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Self-Actualisation -The Maslow theory

Updated on June 19, 2013
Dr.Abraham Maslow
Dr.Abraham Maslow

Self-Actualisation is the quest to become the best you can be. It involves deciding what you want from life and then doing what is necessary to get what you want.

Self-actualisation is a term coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow to describe the ongoing process of fully developing your personal potential. The first thing to note about self-actualisation is that it is a process not a goal. In other words, self-actualisation is not something that you aim for: it is something that you do. The second thing to note is that self-actualisation is not restricted to high-profile, high-achieving individuals; you don't have to be famous to self-actualise.

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write,

if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.

This is the need we may call self-actualization ... It refers to man's

desire for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become

actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one

is capable of becoming ..." -Maslow

As potential models of a self-actualized person, Dr. Maslow identified

the following historical figures: Abraham Lincoln (in his last years),

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Albert

Einstein, Aldous Huxley, William James, Spinoza, Goethe, Pablo

Casals, Pierre Renoir, Robert Browning, Walt Whitman, Henry

Wadsworth Longfellow, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jan Addams, Albert

Schweitzer, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Joseph Haydn among others.

Characteristics of Self Actualizing People


Realistically oriented, a Self-Actualizing (SA) person has a more efficient perception of reality, and has comfortable relations with it. This is extended to all areas of life. A Self-Actualizing person is unthreatened and unfrightened by the unknown. He has a superior ability to reason, to see the truth, and is logical and efficient.

Self Acceptance

Accepts himself, others and the natural world the way they are. Sees human nature as is, has a lack of crippling guilt or shame, enjoys himself without regret or apology, and has no unnecessary inhibitions.

Spontaneity, Simplicity, Naturalness

Spontaneous in his inner life. Thoughts and impulses are unhampered by convention. His ethics are autonomous, and Self-actualizing individuals are motivated to continual growth.

Focus of Problem Centering

A Self-actualizing person focuses on problems and people outside of himself. He has a mission in life requiring much energy, as it is his sole reason for existence. He is serene, characterized by a lack of worry, and is devoted to duty.

Detachment: The Need for Privacy

The Self-actualized person can be alone and not be lonely, is unflappable, and retains dignity amid confusion and personal misfortunes, all the while remaining objective. He is a self starter, is responsible for himself, and owns his behavior.

Autonomy: Independent of Culture and Environment

The SA person has a fresh rather than stereotyped appreciation of people and the basic good in life. Moment to moment living for him is thrilling, trans-cending, and spiritual as he lives the present moment to the fullest.

Peak experiences

"Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences." Abraham Maslow

Interpersonal relations

Identification, sympathy, affection for mankind, kinship with the good, bad, and ugly are all traits of the SA person. Truth is clear to him as he can see things others cannot. He has profound, intimate relationships with few and is capable of greater love than others consider possible as he shares his bene-volence, affection, and friendliness with everyone.

Democratic values and attitudes

The SA person is able to learn from anyone, is humble and friendly with anyone regardless of class, education, political belief, race or color.

Discrimination: means and ends, Good and Evil

The SA does not confuse between means and ends and does no wrong. He enjoys the here and now, getting to goal--not just the result. He makes the most tedious task an enjoyable game and has his own inner moral standards (appearing amoral to others).

Philosophical, unhostile sense of humor

Jokes to the SA person are teaching metaphors, intrinsic to the situation and are spontaneous. He can laugh at himself, but he never makes jokes that hurt others.


The SA person enjoys an inborn uniqueness that carries over into everything he does, is original, inventive, uninhibited, and he sees the real and true more easily.

Resistance to enculturation: Transcendence of any particular culture

SA people have an inner detachment from culture. Although folkways may be observed, SA people are not controlled by them. Working for long term culture improvement, indignation with injustice, inner autonomy, outer acceptance, and the ability to transcend the environment rather than just cope are intrinsic to SA people.


SA people are painfully aware of their own imperfections and joyfully aware of their own growth process. They are impatient with themselves when stuck and feel real life pain as a result.


The SA person is realistically human due to a philosophical acceptance of self, human nature, social life, physical reality, and nature.

Resolution of dichotomies

Polar opposites merge into a third, higher phenomenon as though the two have united; therefore, opposite forces are no longer felt as conflict. To the SA person work becomes play and desires are in excellent accord with reason. The SA person retains his childlike qualities yet is very wise.

Maslow says there are two processes necessary for

self-actualization: self exploration and action. The

deeper the self exploration, the closer one comes

to self-actualization.


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    • profile image

      Alexander Alexanderov 

      5 years ago

      Actualization people should find the good environmental and better social life to deal with those, if we want to actualize people we should understand their inner thinking, and not everyone can deal with those people who reached the peak of the pyramid.

      Thanks & regards to all

      Alexander Alexanderov;

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice piece of writing Sushini! Good to come across a fellow blogger from India...I have an article allied to the subject here

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      love it

    • profile image

      Gerry Vanier 

      7 years ago

      I just read some of maslov and I am on a journey of self-actualization,what a ride.

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is really out standing as it is educative and self exploring.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      wow!! maslow theory !!1 what analysis he made. Literally I have seen myself in his analysis as a S.A. person

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello! sushinisen

      I am a medical student from india and thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.I wonder, do you think self actualization is related to believing in god??

    • profile image

      Sui Anukka 

      9 years ago

      Thank you so much for this article. I really, really enjoyed reading it and it has been hugely helpful.

    • TheReality profile image


      10 years ago

      This was my take on the subject:

      "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the top of Maslow's pyramid of Self-Actualization"

      To be found at:

    • profile image

      Gina Webb / Caveman Creations Ltd 

      10 years ago

      Hi, I am in the process of writing a book and have dedicated a chapter to Maslow's Theory, I would really like to use your pyramid but would like to obtain your permission - if possible please contact me through my website so we can discuss further. Peace, Love & Candle Light - Gina Webb - Caveman Creations Ltd (New Zealand)

    • tinyteddy profile image


      11 years ago from INDIA

      good hub

      this is political anlysis of the human pshyce and form a methos ology of beaviour.

      however it is also like psephology. the outcome may not corroborate in the fullest.

      for instance this does not involve crisis management and emotional quotient or health parameters.

      also this studies man as an individual in an environment when human beings behaviuor are mostl reactions to society and social circle.

      let me make this simplified- take the montessori and kindegarden school of nursery teaching. amazing genius than exploring adulthood.

    • senfunn profile image


      11 years ago from India

      Self Actualisation from definition, seems to be theoritical as finding out what we want in life might in itself take our lifetime.

      I haven't really read the book. But if there are ways to find out what a person really wants then sure it would help many.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      what is well written here is cotrary to what manu had said for india and got the whole countyr into a division of labour resulting in caste oriented society.

      the probable reversal theory is what is proposed by maslow.

      good job

    • sushinisen profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from india

      thanks sir for the appreciation

    • John Chancellor profile image

      John Chancellor 

      11 years ago from Tennessee


      I wish your HUB had been published before I waded through Maslow's book. I would have saved myself hours and probably had about the same insight. That is to say, you have captured in a short HUB what it took him a few hundred pages to say.

      I think we all need to aspire to self-actualization (American spelling). While I will realidy admit that very few will actually achieve it, it is the path we should follow.

      Very good treatment of the subject.


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