“There is now emerging over the horizon a new conception of human sickness and of human health, a psychology that I find so thrilling and so full of wonderful possibilities."
–Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being
Self-actualization has various interpretations depending on the theorist’s definition you choose to agree with. The most popular and accepted definition comes from humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow – the realization of your full potential in peak experience involving full development of one's skills and appreciation for life. The term was introduced by Kurt Goldstein who viewed it as man’s desire for self–fulfillment.
Self – actualization can be defined as a process of realization of one’s creativity, intellectual and social potential through the inner drive.
The traits of a self-actualized person are the following:
- They are tolerating and accepting of the flaws of others and themselves.
- Less likely not to rely on external sources to direct their lives.
- Have deep and loving relationships with others.
- Maintain appreciation and gratitude for life
- Grounded and in touch with their potentials
- Lack inhibition and enjoy a life free of guilt
- Tend to be spontaneous, open and unconventional
The path of self-actualization is not easy, but worth achieving for sure!
Maslow hierarchy of needs
Abraham Maslow came up with the theory which showed in a pyramid form. the needs at lower order need to be met first before fully filling higher-order needs. Basic needs include physiological needs (food, water etc.) and safety needs (safety and security). Psychological needs include Belonging needs (close bonds in society) and esteem needs (respect and prestige). After these needs have been met people focus on their growth needs which include cognitive needs (creativity, curiosity, etc.), aesthetic needs (paying attention to the surroundings and beauty in the world), self-actualization (reaching one full potential) and transcendence needs ( holistic level of self-actualization).
According to Maslow self-actualization are more growth-focused and less about filling the deficits. He described self-actualization as having peak experiences which are moments of transcendence from which one emerges feeling changed and transformed. He described these experiences as – “Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences." Maslow explained the concept by giving an example of an artist who might have never sold artwork for profit but continues to create new pieces because it brings him joy and satisfaction.
Towards the end, Maslow became convinced that self-actualization was healthy self-realization and a path leading to self – transcendence.
Carl Roger’s Person-centred therapy
Carl Rogers, an American psychologist believed self -actualization to be an ongoing process where one's self-concept is maintained and enhanced by reflection and interpretation of experiences. He believed that humans have an inborn tendency to actualize, for maintaining and enhancing capacities.
For a person to be self-actualized there has to be a congruence between the real self (your present self with behavior, beliefs, etc.) and the ideal self (what you would want to become). The self is fluid whose perception changes with experiences. A person who has an incongruence between the real and ideal self produces a pathological tendency. A full-functioning individual needs unconditional positive regard as an acceptance from others.
How to become self-actualized?
There isn’t any script or way in which you can be self-actualized. Everyone has to follow their unique path to achieve it. Here are a few tips that might help you achieve self-actualization. Practice acceptance which means accept what comes – as it comes. Getting comfortable accepting the unknowns in life and learning to work with a rainy day. Start living spontaneously, enjoying each moment in the present without worrying about the future. Take chances and be open to trying new experiences. Along with having an appreciation for little things in life like- good weather, delicious meals etc. Maslow said to live each experience vividly, selflessly, and with total concentration. Self-actualization is an ongoing and continuous process one needs to be conscious of their choices. Making the ones that contribute to growth and improvement. Getting comfortable with yourself is important. You need to nurture your relationship with yourself the way to nurture friends and family, you need to feel calm and at peace with yourself. Rely on yourself to make judgments rather than conform to the majority. Honour your truth and develop compassion in your life. Compassion should be extended beyond the immediate social circle belief in humanity around the world.
Self – actualization isn’t a free size fitting everyone's goal. No two people’s path towards being self-actualized would be the same. It also isn’t something you‘ll achieve over the weekend rather a long continuous process requiring work on self-improvement to become the best version of yourself.