NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, December 3, 2022

What is Self Actualization and What Qualities Do Self Actualizers Possess?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced the concept of the Hierarchy of Needs in the 1940s.  The Hierarchy of Needs was symbolized by a triangle of human needs.  

According to Maslow, from bottom to top those human needs consist of: 
  • Physiological Needs: food, water, sleep
  • Safety: home, security
  • Love and Belonging: deeper, meaningful relationships
  • Esteem: honor and recognition 
  • Self Actualization: achieving your highest psychological potential

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

A Shift in Psychology
Maslow wanted to get away from focusing on abnormal psychology and development in order to focus on healthy human development, so his theory represented a shift in psychology.  He is considered to be part of Humanistic Psychology.

Maslow believed that people couldn't reach their highest potential, self actualization, until their other basic needs were met.  Later on, this concept that all the basic needs had to be fulfilled first was criticized as being too rigid.  

What is Self Actualization?
Self actualization is at the top of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.  

When people have achieved self actualization, according to Maslow, they have reached their highest level of psychological development.

Many experts now believe that self actualization is more about how open people are to personal growth and health rather than whether they have achieved success or happiness.

What Qualities Do Self Actualizers Possess?
According to Maslow, people who achieve self actualization have the following qualities:
  • Self Awareness
  • An Acceptance of Others
  • A Focus on Personal Growth
  • A Sense of Purpose
  • A Creative Spirit
  • Less Concern for Others' Opinions
  • A Desire to Fulfill Their Potential
  • An Ability to Judge People and Situations Correctly 
  • An Ability to Exist Autonomously
  • An Ability to Think Independently
  • A Comfort With Solitude
  • Deep Loving Bonds With Close Intimate Friends
  • Compassion
  • Peak Experiences (a heightened sense of wonder, awe and transcendence)
People who achieve self actualization don't necessarily stay at that stage.  They might go up and down the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid over the span of their lifetime.

Maslow believed that relatively few people became self actualizers, but there is still value in Maslow's theory, especially with regard to peak experiences.

My Next Article: Peak Experiences
I believe one of Maslow's most significant contributions to psychology was his concept of peak experiences, which I'll discuss in my next article: 

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.