations, they don’t feel confined by these norms in their thoughts or behaviors.
  • Sense of Humor: Self-actualized individuals generally have a thoughtful sense of humor. They’re able to enjoy the humor in situations and laugh at themselves, but they don’t ridicule or joke at the expense of another person’s feelings.
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