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Self-Actualization: What Is It and How to Embody Its Traits?

Written by Austin Bollinger
Austin Bollinger is the Amazon best-selling author of Crush Your Goals! His mission is to help people crush their goals every single day.
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Do you know what self-actualization is? I’ve been a personal development junkie for a while, so when I suddenly learned about self-actualization, I was taken aback.

I couldn’t help but wonder, “What is this self-actualization thing, and how have I gone so many years without hearing about it?” when I first came across the term.

Perhaps you share the same situation. Maybe you’ve read up on tons of other topics like self-limiting beliefs, gaining more self-awareness, and being more self-confident, but you’ve never heard of self-actualization.

According to psychology, self-actualization occurs when you can realize your entire potential. Since most individuals are attempting to fulfill more immediate wants, being completely self-actualized is seen as the exception rather than the rule.

Self-actualization is the full growth of one’s capacities and enjoyment of life and the full realization of one’s potential.

Here are the 15 characteristics and traits of a self-actualized person.

What is Self-Actualization?

When researching a new subject, we must first look at the definition. Google Dictionary provided the following self-actualization definition :

“The realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.”

The concept of self-actualization came from Abraham Maslow. Maslow was an American psychologist who is best known for his hierarchy of innate human needs. Like all other hierarchies, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is arranged in priority order and is frequently depicted as a pyramid. [1].

Self-Actualization: What Is It and How to Embody Its Traits?

    Physiological requirements, including those for food and water, come last. Safety and belongingness come next, including close friendships and personal connections. Esteem, like reputation and the sense of success, comes before belonging.


    Self-actualization is at the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy. And as we’ve seen it would define self-actualization by stressing the fact that the highest of human needs is to achieve one’s full potential.

    So, if becoming a self-actualized person means realizing our greatest talents and achieving our greatest potential, how do we go about doing that? How do we achieve self-actualization?

    15 Traits of a Self-Actualized Person

    Let’s start by examining the top 15 traits of a highly self-actualized person and work backward from there.

    1. They Practice Acceptance

    Self-actualized people accept themselves and other people as they are, and they have no expectations for how people should be otherwise. They know that nobody is flawless, and they tolerate their own and other people’s peculiarities, desires, and shortcomings.

    Self-actualized persons do not wish they were different, but many people do. They accept themselves for who they are and do not need to justify, feel guilty, or ashamed about it.


    2. They Are Authentic and True

    A self-actualized individual has a strong sense of who they are. They have a deep understanding of their beliefs and values, and they live in congruence with those beliefs and values.

    They are honest and true to themselves because they accept and comprehend who they are. They don’t act in any other way than who they are. Self-actualized individuals are not only true to themselves but also the world around them. They detect dishonesty quickly.

    3. They Possess a Strong Sense of Realism

    Realistic thinking is another trait of a self-actualized individual.

    Self-actualized people appear to have good judgment or good instincts for the typical person, but it’s much more than that. They can identify lies, fakes, and discrepancies because they can evaluate the world logically and reasonably.

    Self-actualized individuals have a keen capacity to see behind the scenes more frequently than most people because they seek truth in everything they encounter.

    4. They Live in the Here and Now

    Self-actualized individuals excel at living in the present because they are accepting and based on reality. Although self-actualized individuals have aspirations, they do not prioritize the future over the present.

    Reaching a goal is just as crucial, if not even more so, for the self-actualized person.

    5. They Are Autonomous and Independent

    Self-actualized individuals are very independent and do not follow societal conventions. They are not dependent on other people, the outside world, or other things to be happy. Instead, they find fulfillment in their personal expansion.

    Because they are so independent and at ease being alone, self-actualized people are not worried about what others may think of them. They don’t let other people’s viewpoints alter their acceptance of who they are.


    6. They Have Excellent Moral Intuition

    People who have achieved self-actualization do not let society or culture shape who they are. They are thoughtful about their choices and have a strong moral compass. They adopt what they perceive as good and reject what they perceive as harmful.

    They have a strong sense of morality that is unshakeable and is motivated by their moral intuition.

    The self-actualized do not view everything in black and white as either right or wrong; instead, they weigh all the arguments and conclude about what is fair and reasonable.

    7. They Seek Growth and Development

    Self-actualized people not only draw happiness from personal growth, but they are also intrinsically motivated to develop their potential.

    Since they have advanced over Maslow’s initial four hierarchies, they are no longer driven by fundamental human needs. They are motivated to progress because they know their potential and want to learn more about it.

