When you have succeeded in all the other needs of Maslow’s Hierarchy, you have reached the top: self-actualization! It has been said that everyone has the capacity and capability to reach self-actualization, but very few actually do so. Maslow reported that only 2% of people will obtain this need (1970). I tend to be more optimistic and believe the percentage is higher, seeing how self-actualization is based on one’s own perception of self. Below is a list of characteristics that define someone who has reached self-actualization, according to Maslow (1970):
1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
2. Accept themselves and others for what they are;
3. Spontaneous in thought and action;
4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);
5. Unusual sense of humor;
6. Able to look at life objectively;
7. Highly creative;
8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
12. Peak experiences;
13. Need for privacy;
14. Democratic attitudes;
15. Strong moral/ethical standards.
Behavior leading to self-actualization:
(a) Experiencing life-like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
(d) Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;
(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;
(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.
Do you find yourself among these characteristics and behaviors? If so, congratulations – you have achieved self-actualization! If not, that is okay — Maslow did not associate self-actualization to perfection. Instead, obtaining self-actualization is a matter of degree in achieving one’s potential. We will always continue to take backwards and forwards steps along Maslow’s hierarchy of needs depending on our situations, life stages and more. If you would like to find out more about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, check out Simply Psychology’s website at: www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html.
Always continue to grow and prosper!
Kristy Johnson, MA, LPC-Intern
Maslow, A. H. (1970a). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Row.
Maslow, A. H. (1970b). Religions, values, and peak experiences. New York: Penguin. (Original work published 1964)
McLeod, S. A. (2014). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html