Definition and characteristics of self-actualization of a person’s personality


Abraham Maslow

The concept of self-actualization implies the fulfillment of a person’s purpose and the realization of abilities. Essentially, it is a process necessary to achieve important goals in life.

I present to your attention the theories of four scientists who determined what personal self-actualization is.

  1. Maslow. Defines this concept as the desire to become ideal, using one’s abilities and inclinations. On the path to success, he considers the need for: correct perception of the surrounding reality, acceptance of “one’s own self,” interaction with nature, naturalness, concentration on the problem, autonomy, fresh perception of events, peak experience, public, democratic character, interpersonal relationships, creativity, obstacles cultivation.
  2. Goldstein. Considers self-actualization as a tendency to actualize an individual's abilities. Considers such criteria as the formation of the necessary level that allows streamlining further activities; the opinion that an organism that finds itself in new conditions necessary for the realization of opportunities may experience shock upon successful interaction with the environment.
  3. Rogers. Under independent actualization he considered the realization of abilities and capabilities. I believed that it includes acceptance of one’s “own self,” confidence that others treat oneself sincerely, and empathic understanding.
  4. Allport. He defined self-actualization as the absolute application of life potentials. He considered such characteristics as the ability to create interpersonal relationships, expanded boundaries of the “own self,” the elimination of emotional barriers, correct perception, and self-knowledge of life philosophy.

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Maslow's pyramid of needs.

Maslow argued that the totality of human needs can be described in the form of a hierarchical structure, in which more “earthly” needs are located at the bottom, and more “spiritual” ones at the top. According to Maslow, a person cannot experience the needs of the upper level until he satisfies the needs of the previous one. Here is this hierarchy: The need for the disclosure of internal potential, the need for aesthetics, the cognitive need - Maslow called this self-actualization The need for esteem The need for affection, love and belonging to a social group The need for security Physiological needs (food, sleep, thirst, etc. )

Accordingly, if we do not satisfy the need for nutrition, then for the sake of this need we will sacrifice not only aesthetic experiences, not only will we devalue the importance of maintaining our reputation, but we will often be ready to sacrifice even our own safety.


This model has been criticized a lot and is being criticized mainly for the fact that it is not very universal. Of course, you don’t need to look long for examples confirming that this model makes sense, but you can also find many examples that do not fit into this model. Many artists, writers and poets wrote some of the most striking works in the most critical moments of their lives - in conditions of persecution, in repression, so is it possible to say that the unsatisfied need for security always “kills” the need for aesthetics and the disclosure of inner potential - a big question.

In the history of the church one can find many examples when people achieved holiness despite persecution, and many also deliberately put themselves in difficult conditions and limited themselves in the most basic needs, but this did not prevent them from revealing their inner potential. Moreover, the characteristics of their personality are very consistent with Maslow's description of a personality that has reached the peak of its development.

Why can this model be useful to us?

In general, there are questions about this model, but it also has its own truth. In addition to the fact that this model can help us make a structural assessment of how certain needs are met and move towards realizing our potential, I have also seen very practical applications of this pyramid. It is sometimes referred to when justifying the reluctance to read books, improve one’s qualifications, or when trying to negotiate more favorable terms of cooperation)

Signs of a self-actualizing personality according to Maslow.

1. More effective perception of reality.

The perception of the world is correct and impartial. The ability to see reality as it is, and not as one would like to see it. Less emotionality and greater objectivity do not allow hopes and fears to interfere, due to this a person communicates better, tolerates difficult situations better, and assesses the situation better. This helps not to be afraid of problems that do not have clear solutions.

2. Acceptance of yourself and others.

Self-actualizing people can accept themselves and others as they are. They are not overly critical of their shortcomings and weaknesses. They are not burdened by excessive feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety. These people do not have an overwhelming need to teach, inform or control. They can tolerate the weaknesses of others and are not afraid of their strength.

3. Spontaneity, simplicity and naturalness.

The behavior of self-actualizing people is marked by spontaneity and simplicity, the absence of artificiality or the desire to produce an effect. But this does not mean that they constantly behave contrary to traditions. They can adapt so as not to spoil relationships with other people.

4. Goal centeredness.

Maslow believed that all the individuals he examined, without exception, were committed to some task, duty, calling, or favorite work that they considered important. That is, they are not ego-centered, but rather focused on problems that are higher than their immediate needs, problems that they consider to be their life mission. In this sense, they live to work rather than work to live; work is subjectively experienced by them as their defining characteristic.

5. Independence: need for privacy.

Maslow writes that self-actualizing people not only tolerate, but even need, solitude.

6. Autonomy: independence from culture and environment.

Self-actualizing people are free in their actions, independent of the physical and social environment. This autonomy allows them to rely on their own potential and internal sources of growth and development. For example, a truly self-actualizing college student does not need the “right” academic atmosphere on campus. He can study anywhere. In this sense, it is a “self-sufficient” organism.

7. Freshness of perception.

Self-actualizing people have the ability to appreciate even the most ordinary events in life, while experiencing novelty, awe, pleasure and even ecstasy. For example, the hundredth rainbow is as beautiful and majestic as the first; a walk in the forest is never boring; The sight of a child playing lifts your spirits. Unlike those who take happiness for granted, self-actualizing people value good fortune, health, friends, and freedom. They rarely complain about a boring, uninteresting life.

8. Peak or mystical experiences.

While studying the process of self-actualization, Maslow came to an unexpected discovery: many of his subjects had what he called peak experiences. These are moments of great excitement or high tension, as well as moments of relaxation, peace, bliss and tranquility. They represent ecstatic states that are experienced in the culminating moments of love and intimacy, in impulses of creativity, insight, discovery and merging with nature.

9. Genuine interest in others.

Even when self-actualizing people are worried and sad, they still have a sincere desire to help others. This desire is expressed by feelings of compassion, sympathy and love for all humanity.

10. Deep interpersonal relationships.

Self-actualizing people strive for deeper and closer personal relationships than “ordinary” people.

11. Democratic character.

Self-actualizing individuals, according to Maslow, are the most “democratic” people. They have no prejudices and therefore respect other people, no matter what class, race, religion, gender they belong to, what their age, profession and other indicators of status are. Moreover, they readily learn from others without exhibiting superiority or authoritarian tendencies. A self-actualizing musician, for example, is full of respect for a skilled mechanic because he has knowledge and skills that the musician does not have.

At the same time, Maslow discovered that self-actualizing people do not consider everyone equal without exception: “These individuals, being themselves an elite, choose an elite as their friends, but this is an elite of character, ability and talent, and not of birth, race, blood, name, family, age, youth, fame or power.”

12. Philosophical sense of humor.

Another notable characteristic of self-actualizing people is their clear preference for philosophical, benevolent humor. While the average person may enjoy jokes that make fun of someone's inferiority, humiliation or obscenity, the self-actualizing person is more attracted to humor that ridicules the stupidity of humanity in general.

13. Creativity.

Maslow discovered that all self-actualizing people, without exception, have the ability to be creative. However, the creative potential of his subjects did not manifest itself in the same way as outstanding talents in poetry, art, music or science. Maslow spoke rather about the same natural and spontaneous creativity that is inherent in unspoiled children. It is creativity that is present in everyday life as a natural way of expressing an observant, perceptive personality. For example, speaking about his mother-in-law, whom he considered self-actualizing, Maslow emphasized precisely this fact. He said that although his mother-in-law did not have the talents of a writer or an actor, she was highly creative in preparing soup. Maslow observed that first-rate soup always contains more creativity than second-rate poetry!

