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Don’t Focus on Happiness. Focus on Self Actualization

Don’t Focus on Happiness. Focus on Self Actualization

As a child, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied, “The happiest person in the world.” Adults probably saw me as either someone starting too early on a path to self-actualization or as just a really strange kid.

Most of us are in pursuit of happiness, yet most base happiness on conditions. For example, many envision they will be happy if they were wealthy.

I have met some of the wealthiest people yet they suffered from depression, loneliness and anxiety.

I have traveled across the poorest countries and met some of the most impoverished individuals. Yet, they frequently laughed and seemed to enjoy life, despite owning almost nothing.

True happiness is never in pursuit of happiness. It is a state of existence, irrespective of circumstances and this is what focusing instead on self-actualization will empower you to do.

What is self-actualization?

The psychologist Abraham Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs [1] theory, which depicts a five-tier pyramid of human necessities. It begins with the most basic needs at the base and progresses to the top tier.

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The model consists of:

Tier 1. Biological and Physiological needs – food, drink, air, shelter, warmth, sleep.

Tier 2. Security needs – protection from elements, safety, security, job, stability, freedom from fear.

Tier 3. Social needs – love, family, friendship, intimacy, belonging, affection.

Tier 4. Esteem needs – achievement, accomplishment, self-worth, self-respect, respect from others.

Tier 5. Self-Actualization needs – self-fulfilment, personal growth and peak experiences.

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What are the characteristics of people who have experienced self-actualization?

  • Unafraid of the unknown; they accept and embrace it.
  • Instead of following what society dictates, they remain true to themselves. They are not sheep, but they do not reject everything like the average rebel.
  • Despite being unconventional, they are not deliberately so in a way to shock or cause a reaction.
  • Accept themselves as they are, along with their flaws. They, however, recognize and work towards changing negative habits.
  • Not dependent on the company of others. They are self-sufficient and can be happy being alone.
  • More interested in the pursuit of deeper and more meaningful connections. As a result, they have deep relationships but only with a few people. That said, they have affection for all people and are not judgemental.
  • Instead of lamenting about problems, they focus more on finding positive solutions.
  • Practice gratitude and appreciate the smaller things in life.
  • Have a strong moral sense of right and wrong.
  • While most people focus on the lower tiers in the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ they are more focused on personal and meaningful growth.
  • Not driven by social pressures or superficial needs.
  • Search for a deeper meaning of life.
  • Despite it all, they are not perfect and they are happy with that.

What are the benefits of self-actualization?

Our society is governed by pressure and competitiveness which are exacerbated by TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, billboards, the Internet, friends, family, etc. on an hourly basis.

By striving for self actualization [2], you can positively manage your life, happiness, and dreams. Your anxieties, stresses, and worries will be recognized for what they are: man-made fears, which mostly exist in the future. Anything that hasn’t yet happened (or may not happen) is not worth worrying about.

How to achieve self-actualization

Stop comparing yourself to others

Don’t measure your worth based on what other people are doing.

Maybe one of your friends became a high-flying lawyer and another friend settled into the perfect married life with children. And perhaps you haven’t found your dream career or partner yet, but maybe that gives you the freedom to go travelling. Something neither your lawyer friend nor married friend would be able to do.

Remember that everyone’s path is different and everyone has days where they feel the same as you.

Stop using social media

A study revealed that 25% of participants [3] who used social media for an average of an hour a day, showed very high signs of depression.

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Social media promotes depression and jealousy. It creates indirect peer pressure. People feel inadequate by how others are (seemingly) over-achieving. They then feel pressured to validate how happy their lives are also by updating statuses or photos accordingly. It becomes a never-ending cycle where no one is ever truly being himself or herself.

Don’t log in as often or if you are truly strong, delete it. Those who are your real friends will know how to stay in touch.

This too shall pass

No matter how stressed or worried you feel, remember that it is temporary and nothing ever remains the same.

Be true to yourself

Follow your own sense of purpose and love yourself (even your flaws).

