“What is self-actualization?” you may ask. You may have already heard of this term as part of discussions on personal fulfillment and success. Normally, we all aspire to become self-actualized individuals and psychology has a great explanation on why we aspire to it and how one can achieve this milestone. Get to know the science behind self-actualization and the secrets on how to get there.
What is Self-Actualization: Definition, Brief Background and Examples
In this article:
- What is Self-Actualization?
- Who Coined The Idea of Self-Actualization?
- What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
- What Are the Traits of a Self-Actualized Person?
- Who Are Examples of Self-Actualized Persons?
- How To Achieve Self-Actualization
What is Self-Actualization?
Self-actualization is a concept that refers to the realization of one’s full potential. This may come when a person either feels accomplished or achieves something. This idea is subjective and so self-actualization may differ from person to person. Self-actualization is the ultimate end goal of every person as it refers to being successful in life.
Who Coined The Idea of Self-Actualization?
Self-actualization became a concept through the study of American psychologist Abraham Maslow. It was the idea of achieving peace after World War II that led him to conceptualize this concept. He created the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which looks at how people fulfill needs. Based on this theory, the satisfaction of all needs lead to self-actualization.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
This theory features a diagram with a pyramid containing 4 levels of human needs:
- Lowest level refers to the physiological or basic needs like food, air, water and shelter.
- Second level describes safety needs. It may refer to security in health, job, finance, etc.
- Third level refers to social needs or relationships with other people.
- Fourth level is the esteem needs, which deal with recognition and status.
- Uppermost level refers to the need for self-actualization.
According to Maslow, self-actualization is the peak of all our needs. One has to meet all “lower” needs in order to be self-actualized.
What Are the Traits of a Self-Actualized Person?
Maslow identified in 1954 the following characteristics of a self-actualized person:
- Accepting, wherein he opens himself up and accepts reality
- Problem-centered, wherein he approaches issues by solving problems along the way
- Spontaneous, wherein he is not afraid to try new and unplanned things
- Autonomous, wherein he does not usually conform to norms to feel he belongs
- Appreciative, wherein he looks at the bright side of all things
Who Are Examples of Self-Actualized Persons?
In 1970, Maslow listed persons who have attained self-actualization, among them:
- Abraham Lincoln, former US president who helped abolish slavery in his time
- Thomas Jefferson, former US president who authored the Declaration of Independence
- Albert Einstein, German physicist who developed the theory of relativity
- Eleanor Roosevelt, American activist known for her achievements in fighting for human rights
- Jane Addams, an American Nobel Peace Prize awardee who fought for women’s suffrage
- William James, known as the Father of American psychology
- Albert Schweitzer, European Nobel Peace Prize awardee who offered challenging views on religion
In his list, Maslow identified a lot of famous self-actualized personalities. So, this list makes self-actualization synonymous with having a great achievement in life.
How To Achieve Self-Actualization
Even ordinary people can reach self-actualization. Here are some steps that may lead us to this goal:
- Know your talents and strengths. Use them to your advantage in making a mark for yourself and in society.
- Stay true to your traits and values. Be yourself and don’t try to imitate other people to get personal fulfillment.
- Create a plan. This will guide you in attaining whatever you want in life.
- Continue studying. Enhance your current skills and develop new talents. Acquiring new knowledge will help you get more in life.
Here’s a video by David Tuffley, who provides more information on achieving self-actualization:
So, what is self-actualization in general? It’s something that all well-known and accomplished individuals have worked hard to achieve. You may also achieve your full potential by having the right character and attitude in life.
For you, what is self-actualization? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.