Self-Actualization – The 16 Characteristics

characteristics self-actualizer

Self-actualization is a concept first brought to light by American psychologist Abraham Maslow, represented clearly in his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, which is still widely recognized and utilized throughout the human psychological community today. Maslow describes the most joyous and meaningful life as one directed towards self-actualization – fulfillment of the ultimate human need. Self-actualization occurs when an individual reaches his or her full potential, and can only be accomplished when all other, baser needs have been adequately and thoroughly satisfied. In his book Motivation and Personality, Maslow describes the 16 main characteristics of every self-actualized individual. In the last blog post, we discussed to correlation between self-actualization and addiction recovery. Now, we will examine these 16 characteristics – so that you can decide for yourself whether or not you are moving closer towards a fulfilled life of self-actualization!

16 Characteristics of Self-Actualized Individuals

  1. They practice thorough self-acceptance.

The self-actualizing individual sees reality as it is, and accepts responsibility for it. He perceives himself just as he is, not as he wishes he could be or feels that he should be. He lacks defensiveness and artificiality.

  1. They embrace the unknown and ambiguous.

The self-actualizer does not cling to the familiar and the comfortable. He is not afraid of exploring unknown territory – in fact, he is often attracted to newness.

  1. They enjoy the journey.

The self-actualizing individual experiences a continued outlook of freshness and appreciation. He derives joy from the simple and the natural. He enjoys the journey and is not so much focused on the destination, but rather on experiencing each moment as it passes.

  1. The are unconventional, but do not seek to shock.

The self-actualizer does not actively avoid convention, because he believes that going with the flow will cause less disturbance than acting on rebellious urges. Still, he does things in his own way – he believes in who and what he is, and is capable of making decisions on his own.

  1. They have a sense of purpose.

The self-actualizing individual feels as if he has some distinct and personal mission in life – some task to fulfill. Usually, this sense of purpose comes from something outside of themselves. This is not necessarily a task that they would choose for themselves, they just feel some innate sense of attraction and responsibility. These tasks are generally unselfish and concerned with the general good of mankind as a whole.

  1. They are grateful.

The self-actualizing individual does not take his many blessings for granted. In maintaining an outlook of gratitude, he is able to continuously view the world in a positive and appreciative light.

  1. They don’t sweat the small stuff.

The self-actualizer does not make mountains out of mole hills. He sees mole hills as mole hills, and understands that the vast majority of issues will be naturally resolved with time and a small amount of effort. He sees the bigger picture.

  1. They are motivated by growth rather than the satisfaction of needs.

The self-actualizing individual is focused on personal growth. His base needs have been satiated, freeing him up to focus on fulfilling his personal purpose. The lower needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are: physiological needs (food, water, air), safety and protection, social acceptance, and self-acceptance.

  1. They are humble.

“They are all quite well aware of how little they know in comparison with what could be known and what is known by others. Because of this, it is possible for them without pose to be honestly respectful and even humble before people who can teach them something.”

  1. They have deep and meaningful interpersonal relationships.

The self-actualizer is capable of forming very deep and profound interpersonal relationships – more so than other adults. He is capable of great love, and more powerful identification than most would even deem possible. He tends to have fewer friends, but the relationships with the friends that he does have are very, very meaningful.

  1. They identify with the entire human race.

The self-actualizing individual is aware of and sensitive to others. He feels a strong sense of interconnectedness with mankind as a whole, and he is kind to everyone regardless of race, social class, education, or political beliefs.

  1. They are not readily molded by cultural expectations.

The self-actualizer does not allow himself to be passively molded. He makes up his own mind – he neither plays the role of the rebel or of the docile sheep. He transcends any one particular culture, and maintains an unwavering sense of individuality.

  1. They are not hung up on being as others think they should be.

The self-actualizer believes in autonomy, independence, and self-acceptance. He remains true to himself unconditionally.

  1. They joke often – but not at the expense of others.

Humor is very important to the self-actualizing individual, but he never jokes at the expense of others, or in a self-defeating and condescending way. He likes to laugh and have a good time. His sense of humor is philosophical and never hostile. He is generally viewed as good-natured, though he can also be very serious.

  1. They are highly creative.

The self-actualizing individual is capable of being highly creative. He may express his creativity in a variety of different ways, such as writing, painting, speaking, cooking, or musical inclination. His creativity may be nonconventional, but it is undeniable.

  1. They are aware of their imperfections.

The self-actualizer understands that he is just as human as the next person – incapable of achieving perfection, seeing as there will always be something new to learn, and a new way in which to grow.

Undeniably, self-actualization is a great goal to work towards – and one that can only be achieved in recovery. To learn more about Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, see our related blog post here.