Self-Actualization: Meaning & Significance

Once in our lifetime, we must have come across an individual, seen in movies or read in books about how they have everything human beings can acquire materialistically along with a strong social need fulfilment but are constantly bothered by how they do not have anything or there is a pang for achieving more from themselves. It does not seem very clear to the layman to understand how an individual must complain even after having everything. This demonstrates the need to self-actualize or achieve one's unlimited potential too.

What is Self-actualisation?

The fullest possible development and exploitation of our potential, talents, and abilities constitute the highest demand in Maslow's hierarchy, known as self-actualization. It takes developmental effort to strive for self-actualization. To do so, one must first let go of their fear, defensiveness, and reliance on others while striving for the bravery to produce and observe the real living and achieve self-regulatory autonomy. The two main axes that define the process of self-actualization as growth are a sense of independence and an eagerness to learn. Diverging from heteronomy and embracing autonomy entails the ability to depend on oneself and control one's ideas with an ever-increasing capacity, thoughts, emotions, and actions. In order to be open, one must be receptive to knowledge and feelings in a way that is not filtered, suppressed, disregarded, or altered by expectations, anxieties, or past experiences. A person will be restless, irritated, and unsatisfied even if they fulfil all the other demands in the hierarchy if they are not self-actualizing. Maslow felt that everyone is capable of optimizing personal skills and achieving the fullest personality development, regardless of career or hobbies. The process of self-actualization can take many different forms. Not just super-talented artists, musicians, and authors can achieve self-actualization. Fulfilling one's own potential to the best of one's ability, no matter what it may be, is crucial.

Conditions for Achieving Self-Actualization

The demand for self-actualization must be satisfied under the following circumstances -

  • We must be free from limitations placed on us by both society and ourselves.

  • We must avoid letting the lower-order requirements divert us.

  • We must have a true understanding of our virtues and vices, as well as our strengths and flaws.


Maslow's theory states that self-actualizes have different fundamental motivations than other people. For self-actualizes, Maslow offered a special kind of motivation he dubbed meta-motivation (sometimes called B-motivation or Being). The word "meta" is defined as after or beyond. Thus, meta-motivation suggests that motivation extends beyond the conventional psychological definition. Self-actualizes are not driven to work toward a certain objective. Instead, it is said that they are growing from within. Maslow classified non-self-actualizers as having D-motivation, also known as deficiency motivation. D-motivation entails aiming for a certain goal to compensate for an internal deficiency. For instance, when we do not eat, our bodies experience deficiencies that we perceive as discomfort. This emotion inspires us to act in a way that will lessen the stress it causes. Thus, a particular physiological demand (hunger) that calls for a particular objective object (meal) results in a drive to take action to obtain something we lack (we search for food).

Fulfilling Potential

On the other hand, Self-actualizes is preoccupied with realizing their potential and learning about and comprehending their surroundings. They are not attempting to ease tension, make up for a deficit, or strive for a particular goal when they are meta-motivated. By acting to heighten tension, they want to experience a range of fascinating and difficult situations, which will improve their lives. Self-actualizers operate at a level above pursuing particular goal objects in order to make up for a deficit because their lower-order deficient requirements have been satisfied. They are thus in a condition of "being," happily, naturally, and spontaneously expressing their complete humanity. Self-actualizers operate at a level above pursuing particular goal objects to make up for deficits since their lower-order deficiency requirements have been satisfied. They are thus in a condition of "being," freely, naturally, and delightfully expressing their complete humanity.

Meta Needs

Maslow offered a list of meta needs toward which self-actualizes develop after elaborating on how, in a way, self-actualizes are unmotivated. Meta needs, as opposed to specific objective objects, are states of being, such as goodness, originality, and perfection. They must be addressed for the personality to develop fully; failure to do so is damaging and results in beta pathology. Self-actualizers are prevented from expressing, utilizing, and realizing their potential by metapathology. They could start to feel hopeless and depressed and struggle to identify the cause of these feelings or a specific objective that will help them feel better.


Because of this, people with self-actualization needs have more accurate perceptions of reality and are better equipped to deal with ambiguity. They can embrace people and themselves for who they are as a result. Additionally, their requirements provide individuals with the freedom to act and think spontaneously. Their way of thinking shifts from being self-centered to becoming problem-centered. Their view on life shifts from subjective to objective. They have quite unique ways of thinking. They work abstractly, but not in an absurd way. As a result of their requirements, they are more concerned about the well-being of mankind. They strengthen their ability to appreciate life's foundations. This provides them with a broader and more expansive view on problem solving. They can forge incredibly strong interpersonal bonds with their close friends and family members. They are at the top of their experiences, and most of what they go through are of a high limit. They require more privacy issues than most people. With very high moral and ethical standards, they have unmistakably democratic attitudes. They consistently have a new connection to creative thought processes. The need for self-actualization is cantered on morality, creativity, problem-solving, and the desire to achieve.

Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Actualized Individual?

Maslow singled out Abraham Lincoln for one trait that defines self-actualized individuals—a philosophical, non-hostile sense of humor—but he might be argued to embody several of these traits. Lincoln "probably never cracked a joke that wounded anyone else," observed Maslow; it is also possible that many, if not most, of his jokes had a point and served a purpose beyond just making others laugh. They frequently seemed to be instruction delivered more enjoyably, much like parables or fables.


In essence, self-actualization is about moving toward a sense of perfection and a feeling of contentment with one's self. It is a process of achieving wholeness and confidently saying that there is nothing else to aspire for as we have tapped into all aspects there is to be. Nevertheless, in reality, is it possible ever to feel complete or self-actualized?

Updated on: 12-Dec-2022


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