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Actualizer Needs


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Actualizing and actualizers | Actualizer needs | So what?


Actualizing and actualizers

Self-actualization is the highest level of need described in Maslow's hierarchy of needs and is about 'becoming what you are capable of becoming', unlocking your talents and achieving your potential.

A person who operates at this level is an actualizer, which can be a distinct personality type who operates with only limited requirement for satisfaction of lower needs on the hierarchy. It is also a state that people may reach through striving to improve themselves. Whatever the route, to be an actualizer is to take a different view on life as compared to most other people.

Actualizer needs

Actualizers have distinct needs and consequently focus in these areas. Maslow called them 'B-needs', or 'being needs' to differentiate from the 'D-needs' or 'deficit needs' of the lower hierarchy. It is notable how these seem more like values than needs.


Truth is about honesty, receiving truth and telling the truth. The truth is not always comfortable, but the actualizer prefers to to hear this than to hear 'white lies' or cover-ups. The person should also tell the truth, which may need courage.

The opposite of truth is dishonesty.


Being good means being considerate about others, taking their well-being into significant account and being kind to them. Goodness is about adhering to social values that require respect of one's fellow humans.

The opposite of goodness is evil.


Appreciation of beauty is a natural act. Is is a finer sense of the aesthetic that lets you see patterns and form that perhaps others miss. Just like a fractal, beauty is seen as far more than skin deep.

Appreciating beauty does not mean seeking to possess or control beautiful things or people. It is enough to see and appreciate without having to take it away from others and make it solely your own.

The opposite of beauty is ugliness or vulgarity.


Finding unity is to see things as whole and interconnected systems, not separate and wholly independent parts. It is understanding that even opposites are connected and even dynamically create one another, as in the yin and yang of light and dark.

It is to appreciate the universe as one, to realize that whatever we do, we affect all other things -- and to act with a deep consideration of this. This includes appreciating diversity and people who are 'not like me', realizing that actually everyone is more like me than we may think.

The opposite of unity is arbitrariness or forced choices.


Have you ever woken up feeling very alive, tingling with a sense of potential and a pleasure just to be here, now?

Being alive in this sense is to feel the unity, beauty and truth of everything around you. It is having the energy to get up, get out and get active with a vibrant enthusiasm.

People who are 'alive' do not just bounce around with enthusiasm. They have focus and meaning. They are fully functional and work with energy towards clear goals.

The opposite of aliveness is deadness.


Uniqueness involves an appreciation of difference, seeing each thing as individual. Seeking uniqueness requires a close attention and not using primitive categories or stereotypes.

When faced with two similar items, some people quickly say they are the 'same'. With a uniqueness view, infinite differences even between 'identical' items can be seen.

The opposite of uniqueness is uniformity.


For something to be perfect, it must be judged and compared against something which is imperfect. Yet if everything is unique, then there could only be one perfect thing and so result in a view that everything is imperfect. The reverse is to see perfection in every grain of sand.

A person who seeks perfection also tries hard to do things well and right in their own lives. They pay attention to detail and enjoy the beauty of creation. They are organized and put things in their right place.

This does not mean they are dissatisfied with a lack of perfection, only that they seek it. It also does not mean a narrow focus that forgets the world. Perfection is also about 'good enough' and not just 'gold-plated'. 

The opposite of perfection is sloppiness, inconsistency or accident.


When something is started, it is not left unfinished. The process of creation is enjoyed at each step, culminating in the ultimate completion. There is an energy for this, with the focus and determination that is needed to see things through.

Completion creates a sense of fulfilment, of achievement of having contributed something whole. There is also a sense of completeness to the person, that they are not lacking or wanting in any way.

The opposite of completeness is incompleteness.


Justice is about truth, balance and, above all, fairness. It is about transparency and care, particularly for the vulnerable who cannot defend themselves. It is also needed so the common person can live with others without fear.

Justice is not about revenge. It is not 'an eye for an eye' but neither is it about 'turning the other cheek'. It is dispassionate yet considerate. It seeks to create right and prevent wrong.

Seeking justice also means accepting justice. That if you wrong someone, even unintentionally, then you must put things to right, compensating for the trouble caused.

The opposite of justice is injustice and lawlessness.


The world is cluttered with endless stuff that we are encouraged to buy, collect and possess. Yet from an actualizer position, little of this is really needed and only serves to distract from things which are more important.

When status is important, things are used to signify this. Yet when the need for social approval is past, then simplicity is a better value.

There is an elegant beauty in simplicity. When the clutter is removed, the essential qualities and relationships can be seen.

The opposite of simplicity is complexity.


While simplicity is important, richness can also be found all around. The actualizer sees the complexity and beauty of simple things. Their thoughts are rich with ideas and appreciation. They see the intricate and amazing detail in everything around them.

At the highest level, it is about seeing richness and beauty in all things. As William Blake said, 'To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.'

The opposite of richness is impoverishment.


It can seem annoying to the rest of us but somehow the actualizer lives life in an effortless kind of way, getting many things done whilst simultaneously seeming to have plenty of time available.

They do not do this by working less but through understanding and engaging in one thing at a time. They focus and clarify and then move on, rather than trying to juggle too much and so drop balls and spend even more time picking them up again. Actualizers are hence masters of time management.

The opposite of effortlessness is strain.


While life can be tough, it need not be without humor. In fact you can find things to laugh at in the most dire situation. Laughter lifts the spirit, bringing a little joy into what may otherwise be humdrum or hard.

Playfulness includes not taking oneself too seriously. If you can laugh at yourself, you will always have an endless source of fun. Playfulness is about levity, approaching life in a light way. Yet this does not mean you cannot be serious. The secret is in the balance that does not let one dominate.

The opposite of playfulness is humorlessness or drudgery.


Many of us are dependent on others for all kinds of things, from money to affection. Being dependent means assuming a right and that others have a duty to provide. This can lead to stressed expectation and strained relationships.

Being self-sufficient means not demanding or expecting things from others. Yet it does not mean separating oneself. To be with a person who is self-sufficient is to be in a place of comfort, knowing that they are with you because they like you, and not because of some ulterior motive they are seeking.

The opposite of self-sufficiency is dependency.


Last of all and perhaps most of all, actualizers seek and find meaning. It has been said that the meaning of life is to find meaning. Whether it is the grain or sand or a moment's revelation, finding meaning gives sense to life and motivates you to continue.

Finding meaning is related to learning, where the 'aha' of discovery is a reward from the brain at having made sense of something new.

Meaning is the opposite of senselessness.

So what?

Do you want to achieve self-actualization? Maybe in part or getting a sense of what it is like? Consider the above list and how you can adopt these ways.

Also, when helping others change and develop, you can use these as a beacon, assisting the other person in moving towards them.

See also

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Values, Meaning, Ways to Happiness, Self-actualization


Maslow, A.H. (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being, D. Van Nostrand Company

Maslow, A. H. (1971). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Esalen Books, Viking Press


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