Self-actualization is a theory in psychology that asserts people have an innate drive to grow and realize their full potential. It is most often associated with humanistic psychology, a school of psychology that places the human being at the center of its theories and practices. According to this theory, self-actualization requires that people seek to understand, accept and fulfill their true potential rather than complying with social standards.

Self-actualization has been subject to many critiques in academic work and popular culture. Some argue it is not a distinct psychological state because it encompasses personal growth within other psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem. Others say it lacks definitional clarity because happiness can’t be objectively measured or explained by one singular theory like self-actualization.

An example of Self-actualization

Self-actualization is often used to differentiate between people who have a strong desire to grow and those who do not. People with a solid drive to self-actualize are said to be more self-aware, better at solving problems and understanding their emotions, and generally experience greater clarity within themselves.

A good example is Mike Savage. In 2015, Mike founded 1-800 Accountancy. An accounting company that aims to provide small businesses with the same level of service larger companies expect from the big four. Since then, Mike and his wife set up the Mike Savage New Canaan foundation to provide impoverished families in Honduras with life’s basic needs like clothes, bedding, food, and toys.

The definition of self-actualization

The term “self-actualization” originally referred to the ideas of Abraham Maslow, who believed that people have intrinsic drives to grow and become more of who they are. Although Maslow’s ideas have been widely discredited, many psychologists continue to use self-actualization to describe personal growth.

Maslow’s definition – Abraham Maslow described self-actualization as being “beyond needs” and said it has to be a desire rather than a need. He stressed that it is not about what you have but about what you are; therefore, he was fond of using the word “Being”. He believed there were two types of self-actualized people; Achievers and Strivers.

Self-actualized people are not driven by “basic needs” or desires; they are driven by a desire to be who they are and to discover what they can be. When people become self-actualized, they do not conform to social norms; in fact, they often break the rules, which is why Maslow described them as “misfits.”

It is a much more stable mental state that occurs when one feels free and unpressured by the need for protection from others. Because of this, it involves a loss of dependence on others.

The benefits of self-actualization

Self-actualization has been shown to have many positive effects on people. Self-actualization is associated with improved relationships, positive emotions, and stable moods. This has been seen in studies where people who achieved personal growth by trying something new develop increased self-esteem and a better relationship with their bodies.

Many studies have shown that people driven to achieve self-actualization are happier than those who seek happiness in other ways. They experience less depression, anxiety, and stress and greater well-being overall. These improvements in mental health are often attributed to the intrinsic rewards of growth, such as the ability to understand oneself better or the awareness of one’s strengths and skills.

Self-actualization is a process that results in continuous growth and change. When people are in the process of self-actualizing, they tend to be more open to learning. This is because they are more aware of themselves and their environment and can better discern what information will be helpful. This self-discovery often leads to self-knowledge, which is one of the main goals of self-actualization.

Because people become more aware of themselves as they pursue personal growth, they also become more comfortable with who they are. Ironically, this leads them to avoid changing their personalities or beliefs simply for the sake of fitting in or winning approval from others, as this does not match their idea of who they are.

How to achieve self-actualization

Self-actualization cannot be achieved through just one method of instruction. It must be developed throughout your lifetime. 

However, here are some methods you may find helpful:

  • Reading:

There are many self-help books available online today that explores how people can develop themselves in any number of ways. 

  • Meditation:

Meditation is a great way to find out what makes you happy and to clear your mind of distractions such as social media or video games that might be holding you back. 

  • Acting:

Acting is a great way to express your emotions and show people who you are. Many famous actors, such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, began their acting careers by attending acting schools where they could develop themselves and their acting skills. 

  • Exercising:

Exercising is an essential part of the self-actualization process. The first step of self-actualization is to clear your mind. This can be done through exercise, which clears your head of any distractions like social media or video games while you’re working out.

  • Creative expression:

Creative expression is a great way to express who you are. Writing is a great way to express yourself. Playing an instrument or learning new skills like photography are great ways to express your artistic side. 

  • Working on personal goals:

One of the biggest mistakes people make while pursuing self-actualization is not focusing on their goals. If you are working on improving yourself, you must have goals to work towards. These goals can be anything from improving your skills to learning a new language or studying psychology. The more personalized your goals, the better. 

  • Volunteering:

Volunteering is a great way to give back and show others who you are. It is also a great way to start making social connections and help with some of the things on the list of your personal goals, such as improvement in conversational skills or helping you learn about another culture.

Self-actualization links thinking, feeling, and behavior. Self-actualized people can integrate their feelings with their thoughts and behaviors so that self-awareness guides them in making the best decisions for themselves. This allows them to maintain a constant, continuous growth of their personality.

Self-actualized people are also characterized by authentic and full self-expression, expressing themselves authentically and openly. They are not afraid to share their true feelings and thoughts.

Self-actualization as the key to happiness

The ultimate goal of self-actualization is the ability to live with who you are and be happy with it. This happiness can come from within, just by being true to yourself and without, through positive relationships.

Maslow describes self-actualized people as having good mental health, as they are much more aware of themselves and their environment. This allows them to analyze how they can improve themselves and their lives which correlates highly with happiness. Self-actualized people have been shown to experience less stress and lower anxiety levels than others, which is integral to maximizing overall satisfaction.

 A self-actualized person can easily relate to another person’s needs. Self-actualized people are also very influential in communication because they can express their feelings and feelings without fear of being judged. They are also able to hear others’ emotions by understanding them and not taking them personally. Self-actualized people can forgive others more quickly as they know that there is more than one view on every subject, so they accept the ambiguity of every opinion while accepting their personal beliefs simultaneously.

In conclusion, the self-actualization theory is highly supported and has a very high level of validity. The evidence to support the idea is abundant in scientific research, which supports the understanding that self-actualizers are happier and healthier than those who do not.

By Manali