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The need for: Self-actualization


Explanations > Needs > Self-actualization

Becoming | Maslow's characteristicsSo what?


Self-actualization is a fancy term, but actually it's quite easy: It means 'becoming what you are capable of becoming'.


Self-actualization can be pretty far out for the uninitiated. When you are struggling with such as safety needs it may seem pretty much like a bunch of fluffy hogwash. But when all that stuff is sorted out, when you have friends and family and are happy with life, you still need to reach out to find out how high you can go.

A good word here is ontology, which the dictionary describes as 'The metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence'. Or just 'theories of being'. There is a whole branch of philosophy and psychology dedicated to figuring this out. Which is often the goal of people who are working on self-actualization.

Eastern religions and philosophies know all about self-actualisation. They call it nirvana, enlightenment or other terms. It's about reaching the highest pinnacle of being. Ultimate happiness. One-ness with God.

Sounds like a nice place to be. Even reaching out to it is a worthy goal.

If you want to explore this route, go look up things like Buddhism, Zen, Taoism and Meditation.

Maslow's characteristics

Maslow, by analyzing well-known people who had achieved this level, identified many characteristics of self-actualization. He found they were:

  • Reality-centered: Differentiating between fake and real, dishonesty and truth.
  • Means focused: Not seeking just the end but enjoying the journey.
  • Problem-centered: Focusing on solving problems not bemoaning one's troubles.
  • Self-sufficient: Not needing the company of others.
  • Deep relationships: What connections they had with others was deep and meaningful.
  • Autonomy: Not being driven by the deeper needs.
  • Socially aloof: Not being driven by social pressures.
  • Open humor: Able to laugh at themselves and life in general.
  • Acceptance: Accepting self and others without judgement.
  • Simplicity: Being themselves, without pretence.
  • Spontaneity: Reacting as themselves without pause to worry.
  • Respect: Accepting others as they are.
  • Humility: Not trying to be superior to others.
  • Ethical: A personal sense of right and wrong.
  • Openness: Being able to see things in new ways.
  • Creative: Easy identification of new ideas.
  • Peak experience: Achieving that state of nirvana.

Maslow did also note that such people are not saints and have their own imperfections, such as:

  • Strong feelings of anxiety or guilt about what they should or should not do, or what they had done.
  • Being excessively kind even to people who may not deserve it.
  • Being cold and ruthless when they felt something needed doing.

Note also that self-actualizing is very different to lower needs and that self-actualizers are a personality type. While many of us seek self-actualization when lower needs are met, there are people for who the lower needs are less important and who live their lives in the self-actualizing state.

So what?

So if the other person has most other things going their way, focus your efforts on helping them to explore themselves and become what they are capable of becoming.

If you are selling products, what you are selling is transformation and the product is the person themselves. People will pay very good money to become somebody else.

See also

Maslow's Hierarchy, Ways to Happiness, Actualizer Needs


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