Self-Actualization – The Ultimate Guide for 2024 and Beyond

What is self-actualization? What are the 4 stages of self-actualizing? What are the benefits of self-actualization? How can I attain self-actualization? Why is self-actualization important? If you are looking for answers to these and more stories, this article is for you.

Hi. I am Sean Galla, a facilitator for men’s support groups and forums with over ten years of experience. Part of my job involves creating safe spaces where men can learn about issues affecting everyday life, including understanding self-actualization. Knowing and understanding self-actualization can go a long way in making goal-setting and actualization easier and more result-oriented. If you want to understand self-actualization, you are in the right place.

This article covers everything you need to know to understand self-actualization.

Avatar photo

Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

What is self-actualization?

Wikipedia defines the concept of self-actualization as ‘the highest level of psychological development where personal potential is fully realized after basic bodily and ego needs are fulfilled.’

Carl Rogers described self-actualization as the continuous lifelong process where an individual self-concept is maintained and enhanced through reflection and the reinterpretation of various experiences that enable the person to recover, change, and develop.

Self-actualization can also be described as a person’s realization of their full potential. The theory of self-actualization was initially introduced in the early 20th century by Kurt Goldstein, a specializing physician in humanistic psychologist, neuroanatomy and psychiatry.

However, Abraham Maslow made it famous in the 21st century when he used the concept to explain and introduce the hierarchy of needs.

Both Maslow and Goldstein saw self-actualization as a theory of human motivation for fulfilling an individual’s greatest potential. Through his theory, Maslow asserts that the drive to self-actualization only emerges as a motivator once an individual meets a variety of more basic needs.

Self-actualization is fully realizing one’s intellectual, creative, and social potential. Since it leverages an individual’s motivation and personality, the self-actualization process varies from one person to the next.

Self-actualization and the hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow’s ideas on self-actualization can best be understood by understanding the hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy of needs is divided into a 4 tier ascending pyramid with self-actualization at the top.  

The hierarchy of needs is divided into four categories:

  • Physiological needs – this tier is at the bottom of the pyramid. One must fulfill one’s physiological needs before climbing up to the self-actualization tier. These are everyday needs necessary for survival of human nature, like air, food, and water.
  • Safety needs– this is the second level of the hierarchy of needs. It involved fulfilling safety needs that make you feel healthy and physically safe. This includes having a warm place to live and physical safety.
  • Sense of belonging and Love needs – the third tier in the hierarchy of needs pyramid is about meeting love needs. You can only meet these needs after fulfilling the first two. This third need is met through feeling loved, liked, or accepted by others.
  • Esteem needs – this need is met through prestige and accomplishment. This boosts one’s self-esteem, leaving the feeling self-confident and respected by society.
  • Self-actualization needs – this is the top tier in the hierarchy of needs. Self-actualization needs can only be met through investing in personal growth and self-development.

According to Maslow, human beings needs to meet the needs of one tier before they can meet the needs of the next. Therefore, fulfilling individual physiological needs comes before meeting safety needs. When safety needs are met, one can focus on meeting one’s love needs before moving on to esteem. Self-actualization needs can only be met once all the other needs are met.


Examples of self-actualizations

The journey to self-actualize can look different from person to person since it is all about pursuing personal fulfillment and growth. This is in line with an individual’s aspirations and values.

Some examples include:

  • Ability to pursue a passion or creative work, like writing, painting, or playing an instrument.
  • Being able to set and achieve meaningful goals by your aspirations and values.
  • Contributing to others’ well-being through acts of kindness and altruism.
  • Engaging in continuous learning and skills acquisition as part of self-development
  • Living authentically and embracing your core values and beliefs.
  • Fostering connections with people based on support and mutual respect.
  • Using introspection and self-reflection to for self-transcendence.
  • Prioritizing personal happiness and well-being without the need for external validation.
  • Accepting and embracing yourself fully, acknowledging your weaknesses and strengths.
  • Consistently seeking activities and moments that bring freshness of appreciation, a sense of fulfillment, joy and purpose.

Some people Maslow considered to have mastered the art of how to become your best self include Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Schweitzer, Baruch Spinoza, Alfred Adler, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and William James.

