Self-Actualization: Definition & Explanation Video

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  • 0:01 Definition of…
  • 0:29 Maslow's Hierachy of Needs
  • 2:00 Characteristics of a…
  • 3:14 Self-Actualized Person…
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Learn about self-actualization, which is the highest level on Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and understand how self-actualization applies to your life and experiences. Then, test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Self-Actualization

Are you an honest person? Are you highly creative? Do you have strong moral/ethical standards? If so, you may be on your way towards achieving self-actualization. Self-actualization refers to the need for personal growth and development that exists throughout your life. If you are self-actualized, you work hard to grow and become who you want to be in life and reach your full potential.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

To understand self-actualization, it is important to be aware of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which depicts the five basic needs individuals have during various stages of their lives. Abraham Maslow (the creator of Maslow's hierarchy of needs) believed human motivation is based on an individual's ability to seek fulfillment and change through personal growth. Maslow asserted that individuals strive for higher needs when their lower-level needs have been fulfilled or satisfied. Let's look at the structure of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Hierarchy of Needs

In order to move up in each level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, you may be able to reach the highest level known as self-actualization. Progress through the hierarchy of needs is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs or life experiences including divorce and loss of job, which may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy. For example, if you are hungry, you may be too focused on obtaining food (a physiological need) to seek safety or love in your life. On the other hand, when your basic needs of hunger or safety are met you can focus on finding love, your achievements and feeling accomplished in your life, which then leads to the highest level of fulfillment, self-actualization, which means you have reached your full potential in your life.

Characteristics of a Self-Actualized Person

A self-actualized person is someone who feels fulfilled and has accomplished all the things they are capable of accomplishing in their life through personal growth and peak experiences, which are moments of deep meaning or emotion. Here are a few characteristics of a self-actualized person:

  1. Problem-centered (not self-centered)
  2. Highly creative
  3. Takes responsibility and works hard
  4. Strong moral/ethical standards
  5. Honest and avoids pretense

This list of characteristics may or may not exist for every self-actualized person. You can be self-actualized without being problem-centered if you have a number of other positive characteristics relating to your desires in life. The ability to reach self-actualization is based on your success in reevaluating what you need to survive in order to reach the accomplishment and fulfillment you seek in life. As human beings, we have basic psychological needs for personal growth and development throughout our lives. By accomplishing self-actualization, you are able to find meaning and purpose in your life, and you are able to say you truly 'lived.'

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