Self Actualization


Today, we take a look an important and super inspiring topic of self actualization. Many are times we come across this term used quite casually but never really get to know what it means?. The emotions it ignites and how we wrap our understanding around it.

So today we dig in a little to understand it’s deeper meaning. We seek to provide answers to what self actualization really is, what it means and why we should pursue it’s understanding beyond the surface meaning.

We begin by looking at it’s origin, history and introduction through positive grand fathers of psychology who defined it as the point at which one realizes their full potential in expressing creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge and the desire to give or to positively transform the society.

This concept was brought to full prominence by the American psychologist Abraham Maslow. Who presented it through his famous hierarchical pyramid depict human psychological needs.

He further states that human motivation is based on seeking fulfillment through personal growth, which he however attests varies greatly from person to person depending on one’s desire for fulfillment.

Maslow’s diagram below.


Picture courtesy of Skills you need.

Self discovery and self realization are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably to mean the same as self-actualization.

Let us take a look at the classification details and characteristics in the different levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs starting from the lowest to the highest.

At the very bottom of the diagram sits human basic needs, presenting access to shelter, oxygen, sleep, sex, water and food, presenting our most essential of basic needs.

Above the bottom level sits the safety and protection level denoting security needs, health, work, money, routine and familiarity.

Then above the safety and protection level sits the level that present love and belonging, presenting our sense of belonging, wanting to connect with or be part of a group which could be an organization, family or different form of grouping that makes one feel important. Examples from the current technological world include whats up, Facebook, telegram and like groups, other groupings could comprise of clubs with examples of the rotaries, Toast masters, self help groups, or those others that provide development opportunities around our skill and circles. All in a bid to be part of something important.

Next above it sits the need for self esteem level denoted by recognition, significance, respect within the groupings we are in. The most pronounced of the needs being self esteem. Near- synonyms of self esteem include self worth, self regard, self respect and self integrity.

Further above the self esteem is the level that represents our cognitive needs, this presents as inner drive to seek knowledge and better understanding of life.

Last but not least we get to aesthetic level after that representing our need for creativity, beauty, order, design and art.

At the very top most level of all the levels mentioned sits Self Actualization, the level we drawn the rest of our attention to.

Maslow states arguably that reaching this level is a fairly rare occurrence, however a number of people manage to reach it within their life time.

This psychological level is inspired by our need for growth and realization of one’s full potential despite life’s day to day pressures to attend to our lower level basic psychological needs. To overcome this, man has to attain a mental state strong enough to focus away from his very basic pressures and focus on his highest potential.

Maslow gets to bring out a fuller and richer meaning in his book “Toward a Psychology of being”. Where besides the day to day common face value abstract meaning, he offers a deep discussion of the same and the characteristics that hail from attainment of this self actualization mental state comfortably.

One of the key points he makes clear is that we need to live to our full potential as part of life experience and never eliminate and right it off as a luxury. This need is proponent meaning that the other lower levels have to be met before higher level needs can become the focus of attention.

Self actualization is not something that would be just “nice to have” but something we all need and should strive to attain, failure to which if not pursued we fail to self propel or strive to live to our full potential, which inversely begins to cause a crumble from the inside, later leading to psychological dysfunction.

Ignoring this should be done at one’s own peril, he goes further to compare it with a nutritional value that if not provided to the human body, one becomes susceptible and exposed to diseases.

This is only comparable to settling for lesser than the best one can attain, further creating a problem within us that continuously disturbs and consumes from the inside out.

This easily occurs when one is entirely preoccupied with serving the lower level needs, “selling the lesser of themselves for the best”, while ignoring the need or calling for a higher level.

Connecting one with constant dissatisfaction in life with no relation to the reason they become unfulfilled. Simplest reason for this fulfillment state is because what they ignore is more of a need than a luxury and is necessary for one to live a fulfilled life.

