Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Self-actualization is the highest level of human development, in which an individual realizes his or her full potential and achieves a sense of personal fulfillment. At this stage, individuals may have a strong understanding of autonomy and a willingness to take risks to achieve their goals.

What Is Self-actualization?

Self-actualization is a term coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow 1 to explain the maturity of acceptance and the ability to assess oneself more positively. This stage occurs when a person can take full advantage of their talents while still being mindful of their limitations.

Self-actualization examples include finding humor and being happy in a situation, understanding one’s own needs, and having a strong feeling of security, etc.

Maslow’s concept of self-actualization refers to the basic needs 2 that ought to be achieved, including physiological, safety, love and belongingness, and esteem needs. One must go beyond basic needs and discover a higher quality of life.

Another eminent psychologist, Carl Rogers, suggested the application of self-actualization in therapy. According to his Person-centered therapy 3 , a person can achieve self-actualization by attaining the “ideal self” or actual self.

The concept of the “ideal self” is a part of the self-concept that consists of desire, hopes, and wishes, which are considered to be a motivator for achieving self-actualization.

Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

Self-actualized people tend to be more mature 4 which enables them to approach their highest state of being. Several other characteristics 5 are associated with self-actualization, which includes:

  1. Being independent and resourceful
  2. Mature interpersonal relationships
  3. Comfortable with the acceptance of self and others
  4. Realistic perceptions about self
  5. Clear planning for achieving goals
  6. Creativity 6 to generate or recognize new ideas
  7. Empathetic 7 in nature
  8. Good sense of humor 8
  9. Peak experiences 9 such as greater happiness, a sense of joy, etc.

Read More About Creativity Here

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s theory of motivation divides human needs into 5 distinct levels. This theory was introduced by Abraham Maslow in 1943 in a paper entitled, “A theory of human motivation 10 ”.

The 4 basic levels of the hierarchy are considered the “deficiency needs 11 ” which include physiological, safety and security, social, and esteem needs.

Maslow believed that people need to satisfy one level before meeting further needs and after approaching all the basic needs, people will strongly desire the ultimate level of the hierarchy, which is Self-actualization. This level explains the fulfillment of full potential as a person. Individuals who achieve this level of self, appear to be more confident and self-sufficient 12 .

How Does Self-actualization Relate To Mental Health?

The relationship between self-actualization and mental health is bidirectional. 13 While self-actualization can have a positive effect on mental health, similarly, sound mental health can also help an individual to achieve the level of self-actualization.

According to a study, mental health issues 14 such as depression, anxiety, or trauma may create difficulties in achieving self-actualization.

Read More About Depression Here

On the other hand, good mental health provides a foundation for personal growth and development and can help individuals to feel more resilient 15 in the face of stressors and challenges.

Self-actualization can play a significant role in building positive mental health because it involves a sense of progress and maturity in life rather than being static, which helps people to pursue feelings of fulfillment and happiness. It also leads people towards positive well-being 16 .

In addition, self-actualization may have a positive effect on emotional well-being 17 , that is an ability to recognize one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. When people achieve a level of self-actualization they tend to have a greater sense of self-awareness and a deeper understanding of their own emotions, which can lead to better relationships with less conflict and greater well-being.

Importance of Self-actualization

Self-actualization suggests it is essential to meet all the needs of an individual to be truly happy and lead a fulfilling life.

Some other advantages of self-actualization involve:

1. Better mindset

Self-actualization can help in developing a better mindset 18 that helps them to be the best version of themselves.

2. Meaningful life

Self-actualization benefits people to experience satisfaction 19 in their lives.

3. Developing best aspects

Self-actualization can help people to do what they are born to do, 2 for example, artists create, athletes perform, and so on.

4. Creative solutions to problems

Self-actualization can help people to find better solutions 20 to the uncertain situations of life.

5. Honesty

Self-actualization benefits people to be trustworthy 21 and not deceive others.

How To Achieve Self-actualization?

Working towards self-actualization helps individuals reach a state of transcendence 22 and fully realize their true selves.

Consider the following strategies for achieving self-actualization:

1. Acceptance practice

Try to accept your all attributes, positive or negative.

2. Full attention to the present

Concentrating on the current situation, emotions, and actions can be also effective to achieve self-actualization.

3. Therapy

Consult a mental health professional for person-centered therapy 23 who may help people explore what self-actualization looks like for them.

Read More About Therapy Here

4. Living with spontaneity

Try to live your life fully with reflexibility or be willing to do more things.

5. Appreciating little things in life

Enjoy little things in your life, like, taking a walk, baking something, listening to music, etc.

6. Develop kindness

Being kind to others 24 and yourself can help you to boost your confidence, developing and spreading more happiness.

7. Finding a motive

Finding a motive is recommended to serve a purposeful life.

8. Learn constantly

Try to learn something 20 new that can help you to develop more knowledge, perception, and skills.


Self-actualization refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment. It leads to personal growth to alleviate one’s adverse conditions. It is important to note that self-actualization is a subjective experience, and what it means for one person may be different for another.

One way to achieve self-actualization is by providing spiritual care to self and others. This can be done through meditation, prayer, and self-healing to achieve positive well-being. However, curiosity to learn something new, novel ideas, and motivation also help individuals to achieve a level of self-actualization.

Read More About Meditation Here

At A Glance

  1. Self-actualization is the highest level of human development to fulfill an individual’s desire for personal growth and change.
  2. Self-actualization is the ultimate level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  3. There are some benefits of being self-actualized, such as better acceptance, creative thinking, and meaningful life.
  4. Self-actualization affects the well-being of individuals and helps them to make strong relationships with others.
  5. Effects of poor self-actualization cause individuals to have a lack of confidence, and inadequacy to face unknown stressors in life, etc.
  6. Self-actualization can be achieved by accepting one’s ability, practicing healthy habits of finding motives in life, and developing kindness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How to know if you are self-actualized?