And you can still keep adopting positive habits, for instance, if you have been trying to become fitter or to stop smoking.

Experience life in the here and now

Sometimes it may feel like you are driving in the dark, with no brakes or lights. But one of the most beautiful things about life is its unpredictability. In that darkness, you never know what person, place or moment you may encounter with each turn.

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Be open-minded and welcome that darkness because even if the ride is bumpy, it’s still ok because you are still moving forward.

Realize you can be happy now

Many people think they will only be happy when they become wealthy, have the perfect partner, or the successful career. But they may make millions and still have anxiety. They may find “the one” and still feel depressed.

The only one capable of making you happy is you. Don’t sabotage your own happiness by imposing conditions on it.

Practice gratitude

It is easy to forget the beautiful things to be grateful for. Maybe there is a breathtaking full moon outside your window or someone did an unselfish act of kindness for you this week.

Have integrity

We all know right from wrong yet sadly, not everyone will choose to do what is right. You are responsible for not only your actions, but also for how those actions will affect those around you–positively or negatively.

Self-development

Practicing mindfulness and meditation. Meditating for as little as twenty minutes a day will inspire changes to your physical, emotional and mental state.

Final Thoughts

Did I grow up to be the happiest person in the world? Sometimes I think I did. For the times I think I did not, I think that is still ok too. Life is meant to challenge us, and there is still beauty in that.

Did I grow up to fulfil my own self-actualization? Sometimes I think I did. For the times I think I did not, I think that is still ok too. I will still keep striving to grow, learn and evolve into the best “me” that I can be. Life is the best unwritten script we can get; never underestimate where the adventure of those pages might lead to next.

Reference

More by this author

J.S. von Dacre

Writer at Lifehack

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

He asks you for your opinion, but only follows his own advice regardless of what you say.She loves to talk about herself, everything about her is just better than you.  When you try to share anything happy about yourself, she seriously doubts it.

If you know someone who acts like these examples, there’s a chance they might be a narcissist.

What is a narcissistic personality?

Narcissism is a spectrum personality disorder which most of us have.

In popular culture, narcissism is interpreted as a person who’s in love with themselves, more accurately, their idealized selves. Narcissists believe that they are too unique to be understood and that they are so good that they demand for admiration from others.

Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes that,[1]

the narcissist is someone who has buried his true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes narcissistic personality as a personality disorder. It is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists on a continuum ranging from some narcissistic traits to the full-blown personality disorder.[2]

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not very common, but the truth is, we all have some of the narcissistic traits.

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Traits of a narcissist:

  • They have a deep need for admiration and validation. They think they’re special and too unique to be understood.
  • They feel they are superior to other. They achieve more and know a lot more than you.
  • They do not show their vulnerabilities. They fear what others think of them and they want to remain superior in all situations.
  • They are unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. They want to be the centre of attention and believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness.
  • They are skilled manipulators and are emotionally abusive. They know how to make use of their charm to take advantage of others to get what they want.

How are narcissists different from others?

Narcissism expert and the author of Narcissism in a Nutshell, Zari Ballard, tried to answer some common questions asked by non-narcissists about what a narcissist thinks and feels from a narcissist’s perspective.[3]

Do narcissists know they are narcissists and are they happy?

We could really care less about how others feel. We enjoy our so called cold existence. True narcissists don’t want to change. We feel in total control of our lives using this method.

Do narcissists know or understand right from wrong?

Narcissists know the difference between right and wrong because they understand cause and effect. There is no “guilty conscience” giving them a clue and they are displaying the symptom of being “indifferent to social norms” while most likely presenting as ‘cold-hearted.’

Narcissists have a very different thinking mechanism. They see things from a different perspective. Unlike non-narcissists and empaths, they don’t have much sympathy and are reluctant to show emotions to others.

Why do people become narcissists?

1. Narcissism is vulnerability taken to an extreme.

The root of a narcissistic personality is a strong resistance to feeling vulnerable with anyone.[4]

Narcissists refuse to put themselves in a position where they feel vulnerable. They fear that others will take advantage of their weaknesses, so they learn to camouflage their weaknesses by acting strong and powerful. The think showing emotions to others is a sign of weakness, so they learn to hide their emotions and act cold-hearted most of the times.

