Understanding the Journey of Self-Actualization

We all have dreams and goals in life starting at a young age. Some of us want to sing for a living, others want to become teachers, and some want to become veterinarians. We have the desire to be liked and known by many, to have families and luxuries. But is there more to life than these hopes?

Understanding the concept of self-actualization could help you come to a better realization of what you’re doing with your life, and where you want to be.

A recent Huffington Post article by Russell Bishop visited the concept of self-actualizing in comparison to self-conceptualizing: “Self-actualization represents the process of becoming more of who you already are, while self-concept is more about your self-talk, about trying to become something or someone you may hope you are but fear you are not,” Bishop said. “While your self-talk represents an amalgam of beliefs, hopes and fears that you have accepted about who you are, your soul-talk emanates from the depth of who [you] truly are, encouraging you to grow, to blossom, and to expand.”

The Four Aspects of Self-Actualization

From The Inspired Life: Unleashing Your Mind’s Capacity for Joy, by Susyn Reeve:

  • Being all you can be
  • Living to your full potential
  • Honoring and valuing your gifts, talents, and skills, and generously sharing them in service of the highest good for all: a more peaceful, loving, and compassionate world
  • Living a life of passion and purpose

Six Tips Toward Self-Actualization

From The Inspired Life: Unleashing Your Mind’s Capacity for Joy, by Susyn Reeve:

  • Nurture and cultivate a loving relationship with yourself—vibrant self-esteem is a powerful foundation of self-actualization.
  • Acknowledge and value your specific and unique gifts.
  • Have the courage to follow your calling from within.
  • Answer this question: If I wasn’t afraid and I knew I could not fail, who would I be and what would I be doing? This defines your self-actualized vision. Then the question becomes: To live into this vision, what are the thoughts I think, the words I speak and the actions I take?
  • Use breakdowns, blocks in the road, challenges, and stepping stones to support your vision.
  • Understand the creative process, how the brain works, and have a community of support—your vision keepers.

Obstacles to Self-Actualization

Susyn Reeve, a self-esteem expert and the author of The Inspired Life: Unleashing Your Mind’s Capacity for Joy,  says that unfortunately, many people haven’t even started on the road to self-actualization.

“They don’t understand how the brain works, the creative process, and that everything that exists begins inside and then is brought to form outside,” she says. “Most people suffer from low self-esteem and do not believe in themselves—they feel unworthy, unloved, and are ashamed of these feelings. Their fears, worries, and anxieties stop them in their tracks. They give more credence to the opinions of others and fail to honor their inner knowing.”

Valery Satterwhite, an inner wealth consultant, has additional advice for people who want to become self-actualized. “It is essential to first reconnect with who you really are and what you value most,” Satterwhite said. “Too many people live life through the prism and the prison of a false personality where the real self is buried under layers of expectations—who a person ‘should be’ and what he or she ‘must do.’ As children we tend to condition ourselves—we shape-shift our identities—in order to stay connected, loved, and belong in our environment. The more we strip away these false layers, the more we are able to expand our sense of self and our place in the world.”

She said everyone is capable of self-actualization, and most people want this for themselves, but many people don’t completely become self-actualized. “Whether or not they achieve it depends upon how willing they are to step beyond the comfort zone of conditioning to explore new perspectives, new learning, and new insights,” Satterwhite said.

“Those who live in fear will not travel very far in their journey of self-actualization,” she added. “Fear is restrictive—it cuts off expansion and actualization whether it be within an individual, society, or government. Those who value themselves and the gift that is this life enough reach a point where the pain of staying inauthentic overrides their fear. Those who step into their fears know the joy that comes with the learning and the growth that comes with the courage to step into the unknown. Often what we fear the most is what our heart is calling us to become. It scares us because it matters that much.”

