What Does Self-Actualization Mean?

Self-Actualization occurs when a person is able to fully take advantage of his or her talents while being mindful of their limitations. Colloquial usage of the term often refers to an enlightened state of maturity that is characterized by achieving goals, accepting one’s self, and self-assessing in a realistic and positive way. Often associated with humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, the “hierarchy of needs” addresses the basic and esoteric needs of humans.

Stages in the hierarchy of needs include:

  • Physiological Needs
  • Safety Needs
  • The Need for Love and Belonging
  • The Need for Esteem
  • Self-Actualization

Only once the most basic human needs have been met can the process of self-actualization begin. Once esteem needs such as self-confidence and self-respect have been met, a person might begin to self-actualize. Achieving self-actualization is not only different for each individual, it is also rare. According to Maslow, only about 1% of the population achieves self-actualization.

Characteristics of Self-Actualization

To be self-actualized individuals, we must reach the apex of human existence. As individuals, we must become everything we’re capable of becoming. Although this realization can occur in numerous ways, self-actualization is usually achieved as the result of sound psychological health and a strong sense of fulfillment. Generally, self-actualized people:

  • Are accepting of themselves and others
  • Maintain meaningful relationships
  • Can exist independently or autonomously
  • Demonstrate the ability to find humor in their own mistakes
  • Are empathetic to the realities of others
  • Exhibit appreciation or childlike wonder regarding the goodness of life
  • Have a grounded sense of purpose and responsibility

Alternative Ways to Achieve Self-Actualization

Not all people strive for self-actualization. Sometimes the influence of institutions and cultures results in differing opinions about what determines a self-actualized state. For example, “person-centered-therapy” suggests that every human being strives for, and has the capacity to fulfill, their own potential. This approach diverges from the “therapist as expert” model and instead moves towards a non-directive, empathic approach intended to motivate the client’s psychological therapy. This form of therapy might appeal to people who have negative or unrealistic expectations or those who find achieving self-actualization to be difficult. However, resolving this sort of self-concept in therapy can potentially help individuals move closer to self-actualization because “person-centered therapy” focuses on the individual’s strengths rather than their shortcomings.

Looking for more information about self-actualization? Contact our team of Chico health professionals at Therapeutic Solutions. We’re here to help you live a healthy and balanced life.