As we reside in an era wherein body-mind integration, heightened awareness, and self-understanding are being put in the spotlight due to its increasing demand and significance, the necessity of magnifying humanistic psychology becomes more prevalent as it sheds light to the fundamentals of these concepts. Thus, one of its most prominent branches is the intriguing concept of self-actualization, which refers to the process wherein an individual is able to reach his utmost potential. Although typically associated with Abraham Maslow, self-actualization was first coined by Kurt Goldstein. Goldstein defined self- actualization as a holistic individuation, and the realization that one's self and environment are two parts of a bigger whole that work as a fundamental driving factor of human action (Whitehead, 2017).
Maslow popularized Goldstein's thesis by incorporating it into his theory of the human hierarchy of needs. “What a man can be, he must be,” Maslow wrote in his fundamental study on human motivation, where he first established that the drive to self-actualize will only emerge as a motivator once the basic set of prerequisites of the pyramid have been sufficed. Moreover, self-actualization has also been described as the psychological process aimed at maximizing the use of a person’s abilities and resources. (Couture et al., 2007)
Therefore, the pursuit of being self-actualized occurs when the gap is bridged between who we are and who we are capable of being, when doubts and negativities have been transcended for us to develop into our best versions. Maslow's studies on emotionally healthy individuals laid the groundwork for his personality theory. As a result, it was discovered that self-actualizers account for less than 1% of the population. Despite the rarity, he determined that they share key traits which explicitly distinguishes what it means to be self-actualized. Initially, these certain groups of people have an efficient perception of reality, since they perceive their world, including other people, clearly and objectively, unbiased by prejudgments or preconceptions. (Feist, 1995)
Thus, self-actualizers are resistant to enculturation, indicating that they are autonomous, independent, and self-sufficient. The tendency of entrapment towards societal standards and cultural pressures cannot incarcerate them, because they stand firm on their own principles and are ready to resist the norms that are not aligned with their nature. Moreover, Self-actualizers are governed by a sense of mission that ignites their purpose and commitment in life, thus facilitating a productive channeling of their energy. Overall, to be self-actualized requires a conscious individual to interweave all the cognitive needs, meta-needs, and the basic necessities of survival in order to truly attain the full development of one's capabilities and potential.
Prior to attaining the state of self-actualization, certain conditions must be met. One must be liberated from societal and self-imposed constraints and avoid being swayed by lower-order needs. The confidence in self-image, and adaptability in interpersonal relationships, are also vital, as well as the realization of one's strengths, weaknesses, virtues and vices. (Roberts, 1995) Hence, internalizing both the conditions and the implications will pave the path in honing a self-actualized individual.
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