    Additionally, they see their development as a means of aiding others and themselves.

    8. They Are Problem-Solving, Humanitarians

    People who have achieved self-actualization genuinely want to aid humanity. Because they are problem solvers, they are quick to identify problems in the world and aren’t hesitant to look for answers.

    This sincere desire to assist others is not motivated by selfish interests such as glory, praise, or notoriety. Self-actualized people have a clear sense of purpose and want to leave the world in a better state than they found it.


    9. They Have a Strong Sense of Purpose

    Because self-actualized individuals strive for constant personal development and are humanitarians, they frequently take on a mission or purpose that is very different from their demands. You can find numerous self-actualization examples around you and confirm their strong sense of purpose.

    This mission is typically meant to solve a problem for the good of all mankind and gives them a powerful sense of purpose. They are more than delighted to spend their time substantially impacting the world, even though this purpose requires a lot of their energy.

    10. They Seek Peak Experiences

    Self-actualized people seek frequent peak experiences. These are not everyday experiences of joy—they are experiences that involve a heightened sense of wonder, awe, or ecstasy—a feeling of transcendence. [2]

    Peak performances frequently have a huge impact on a person’s life. They are satisfying, exciting, and inherently rewarding and frequently have a very spiritual aspect.

    Peak experiences are uncommon, yet they can happen to anyone at any moment, and self-actualized people actively seek them out regularly.


    11. They Embrace the Unknown

    While most people fear the unknown, self-actualized people embrace it. Self-actualized people understand that to grow as a person, you have to step beyond your comfort zone and into the unknown.

    Self-actualized people seek to reach their full potential, which means they have to explore the unknown. If they stay put, they won’t be able to realize their full potential. They are unable to cling to the known.

    They don’t worry about the future. On the other hand, the self-actualized embrace the unknown, welcome and learn from it. The numerous curveballs that life frequently throws their way don’t frighten them.

    12. They Are Unconventional and Spontaneous

    A self-actualized person tends to be spontaneous and unusual since they are not afraid of the unknown. They are capable of adhering to most social and cultural norms, yet when they feel like it, they have no trouble acting independently.

    Even if the novel experience deviates from social norms, they are open to exploring the world outside societal expectations because they do not feel constrained by them.

    13. They Have a Thoughtful Sense of Humor

    Self-actualized individuals have a profound and perceptive sense of humor. They excel at finding humor in most situations and enjoy making fun of themselves.

    On the other side, they never make jokes about other people’s misfortune or use comedy to embarrass or mock them.


    14. They Understand the Power of Mindset

    You may feel like your bad mood is the cause of other people or external circumstances that you can’t control, but it’s actually how you choose to react to conditions.

    People with self-actualization have the ability to adjust accordingly because your mindset is incredibly powerful. Choosing to see things for their benefit no matter how negative it may seem helps them self-actualize much more easily.

    15. They Never Stop Questioning or Learning

    The meaning of life, for people who have reached self-actualization or are well on their way to it is a never-ending quest. This quest is not materialistic or even ambitious in its nature, rather, it is simply a thirst for knowledge, for self-development, and for being better than who you were a day, hour, or even minute ago.

    People who want to reach self-actualization have already accepted the best and the worst about themselves. Now they are on road to bettering themselves, helping someone along the way if they can, and making a positive change in the world if they so can.

    They know, understand, and accept that there is no such thing as perfection and that life, despite all the challenges and hardships, is a beautiful gift meant to be enjoyed to the fullest in the literal sense of knowledge too.


    Final Thoughts – The Path to Self Actualization

    There you have it – 15 characteristics shared by self-actualized individuals. You can research these characteristics and try to live a life that reflects them to start along the path to self actualization.

    There is no predetermined path to self-actualization. However, these 15 characteristics provide a roadmap for becoming more self-actualized. Keep in mind that achieving self-actualization is a journey rather than a destination.

    You can learn to accept yourself and the people around you, be more impulsive and unusual and be present in your life. You can work to embrace the unknown, discover your life’s mission, and broaden your humanitarian outlook.

    You’ll be well on your way to achieving self-actualization if you concentrate on making these 15 aspects of your life better while you go about living your life.

    Featured photo credit: Denys Nevozhai via unsplash.com


    [1]SimplePsychology.org: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
    [2]Very Well Mind: Peak Experiences in Psychology
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