Narcissists live in a state of anxiety because they are highly aware of their emotions and how others think of them.

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Vulnerability aversion, is the root of a narcissistic personality.

2. A narcissistic personality could be a result of a wounded past.

Narcissists are desperate to seek validation constantly because they either didn’t feel worthwhile and valued in the past, or were being paid too much attention as the most precious and unique one in the world.

Faulty or inadequate parenting, for example a lack of limit setting, is believed to be a major cause, and both permissive and authoritarian styles of parenting have been found to promote narcissistic symptoms.[5]

Both parents who fail to see the worth in a child, and parents who spoil and give excessive praise to the child promote narcissism as the child grows. While the former ones make the child feel inferior of others and want to get more attention, the latter ones encourage an idealized-self in the child.

How to deal with a narcissist?

1. If someone close to you is a narcissist, embrace the differences.

There’re different personality types and not everyone will think and act the same as you do. Instead of trying to change others, learn to accept the differences and strike a balance when you really have to communicate with them.

2. Don’t try to change them, focus on your own needs.

Try to understand that narcissists are resistant to change, it’s more important for you to see who they really are, instead of who you want them to be. Focus on how you feel, and what you want yourself to be.

Embrace the fact that there’re different types of personality and the only thing you can control is your attitude and your own actions.

3. Recognize what they do only comes from their insecurity.

Narcissists are quite vulnerable deep inside, they question others because that’s how they can make themselves feel better.

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When you learn that what a narcissist does to you is nothing personal, but something that comes from their insecurity, you know that sometimes they just need a certain amount of reassurance.

This is especially important if the narcissist is someone you have to closely work with, or if they’re your family member. The right amount of reassurance can calm them down and get the tasks on hand completed.

4. Ask them what would others think instead of what’d others feel.[6]

Narcissists don’t feel guilty, but they care about how others think of them deep in their heart.

Clinical psychologist Al Bernstein explains:

There are just things, like other people’s feelings, that narcissists rarely consider. If you have their ear, don’t tell them how people might react; instead, ask probing questions. Narcissists are much more likely to act on ideas that they think they thought up themselves.

If you have to work with a narcissist closely, focus on the facts and ideas, not the emotions.

5. Let go of the need of getting a narcissist’s approval.

You’re not who a narcissist says you are. Don’t let their blame game undermine your self-esteem, and don’t argue with them just to defend what you believe is right.

There is no point arguing with a narcissist just to prove them wrong because they will not give in proving themselves right. It’s more likely that you’ll get more upset when they disagree with you in an unpleasant way.

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Know your own worth and detach from a narcissist’s opinion on you.

6. If a narcissist is hurting you, stay away from them.

Remember, a healthy relationship is two-sided. It’s about mutual respect and it’s based on give and take. But any kind of relationship with a narcissist is likely to be the contrary, it’s about making the narcissist happy and constantly supporting them. A relationship like this will only weigh you down and is unhealthy for your growth.

7. Set a boundary and always keep it.

If you’re setting a boundary, you have to be willing to keep it. When a narcissist sees that you’re trying to take back control of your life, they will try to test your limits, it’s just their instinct to do it.

Be prepared that your boundary will be challenged. Make your boundary clear, have all the actions needed to be taken in your mind.

For example, if you have decided to stop communicating with them, they will likely to show up in front of you just to talk to you. Be brave enough to keep your boundary, don’t back down and get close to them again; or else they will not take your boundary seriously any more.

8. Learn when to walk away.

When a narcissist starts to make you feel uncomfortable and doubt about yourself, it’s time to pick yourself up and give yourself enough respect to just walk away from them.

If you’re in love with a narcissist, you should seriously think about ending the relationship and move on for a better life. If the narcissist is your family member, you don’t have to be cruel to them, but it’s better to keep distance from them.

Reference

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