When in pursuit of self actualization, attaining the best they can ever be and the ideals that present gets one charged, fired up, pumped and super excited as opposed to the mental state achieved when one lives within their comfort of attaining the lower level psychological needs.

Summarized below is a list of the characteristics Maslow provides to help bring to understanding what it really means to be a self actualizer, in other words that person whose attained living creatively and fully to their fullest potential,

  1. They bear superior perception of reality towards life and see reality more objectively.

  2. They have increased acceptance of themselves, others, nature and life as a whole

  3. They have a spontaneous kind of nature in their behavior and not so rule bound.

  4. They are more focused on problems and challenges of others rather than their own, not so worried about their own feelings nor focused on themselves.

  5. They have an increased detachment form things and do not cling on as much.

  6. They have a deeper requirement for privacy and value solitude because they value time to contemplate and to think.

  7. They have an increased sense of autonomy and individuality, that means that they feel like agents and not like victims of life and take full responsibility for how their lives unfolds.

  8. They are more resistant to social conditioning than other people.

  9. They are world citizens and not holding to culture, they are not slaves to culture meaning they pick and choose from culture what works and empowers them and leave what doesn’t.

  10. They have a good sense of what is real and unreal and they value truth and facts over mere beliefs or superstitions.

  11. Are comfortable being themselves even when it means being unpopular, they don’t need approval from others and are self reliant.

  12. They have a more scientific type of thinking, more of logical thinking that links and relates facts, figures, knowledge and skills.

  13. They have a higher frequency of peak experiences, that means they get into the “flow state” more often and consistently.

  14. Have improved inner personal relationship.

  15. They have a more democratic character structure and don’t feel like they need to be dictating to people, or controlling and manipulative.

  16. They have better increased creativity and want to go out there and be original

  17. They have deep knowledge and understanding of who they are, they know themselves well which many a times you come across people not in full knowledge of themselves.

  18. They are constantly moving through a unity and interrogation in their personality and world view, they are always taking information and constantly synthesizing it for some sort of deeper understanding.

  19. They are actively nurturing of their talents, meaning they recognize what their talents are build them up.

  20. They are driven by passion and motivation, not because they are driven by externals but because they love to and get self driven from the inside.

  21. They pride in functioning at their prime and love to stay prime.

  22. They are more loving, are able to give more love while they survive on less.

  23. They are comfortable with paradoxes and contradictions as well as not knowing. In a nut shell, they are able to tolerate the unknown.

  24. They live with a sense of mission and take pride in their work and want to do it perfectly.

  25. They are willing to admit weaknesses and work on themselves.

  26. They can find that balance other people find hard and difficult to attaining.

  27. They live in the present moment more than the past or the future.

  28. They make more conscious decisions.

  29. They are able to express their aggression in a healthy way rather than physical

  30. For them, their duty is same as their pleasure.

  31. They have an easy soft discipline about them but comes hard to the average person.

  32. They place great value on ideals, Maslow goes at this to describing some of the traits a self actualized person most likely posses namely;

    1. Truthfulness

    2. Goodness

    3. Uniqueness

    4. Wholesomely balanced

    5. Just

    6. wealth of character and richness

    7. Simplicity

    8. Playfulness

    9. Effortlessness

These play top level iconic values of humanity.

There is plenty that can be said about self actualization but I shall keep this brief in a bid to inspire you to self actualize.

Self actualization enhances the psychological well being of an individual. It is contended that it’s the most functional people who are able to achieve peak experiences and meaning in life and it is a possibility to all creative individuals.

Quotes on the subject “Self actualization”

  1. Strive to attain the highest peak man can attain by constantly improving yourself.

  2. Become the best version of yourself to experience fullness of life.

  3. Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love – Rumi

  4. Don’t compromise yourself, you are all you got.

  5. What a man can be he must be. This need we call self actualization – Abraham Maslow.



Frank Odhiambo

Mind Grid Perspectives

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: