Self-actualization has been one of the cornerstones of the self-improvement world since 1943 when Maslow presented the “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. Maslow believed that in order for people to live a happy and purposeful life various needs had to be satisfied.
It came in stages that started with:
- physiological needs followed by
- safety needs,
- a place to feel loved and belonging,
- emotional needs,
- and then finally…
To Maslow, only a small portion of the population could achieve something like this. But despite what he’s said, that doesn’t stop people from pursuing this aspect. Especially since this almost 80-year-old research, self-actualization means so much more than filling out a few specific criteria.
Today, self-actualization means more about understanding yourself amongst other things.
According to Good Therapy, self-actualization today means:
- Accepting yourself and those around you
- Being creative or having a creative spirit
- Maintaining deep and meaningful relationships
- Existing autonomously
- Having a sense of humour; especially being able to laugh at your own mistakes
- Perceiving reality
- Having a sense of purpose
- Having moments of profound happiness
- Being able to show empathy and compassion
- And showing appreciation towards the goodness of life or having childlike wonder.
And from looking at these traits, it makes sense why people are delving more into this area. 2020 was one mess of a year. On top of that, we’re at a point now where we’ve been inside for a good portion of our time for the past year due to COVID.
It’s bound to get people to go a little crazy. But also to lose a little bit about who they are or what people were pursuing.
Even outside of 2020, I know this area of self-improvement is something many people find appealing. As a late Millennial, I wasn’t sure about what to pursue in life until my mid-20s. And Generation Z is no doubt stuck in this same sort of sink where many aren’t sure what to pursue.
Because of these things, I want to first share with you some quotes around self-actualization as well my own insight into these. My hope is to make this journey of yours into self-actualization easier.
Self-Actualization On Following Passion
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
― Joseph Campbell
Bliss or passion, however you want to call it, can seem like a generally good piece of advice on the surface. The self-improvement world is filled with people like Joseph Campbell who cry out:
“Just follow your passion.”
Well, I’m not that type of person. After all, I know that as a human being, we don’t have exclusively one passion. As a kid, my dream jobs entailed being a toy designer because I loved drawing.
I also thought about being a teacher because I loved doing speeches and providing information to people.
When I leaned more into the business classes in high school, I was interested in marketing, and accounting.
I had several passions that I could’ve pursued.
In the end, I picked one of the passions that was overlooked for most of my life: writing.
I agree with this quote partially that pursuing your bliss presents you with a life that’s been waiting for you. Writing has opened up all kinds of doors and opportunities to me. However, finding your passion isn’t as simple as “just go out and find it.”
Sometimes it takes some dabbling in the field. Maybe even taking some classes to get a feel for it.
Whatever the case may be, a step towards self-actualization is being able to do the things that you love. These are ultimately the things that give you a sense of purpose.
Self-Actualization On Accepting Others
“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”
― Albert Camus
Self-improvement has always had a narcissistic aspect to it. While Rhonda Byrne has taken it to extreme measures with her terrible book The Secret, others have taken a more tame and more appropriate approach to it.
To me, I see self-improvement as its literal term. You are improving yourself so that you can live a happier life. What you choose to do with that improvement and happiness is your decision to make and yours alone.
But one thing that I ask is that whatever you do choose to do with it, make a point about not being worried about what others think. Naturally, I would hope people make a point of it being positive and good for them and for others, but I can’t be there for every one of those decisions.
But this quote also has another aspect to it: a sense of independence.
The journey to self-actualization isn’t something that can be done as a group. It has to be done by yourself and influenced by none in the process.
You have a deeper understanding of who you are as a person than I will ever have. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.
As such, it’s up to you, to ultimately make the steps in this journey and reach the conclusions that are laid before you. Whether people move on or accept the new you is their decision.
On The Values
“Don’t go on discussing what a good person should be. Just be one.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Marcus Aurelius was the final Emperor of Rome’s “Golden Years” and one of the most beloved of the Roman Empire. I shared some of his quotes on leadership that dive into what a leader ought to be like.
