Self-actualization is the best gift you can give to yourself. But like all wishes, it doesn’t come without the price of hard work, dedication, and a great deal of self-awareness. American psychologist Abraham Maslow was a leading figure in humanistic psychology who was well known for developing the theory of hierarchy of needs. The theory is often depicted as a pyramid with five levels thats represent humans’ needs. Maslow states that everyone starts at the base, which represents our most basic, physiological needs. We are all initially motivated by food, water, and safety in order to survive. Then, once we have achieved those needs, we move up to the next tier of psychological needs, which consists of our need to build relationships and feel a sense of belonging.
Self-actualization is at the top of the pyramid, which is the final tier one can achieve. According to Maslow from Simply Psychology, self-actualization “refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.” Self-fulfillment varies from person to person, depending on what their interests and dreams are. It can come from one’s desire to be a parent, freedom to express creativity in the arts, ambition to be innovative with technology and science, or determination to climb the social ladder in the corporate world.
Maslow importantly notes that people’s satisfaction is not dependent upon black and white, “all or nothing” thinking in which their needs have to be 100% fulfilled before moving up to the next tier. He also states that depending on people’s life experiences, such as a relationship breakup or the loss of a job, they can fluctuate between their levels of needs, so it’s not necessarily one straight path we follow towards self-actualizing. Growth doesn’t occur from the lack or deprivation of something, but rather from the desire to grow as an individual.
Since self-actualization is such a subjective concept because it refers to one’s personal self-fulfillment, it may be difficult to detect. However, we believe in progress and want to help enhance your self-awareness, so we found some common characteristics of self-actualized individuals. Psych2Go shares with you 7 signs you may be self-actualized:
1. You’re not afraid of confronting reality and embrace the unknown.
You understand how to make the most out of what you have now. Instead of seeing your current obstacles as permanent limitations and setbacks, you bravely tackle them as efficiently as possible. You’re adaptable and don’t become fixated on how your expectations differ from reality. In addition, the unknown doesn’t stop you from working towards your dreams and goals. It’s not about erasing your fears because it’s normal for them to live in the back of your head, but when you’re self-actualized, you don’t allow them to drive you. Instead, you accept and embrace ambiguity and uncertainty because you appreciate their mysterious, challenging quality.
2. You have an unusual, out-of-the-box sense of humor.
You’re not afraid to take risks with your sense of humor. You don’t entertain people with common, overused jokes, nor do you try too hard. Instead, the humor you possess is naturally infused with your creative thinking and zany spirits. As a result, your amusements are born from your strong sense of self, which you never compromise or give up. It lives because you never let your inner child nor your sense of wonder go away, regardless of age and negative life experiences.
3. You focus on problem-solving, rather than being self-absorbed.
You don’t become stuck on what’s hindering your progress. When you’re self-actualized, you’re aware of how toxic it can be when you allow your doubts, sadness, and frustration to control the decisions you make. Instead of letting your emotions consume you for the worse, you are able to take a step back and focus on the big picture. You don’t get too caught up in the small details that won’t matter 10 years from now and put more effort towards problem-solving. Motivated by forward thinking and growing, you refuse to be defined by your own defeats or limitations, because you have a healthy understanding that you’re more than that.
4. You are resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional.
Instead of just accepting the usual norms and the system that governs you, you’re not afraid to question whether they’re right or wrong. You don’t like the idea of being passively molded by popular culture and make your own judgments based on examining all sides and arguments of the whole picture. As a result, you have strong moral standards and care deeply about ethics. You’re not easily fooled nor swayed by what media projects, which leaves you highly analytical and open-minded. You carve a path of your own, not to be cool or purposely unconventional, but because you’ve already observed society and find it stifling when fulfilling your own greatest needs and potential.
5. You have deep, fulfilling relationships with a few people, but care about humanity as a whole.
You have a strong inclination to establish profound, meaningful interpersonal relationships. You believe in a kind of love that exists beyond ego and perfection. You don’t care about having relationships that are socially accepted which is often affected by factors, such as race, class, education, political beliefs, age, and gender. Rather than creating superficial on-the-surface relationships with many people, you care more about the quality and depth you can share with a few special people. But you also look after humanity as a whole because you believe in the potential and growth of others.
6. You have a great appreciation for the simple things in life.
Amidst all the running you do to push yourself forward, you understand the importance of stopping every once in a while to smell the roses. You’re not caught up on how the other side may be greener and don’t make it a main focus to compare yourself to others. When you’re self-actualized, you have a great capacity to enjoy many things in life, whether they’re old or new. You have a strong sense of wonder that never fades because you’re curious about nearly everything. You don’t bore easily and find contentment in even the smallest, simplest moments.
7. You don’t strive to be perfect. Instead, you celebrate your flaws and quirks and fully accept others for who they are, too.
You realize how much of a waste of time it would be to strive for perfection. Instead, you work towards achieving balance when you can take the good with the bad. You practice self-love and praise yourself for the strengths, quirks, and talents you possess and work on bettering your weaknesses instead of complaining about them. As a result, you don’t beat yourself up during your failures and allow your self-esteem to flourish. You also fully accept others for who they are and encourage the concept of self-love because you recognize just how much power it has for healing and progressing.
When was the last time you felt self-actualized? Is there anything stopping you now from self-actualizing? Psych2Go would love to hear your thoughts! Please be sure to leave a comment down below!
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like 5 Effective Ways You Can Self-Actualize from Psych2Go.
McLeod, S. (2017). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simply Psychology. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
Sze, D. (2015, July 21). Maslow: The 12 Characteristics of a Self-Actualized Person. HuffPost. Retrieved December 19, 2017.