Characteristics of self-actualized people

They seek peak experiences  

Self-actualized individuals experience frequent peak experiences. A peak experience is characterized by feelings of joy, ecstasy, and wonder. When having these experiences, people often lose track of time since their mind feels that whatever they are experiencing is valuable, meaningful, memorable, and unique.

After these peak experiences, the person walks away feeling accomplished and transformed.

They adopt a sense of appreciation

According to Maslow’s theory, self-actualized individual has mastered maintaining a fresh outlook on life. Instead of seeing everyday experiences as mundane or boring, they continue to find a sense of awe and joy in their daily lives. They also maintain a sense of gratitude for everything in their life.

Self-actualization is about acceptance

Self-actualized people fully accept themselves and others. This allows them to live their life free of inhibition and guilt. They treat those around them equally regardless of current status, socio-economic differences, or status.

They possess a philosophical sense of humor

Self-actualized individuals have a sense of humor that is thoughtful. they can identify humor in situations, and even laugh at themselves. However, they never mock, joke or ridicule others.

They are problem solvers

Self-actualized people often operate by a preset code of responsibility and ethics. They love putting their problem-solving skills to practice in different potentialities. They will be on the front line to help others interested in achieving self-actualization.

They value privacy

Most self-actualized people enjoy solitude and value their privacy. While they love being in the company of others, enjoying alone time is an essential part of their discovery and self-care as it helps them to cultivate their full potential and enjoy a sense of belongingness.

They are spontaneous

Spontaneity is a common characteristic among self-actualized individuals. They are open to new experiences. They are often unconventional. They don’t feel confined to societal or social norms to behave or think a certain way.

They have a sense of purpose

Having a sense of purpose is a common attribute associated with self-actualization. When you achieve self-actualization, you will acquire a sense of duty, mission, and responsibility in life. Most of the time, this sense of purpose is humanitarian.

Self-actualized people feel deeply about human needs and have a lot of empathy for the plight of those around them. Compassion and a sense of purpose drive them to work even harder to create a better world.

They are focused on their journey

A self-actualized individual has mastered the art of blocking outside noise. They know how to set concrete goals and create a game plan to meet these goals. You will never find them worrying about what others are doing on their journey. They are fully focused on their journey and find ways to enjoy it.


How you can achieve self-actualization

Be accepting

To attain self-actualization, you need to be more accepting of yourself and those around you. This involves looking at situations and people with more kindness and understanding.

Practice more empathy

Being empathetic and full of compassion is an essential aspect of self-actualization. People at the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs care deeply about others.

Empathy involves imagining yourself in others’ situations to understand better why they do what they do.

You can also build your empathy by volunteering for causes geared towards world improvement and finding ways to improve your community.

Practice mindfulness

This involves focusing on the present moment and accepting it for what it is. Mindfulness makes it easier to become more aware of yourself and your environment.

Embrace openness

When you attain self-actualization status, you learn to look at the world with a fresh outlook. You will be able to contemplate other ideas and approach issues with open-mindedness. All this is possible if you cultivate a sense of openness. This opens your mind to notice and take advantage of learning opportunities you would have missed.

Embrace therapy

Most self-actualized individuals have achieved a deeper understanding of themselves through therapy. Mental health self-awareness will help you better understand yourself and give you a deeper sense of self-acceptance. Client-centered therapy, Humanistic psychology, existential therapy, and Gestalt therapy are options for growing your psychological health. They are ideal for building self-actualization skills.

Join a support group

Even when surrounded by friends and loved ones cheering you on the road to self-actualization, it helps for self-actualizers to have a group of men who truly understand the journey to self-discovery from personal experiences.

One of the best things you can do on your journey to becoming your best self is to join a free men’s group for self-improvement Men’s Group.

Self-improvement support groups are a wealth of resources and support. Adhering to a men’s group rules and guidelines will keep you grounded and focused on your goals and hold you accountable.

The bottom line

Self-actualization is one of the best ways to boost your well-being. Remember, achieving your best potential takes time, and having a support system like can go a long way.