Self-Actualization

Self-Actualization: Breaking It Down

  • Self-Actualization is a concept which represents the need by which a person desires to use his or her potential to the maximum. For example, if a person has great artistic talent but is forced to study accounting, the person will be frustrated as a result.

The concept of self-actualization was first hypothesized by Kurt Goldstein,Opens in new window a neuroanatomist, who hypothesized that self-actualization, is the ultimate goal of all organisms. The concept was made popular by Abraham MaslowOpens in new window as he cited it as the highest tier in his Hierarchy of NeedsOpens in new window theory.

Self-actualization, as defined by Maslow, is a person’s desire to reach his or her full potential. In otherwords, it is the drive to become everything one was capable of becoming.

According to Maslow, healthy people, having gratified the basic needs of safety, belonging, love, respect and self-esteem, could then be motivated towards actualization of their potential, in order to increase their understanding of life.

Maslow proposed that a person who does not get the chance to fulfill his or her potential will be frustrated because the person’s drive to achieve is inhibited.

Self-actualization plays an important role in a healthy personality. Maslow classified a self-actualizing individual as a person who has a healthy personality defined by continuous personal growth.

Characteristics of Self-actualizers

Self-actualizers are individuals who are living creatively and fully using their potentials. A self-actualized person has the desire for self-fulfillment—the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.

Studying well-respected and acclaimed historical figures (i.e., Albert EinsteinOpens in new window and Henry David ThoreauOpens in new window, to name a few), as well as the healthiest 1% of students whom he believed to be self-actualized, Maslow identified several characteristics of self-actualizing individuals, as follows.

  1. Self-actualizers tend to be in touch with reality and are comfortable and relaxed dealing with it.
  2. Self-actualizers are often open to new experiences and are spontaneous and uncomplicated individuals. While they enjoy few, but close friendships, they are able to distance themselves and be independent of culture as well as environment.
  3. Self-actualizers are autonomous, independent, do not require other people for approval, and have a need for privacy.
  4. Self-actualizers derive deep satisfaction from their work, while also having clear ethical definitions of good and evil.
  5. And finally, self-actualizers demonstrate a balance between polar aspects of personality; for example, they can be both rational as well as intuitive.