And just like this quote, even though it’s from an Emperor thousands of years ago, it’s still relevant today.
From the characteristics mentioned above, self-actualization is about being a good person generally speaking. Being able to practice empathy, compassion, understanding, and being comfortable with yourself and others are nice things.
But the thing with self-actualization is that it’s changed so much. Maybe you saw the criteria above and don’t agree with all of it. Perhaps there are some other things that you believe are necessary or make someone who has a deep understanding of themselves.
Whatever that happens to be, the idea isn’t to go about explaining it in detail. Instead, go out and show other people what it means.
Spend some time in your head and figure out what exactly does it mean to be a self-actualized person. Does it mean not being prejudice towards people? Does it mean having your life all organized and having a clear map for the next few years of how you want your life to be?
Instead of talking to friends and family about it, get out and do it. Especially if you have some sort of plan or idea.
“Expectation has brought me disappointment. Disappointment has brought me wisdom. Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfilment.”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru
One of the reasons people won’t handle change in your life is due to their expectations. While we do want to avoid prejudice as much as we can, having expectations towards people is tougher to get rid of.
I don’t think it’s something that can be avoided. After all, as I’m writing this, my expectations is that people use their self-actualization journey for good and improvement of the world around them.
But even with that said, no matter the outcome, there is always something to be gained. Mistakes and disappointments bring learning, growth, and wisdom. Success will bring appreciation, gratitude, fulfilment and joy.
The journey to self-actualization is a challenging one and something that you’ll continue to expand on. You’ll experience setbacks in this and in many areas of life. It’s a fact of life.
What matters though is that you see these things as ways of growth.
Self-Actualization On Confidence
“The less confident we are in ourselves, the less we are in touch with ourselves and the world, the more we want to control.”
― Bruce Lee
One of the issues many people are so lost right now is there is a lack of confidence. Lack of confidence can stem from all kinds of things, but I find the most common to be low self esteem.
Low self-esteem was the reason I pursued accounting rather than figuring out what I actually wanted to do. Low self-esteem was also the reason I stuck to it until the very end until I slapped myself awake.
I know other people aren’t in the exact same boat as me but are still rather lost.
It’s a bad spot to be in because as Bruce Lee mentions in his quote, the more out of touch we become in the world. But also the more we wish to seek control — i.e. stabilization, a sense of normalcy in our lives.
When in that state, I would encourage you to be confident. Confident that you will find an answer soon enough.
Self-Actualization On Transformation
“If you believe you can change-if you make it a habit-the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs-and becomes automatic-it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable.”
― Charles Duhigg
One of the profound discoveries of self-actualization for myself is the realization that we are nothing but a bundle of habits. Our own identity, personality, and everything else is dictated by the habits that we have.
By that logic, we can undergo fantastic transformation by simply replacing habits or picking up new habits.
If you’re looking to fully understand yourself and how you fit into the world, not only should you look inwards, but also check your habits. What habits are you creating for yourself day in and day out? Which ones are you paying the most attention to? Are you happy with the habits you’re focusing on? If not, ask yourself how you can change?
Habits have the opportunity of changing your life and directing you towards the path you really want to be in. I became a writer by writing every single day for years. Even if the articles were terrible, it allowed me to explore my passion and love for writing. The habit gave me reasons to further pursue it.
Now it’s as much a part of my life as the other things that I do. The same can be said about you and everything that you pursue to do.
Self-actualization is a pursuit that every single person ought to pursue no matter how long it takes. It’s a profound journey that adds much perspective to someone’s life and drives a sense of purpose to it. On top of that, it comes at a time where the world is changing drastically.
The political world is changing as people are paying more attention to the problems with the system and what others are trying to force on masses.
There are still several Millennials who don’t know what to do with their lives. After all, before the pandemic kicked in, Millennials — who have felt the financial crisis COVID brought the most — worked in bars, grocery stores, and retail stores.
And Generation Z is only dipping their toes into this mess as the early ones are getting into the workforce.
But this is only the start of it. More change will happen and will continue to happen. The important part to all this now is to figure out where you stand in all of this.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon