Self Actualization Psychology Definition


Self-actualization is a psychological term that refers to the desire to achieve one's full potential. It was first introduced by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, which he later revised in 1970 into Toward a Psychology of Being. Maslow's theory postulates that there are five levels of needs that must be met before someone can reach self-actualization: physiological, safety, belongingness/love, esteem and self-actualization.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory is one of the most well-known theories in psychology, and it's also one of the most practical. The theory was first proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation."

Maslow's hierarchy describes how humans will pursue needs in a certain order, beginning with physiological needs and moving up to self-actualization. Each level of this hierarchy is dependent on having all lower levels satisfied first: if you don't have food in your stomach, you'll probably not be able to concentrate on work or relationships. The pyramid diagram below shows these needs as they are organized into five distinct categories:

  • Physiological

  • Safety

  • Belongingness & Love (or belonging)

  • Esteem (or achievement)

  • Self-Actualization

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory of psychological health, motivation, and development. The human needs that motivate us to take actions to satisfy our desires are arranged in a hierarchy. The lowest level of the pyramid represents basic survival needs, such as food and water. Higher levels of the pyramid represent more complex needs that are met after fulfilling the lower levels' requirements.

The five levels are:

  • Physiological (basic survival) - food, water, shelter

  • Safety - security from danger and physical harm

  • Love/belonging - relationships with others and social belongingness

  • Esteem - self-respect and respect from others; confidence about oneself (including confidence in one's abilities)

  • Self-actualization – the need for personal growth by meeting goals and reaching potentials (this being the highest level)

Examples of Self Actualized People

Self-actualized people possess the following qualities:

  • Creativity and imagination. Self-actualized people are creative because they can think outside the box, and they are imaginative because they can see possibilities where others see none. They have an active imagination that allows them to see things in a unique way, which allows them to create something new or original.

  • Independence and freedom from neuroses. While there is no single definition of what it means to be self-actualized, most experts agree that it involves being independent and free from neuroses, such as anxiety or obsessive thoughts about the past or future. The self-aware person does not get caught up in these types of thoughts; instead he focuses on present reality (i.e., here right now). This allows him to think freely rather than worry about his past mistakes or worry if something bad will happen in the future (like losing someone close).

Anecdotal Evidence of Self Actualizing People

  • One example of self actualization is illustrated in the memoirs of famous writer Ernest Hemingway. He spent much time at his home in Cuba writing and fishing. He felt great satisfaction with this simple lifestyle, because he was happy to be doing something that he loved that also allowed him to relax.

  • Another example of self actualization is illustrated by an athlete who has reached a level of perfection in an Olympic sport. If a person can perform at their best when it matters most, then they have reached the highest level of success possible within that sport or activity.

Self Actualization Characteristics

Self-actualization Is a personality theory in which the individual is thought to have an innate drive to grow, develop and reach their full potential as a human being. The term was popularized by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. He described it as "the desire to achieve one's full potential". From this perspective, a self-actualized person is one who is able to live life creatively and purposefully, seeking new experiences and exploring just about everything that interests them.

Self-actuation involves two steps: firstly discovering what you truly want out of life for yourself; secondly achieving these goals in order to feel fulfilled with yourself and your life overall. In order for this process of self-actuation (self actualisation) take place successfully there must be no external pressures or influences from outside sources such as friends or family members telling us what they think we should do instead of following our own dreams/goals/purpose etcetera; these kinds of things can make it very difficult if not impossible for someone trying to live their own life without feeling guilty about doing something different than what others may expect out of them at any given time."

Self Actualization Myths and Facts

  • Myth: Self-actualized people are always happy, successful and healthy.

Fact: Despite popular belief, self-actualization is not the same as happiness. In fact, some of the most self-actualized people can be very unhappy in certain situations and circumstances. For instance, a person who has just lost their job might have a hard time accepting it and forming a new plan for their future because they feel like their life has been turned upside down by this one event. They may also become depressed or anxious about what will happen next in their lives because they feel like they have no control over what happens in the world around them anymore. This isn't to say that everyone who loses their job will be unhappy; some people may use this as an opportunity to start something new or go back to school if they want more education so that they can better themselves professionally (and personally). However, those who struggle with dealing with change might find themselves feeling distraught after losing such an important piece of their identity: being able to make money in order support themselves financially without having another source of income coming into play at any given moment--which could very well lead them down an entirely different path than before!

  • Myth: All successful people are self-actualized individuals because success requires taking risks/challenges head on rather than avoiding them altogether as many would argue."

Self-actualization is the desire to realize one’s full potential.

Self-actualization is the desire to realize one’s full potential. It is the impetus for personal growth. The self-actualizing person has a strong desire for autonomy and wants to live their life by their own standards, free from external pressures or interference. Self-actualization involves constantly striving to become more and more what you are capable of becoming, as opposed to being content with who you are now.

The concept was first proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper on motivation called “A Theory of Human Motivation” (American Psychologist). Maslow suggested that people have different needs based on their levels of development; these needs can be divided into five categories: physiological needs (food, water), safety needs (security), love/belongingness (social support), esteem needs (status), and self-actualization needs (achieving one's full potential).


According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization is the desire to realize one’s full potential. In this article, we looked at what that means in terms of human needs and explored some examples of people who have achieved it. We also learned about some common myths about self actualization that may hold us back from realizing our own potential.

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