Self-actualization is a term coined by Kurt Goldstein. He defined it as the drive to reach one’s total potential. He said, “the tendency to actualize itself as fully as possible is the basic drive.” He calls this drive “the drive of self-actualization. In 1943, Abraham Maslow, a scholar published a paper that expanded upon Goldstein’s original idea. His paper was titledĀ  ” A Theory of Human Motivation” and in this paper, he proposed the hierarchy of needs that we have now come to know as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This theory, although rooted in psychology, has managed to become widespread.

Maslow’s hierarchy includes three parts and five sections. The basic needs are split into two. These are physiological needs, i.e, food, water, warmth, rest, and then safety needs, i.e security, and safety. Next up we have the psychological needs which are ‘belongingness’ and love needs, i.e relationships, friends, and Esteem needs which are prestige, and feelings of accomplishment. At the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy, we have Self-fulfilment needs which brings us to self-actualization.

Self-actualization is the complete and total realization of one’s full potential and the achievement of said potential. This also includes one’s creative activities. Self-actualization is a theory that a lot of scholars debate and play with. There are arguments that it is simply impossible for one to achieve full self-actualization because humans are dynamic with ever-changing needs and that society does not permit or support self-actualization for the masses. Therefore self-actualization is sort of a reality that is only available to people with certain levels of privilege.

While these are all valid arguments, we must remember that Maslow’s theory emphasized that self-actualization is all about a growth-motivated mindset and not a deficiency-motivated mindset. Maslow also stated that self-actualization can only occur when the other 4 needs have been met hence the reason why less than 1% of the population achieve it. Regardless of these criticisms, self-actualization is a valid theory that can be extremely helpful for those wanting to find and pursue their dreams. Now, how can self-actualization or understanding the theory of self-actualization help you grow? Here are five ways it can.

  1. Mindset – Self-actualization encourages you to face tasks and life at large with a mindset focused on growing instead of a mindset focused on your perceived weakness or deficiencies. It places focus on growth as opposed to fixing things about yourself. This not only helps you change your mindset but also helps you shed feelings of inadequacy.
  1. Security in oneself – Self-actualization helps you discard the notion of living to please others. You become more secure in your choices, decisions, victories, and failures. You become unapologetically yourself.
  1. Acceptance – Self-actualization helps you accept what comes to you. It is normal to feel unfortunate and bitter about situations however self-actualization can help you focus on the situation objectively instead of emotionally. Things are not happening to you, they are happening for you.
  1. Empathy and Compassion – Self-actualization helps you develop compassion and empathy. These are two emotions that can help you become more understanding and a better person for people to associate with.
  1. Being present in the moment – People are rarely ever fully present, they’re either thinking about the past or the future. This can be detrimental to one’s mental health. Self-actualization helps you make peace with the past and feel calm about the future. This will help you enjoy the present.