Five Stages to Self-Actualization

Sarah Lendt, a nationally certified counselor, references the humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow‘s definitions of the stages that people must master before they can reach the final tier of self-actualization. The five stages are:

  1. Physical needs, like food and water
  2. Safety and survival, including physical and emotional safety and shelter
  3. Love and a sense of belonging
  4. Esteem and self-esteem
  5. Self-actualization

It can be challenging, of course, to move past all of these steps to get to self-actualization.

Lendt said, “In our lifetime we strive to meet these various needs,” according to Maslow’s concept of self-actualization and his hierarchy of needs. “Circumstances may cause us to go back to a particular stage and need to fulfill it again; once a need is fulfilled, we can work toward achieving the next need. Sometimes unmet needs can cause a person to become fixated or stuck at a particular level.”

Self-actualization is “looking outside ourselves to do good for others, and receiving satisfaction in life for such behaviors,” Lendt said. “It is a point where we are being the best we can be—self-fulfilled and helping others … I think most people certainly can achieve it, but there is so much pressure, so many expectations in our world that people hold of themselves and others, that it is hard to get beyond the esteem level—feeling good and confident about yourself so much that you can look outside yourself in your actions.”

Nine Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

From Kendra Cherry:

  • They engage in self-acceptance and accept other people for who they are, as well as treat others equally with respect.
  • They are realistic and able to look at the world in a logical and rational way while still remaining positive.
  • They have a strong sense of responsibility and work on solving problems.
  • They have “peak experiences” in life that help shape who they are.
  • They follow their own path, are autonomous, and do not give into what others want from them.
  • They enjoy spending time alone and are comfortable with solitude, while still enjoying the presence of others. They use this time to discover themselves.
  • They have a good sense of humor that doesn’t harm others.
  • They are spontaneous, and although they follow general rules and guidelines, they are not bound by these.
  • They enjoy the journey of life, as well as reaching the final goals.

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • ally

    ally

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    I have always thought about it this way: self talk is all of that mind chatter that we have going on in our heads. This can be the good, the bad, and the ugly, but it is that constant conversation going on in our heads that tells us the things we are good at and the things we are bad. But self-actualization, that’s all about telling ourself our goals and dreams, and taking that journey that we have to take to get there. While it is good to listen to that self talk sometimes, it is not always healthy to pay attention to the negative. Yes, it can give you a little pause to help you work on the things you would like to better in yourself, but it does not have to be that which you allow to beat you down.

  • lawson

    lawson

    June 21st, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply turn off all the inner blabber that is the self talk and only listen to the more reassuring and comforting sould talk?

  • Jean

    Jean

    June 22nd, 2012 at 4:34 AM

    i want to have every single one of those traits of a self actualized person that are listed above.
    but how do i get there?

  • Franko

    Franko

    December 10th, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Does anybody have any links that help with the process once you start self actualizing? I feel like a switch has been flipped and I’m learning and connecting as fast as I can, but something is driving me to move even faster. It feels like I’m igniting and well it’s great, but extremely intense.

  • Kay Kris

    Kay Kris

    March 5th, 2014 at 5:31 AM

    My research shows:
    First, your ‘attitude’ IS most important.
    Autonomy (to rely on yourself), creativity, and simplicity are ways of being that make you happier.
    Also, it is important to avoid avoid avoid negativity …negative people, your own negative thoughts….
    Spontaneity, being ‘in the moment’ is the way to be.
    Pause to take ultimate bliss in the smallest goodnesses happening around us, as sometimes that is all we have for long stretches of time!
    We eventually become who we really are >>> at that time when we boldly, courageously, without fear, move our lives a step in the direction that our lives are meant to be.
    And all the above suggestions can happen now, without meeting all Maslow’s hierarchical needs first!

  • On a Path for Growth

    On a Path for Growth

    July 6th, 2016 at 9:45 AM

    I have a question. I am married and am in the process of following my path to self-actualization. However, what if you feel you are married to a person that hinders that growth, due to their view of the world. Do you leave it behind?

  • rhoeda

    rhoeda

    February 6th, 2017 at 3:09 PM

    On Path of Growth:
    Only you have the answers to your own questions. Trust you , trust that.

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