14. Resistance to cultivation.

And finally, self-actualizing people are in harmony with their culture, while at the same time maintaining a certain internal independence from it. They have autonomy and self-confidence, and therefore their thinking and behavior are not subject to social and cultural influence. This resistance to enculturation does not mean that self-actualizing people are unconventional or antisocial. In this case, we are talking more about the fact that following the norms is not a rule they follow, but their own internal choice, and if at some point they do not agree with the rules, they will not necessarily fight these rules at any cost, but they can also fight when it makes sense.


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Personal needs according to Maslow

Pyramid of needs

According to the scientist, a person’s need for self-actualization includes certain needs.

  1. Own safety. When a person is not in danger, he is in a calm state.
  2. Recognition and respect. Whatever actions an individual takes, he wants to feel successful and be appreciated.
  3. Aesthetic needs are necessary to create harmony and stability.
  4. Physiological. Need for food, sleep, water.
  5. Love. To be completely happy, a person must love and feel loved, feel the support of loved ones.
  6. Creativity and cognition. This need is especially acute for children who are interested in everything around them.
  7. Spiritual needs. The personality improves, engages in self-knowledge, and develops abilities.
  8. The craving for self-actualization plays a significant role in the period of personality formation, and it already depends on the motives, goals and attitudes of the person.

All needs can be considered in the form of five levels depending on their importance on the path to self-actualization:

  • first level – physiological, necessary for life, protection, sexual satisfaction;
  • the second is reliability, concern for health, material well-being, and a happy old age;
  • third - social needs, satisfaction when communicating in society;
  • fourth – the need for respect and self-esteem, having a high place in society.
  • fifth - the desire for personal development and self-realization.

Criteria and aspects influencing self-actualization

For self-actualization, important conditions must be met

Let's look at what the conditions for self-actualization are.

  1. Life must be experienced with complete immersion in it, without shyness. It is important that there is selflessness.
  2. You must have your own opinion, you cannot depend on other people.
  3. You need to learn to take responsibility, get rid of complexes and fears, learn to listen to your own inner voice.
  4. It is important to give up unlikely results, learn to evaluate yourself sensibly, and understand who you really are.
  5. See life as an opportunity to have constant choices. Know when to move on and when to step back.
  6. Doubts prevent us from moving forward. Try to get rid of them. Demand from your subconscious an accurate answer to an exciting question.
  7. Self-development, improving one’s intellectual abilities and creative skills also has a great impact on self-actualization.
  8. Decide what your main goal in life is and who you want to become.

According to Maslow, the development of personality self-actualization can take place in the presence of a number of aspects.

  1. Intelligence. Allows you to expand your knowledge, improve creativity, increase the level of thinking and memory.
  2. Individuality. The presence of an individual’s own values, tastes, understanding of his own nature.
  3. Will. A person who wants to achieve a high goal must stock up on great willpower, otherwise he will not be able to reach the end without breaking down along the way.
  4. Emotions. The desire for self-actualization must be supported by positive feelings. If a person is happy, he will achieve what he wants faster.
  5. Body. Satisfying physiological needs allows you to think about higher values, about the spiritual world.
  6. Social relations. For a person who wants to actualize himself, it is necessary to have respect and love among friends, colleagues and loved ones.

Self-actualizing personality according to Maslow

Maslow's self-actualization theory is a concept that suggests that a person is naturally good and has the ability to improve himself. Maslow proposes a personality psychology in which the very essence of a person moves him in the direction of personal growth and self-sufficiency.

Features of a self-actualizing personality are as follows:

  • knows and understands life, does not use psychological defense techniques;
  • accepts others and allows them to have their own opinions without getting into arguments;
  • passionate about what she loves, sets tasks and solves them;
  • independent from the environment;
  • understands other members of society and treats them kindly;

And also this personality:

  • strives to learn new things;
  • distinguishes between good and evil, is convinced that the end does not justify the means;
  • her behavior is natural;
  • demonstrates creative abilities at work and in relationships with people;
  • recognizes difficulties and solves problems.

Only about 5% of people meet these characteristics.

Such a minimal figure is explained by unfavorable social conditions and psychological problems. Most people avoid risks, even if they can satisfy higher needs.

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