You are self-actualized if you begin to accept your strengths and weaknesses equally and are aware of your actions.

2. How does a person reach self-actualization?

Accepting oneself and the circumstances as they are playing a major key in approaching self-actualization.

3. How does self-actualization affect your life?

Self-actualized people often believe that they have a purpose or responsibility in their lives, which makes them deeply connected with others.

4. How does self-actualization influence your personality?

Self-actualization helps to develop polite and respectful behavior among people.

5. What affects self-actualization?

Several factors such as stressful situations, lack of confidence, and motivation affect self-actualization in unfavorable ways.

👇 References:
  1.  Krems, J. A., Kenrick, D. T., & Neel, R. (2017). Individual Perceptions of Self-Actualization: What Functional Motives Are Linked to Fulfilling One’s Full Potential?. Personality & social psychology bulletin43(9), 1337–1352. []
  2.  Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2010). Renovating the Pyramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science5(3), 292–314. [][]
  3.  Locher, C., Meier, S., & Gaab, J. (2019). Psychotherapy: A World of Meanings. Frontiers in psychology10, 460. []
  4.  Olczak, P. V., & Goldman, J. A. (1975). The relationship between self-actualization and psychosocial maturity. Journal of clinical psychology31(3), 415–419.<415::aid-jclp2270310307>;2-c []
  5.  Gholamnejad, H., Darvishpoor-Kakhki, A., Ahmadi, F., & Rohani, C. (2019). Self-Actualization: Self-Care Outcomes among Elderly Patients with Hypertension. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research24(3), 206–212. []
  6. Neubauer, A. C., & Martskvishvili, K. (2018). Creativity and intelligence: A link to different levels of human needs hierarchy?. Heliyon4(5), e00623. []
  7. Montag, C., Sindermann, C., Lester, D., & Davis, K. L. (2020). Linking individual differences in satisfaction with each of Maslow’s needs to the Big Five personality traits and Panksepp’s primary emotional systems. Heliyon6(7), e04325. []
  8. Martin, R., & Kuiper, N. A. (2016). Three Decades Investigating Humor and Laughter: An Interview With Professor Rod Martin. Europe’s journal of psychology12(3), 498–512. []
  9. Purnell O. (2021). Towards peak experience – exploring the influence of wilderness on conscious awareness. BJPsych Open7(Suppl 1), S281. []
  10.  Healy K. (2016). A Theory of Human Motivation by Abraham H. Maslow – reflection. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science208(4), 313. []
  11.  Trivedi, A., & Mehta, A. (2019). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs -Theory of Human Motivation. International Journal of Research in All Subjects in Multi Languages [Author: Anjanaen J. Trivedi, 7(6). Available from: []
  12.  Montag, C., Sindermann, C., Lester, D., & Davis, K. L. (2020). Linking individual differences in satisfaction with each of Maslow’s needs to the Big Five personality traits and Panksepp’s primary emotional systems. Heliyon6(7), e04325. []
  13.  Vansteenkiste, M., Ryan, R. M., & Soenens, B. (2020). Basic psychological need theory: Advancements, critical themes, and future directions. Motivation and Emotion, 44(1), 1–31. []
  14.  Del Castillo F. A. (2021). Self-actualization towards positive well-being: combating despair during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of public health (Oxford, England)43(4), e757–e758. []
  15.  Zheng, J., Kong, D., Li, M., & Dong, X. (2020). Presence and Levels of Resilience and Its Sociodemographic Correlates in Older Chinese Americans. Innovation in Aging4(Suppl 1), 389. []
  16.  Del Castillo F. A. (2021). Self-actualization towards positive well-being: combating despair during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of public health (Oxford, England)43(4), e757–e758. []
  17.  Santos, V., Paes, F., Pereira, V., Arias-Carrión, O., Silva, A. C., Carta, M. G., Nardi, A. E., & Machado, S. (2013). The role of positive emotion and contributions of positive psychology in depression treatment: systematic review. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health : CP & EMH9, 221–237. []
  18.  Zhang, L., & Zhang, Y. (2021). The Mediating Effect of Self-Regulation on the Association Between Growth Mindset About Work and Living a Calling Among Primary and Secondary School Teachers. Psychology research and behavior management14, 1675–1689. []
  19.  Del Castillo F. A. (2021). Self-actualization towards positive well-being: combating despair during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of public health (Oxford, England)43(4), e757–e758. []
  20.  Andringa, T. C., van den Bosch, K. A., & Vlaskamp, C. (2013). Learning autonomy in two or three steps: linking open-ended development, authority, and agency to motivation. Frontiers in psychology4, 766. [][]
  21.  Błachnio A. (2021). Be Happy, Be Honest: The Role of Self-Control, Self-Beliefs, and Satisfaction with Life in Honest Behavior. Journal of religion and health60(2), 1015–1028. []
  22.  Worth, P., & Smith, M. D. (2021). Clearing the Pathways to Self-Transcendence. Frontiers in psychology12, 648381. []
  23.  Joseph S. (2021). How Humanistic Is Positive Psychology? Lessons in Positive Psychology From Carl Rogers’ Person-Centered Approach-It’s the Social Environment That Must Change. Frontiers in psychology12, 709789. []
  24.  Nelson-Coffey, S. K., Bohlmeijer, E. T., & Schotanus-Dijkstra, M. (2021). Practicing Other-Focused Kindness and Self-Focused Kindness Among Those at Risk for Mental Illness: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychology12, 741546. []