What It Takes to Be a Self-Actualizer

Maslow studied achievers from Lincoln to Einstein, and came up with a few characteristics that self-actualized people embody.

Characteristics of self-actualizers:

  1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
  2. Accept themselves and others for what they are;
  3. Spontaneous in thought and action;
  4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);
  5. Unusual sense of humor;
  6. Able to look at life objectively;
  7. Highly creative;
  8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
  9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
  10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
  11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
  12. Peak experiences;
  13. Need for privacy;
  14. Democratic attitudes;
  15. Strong moral/ethical standards.

Behavior leading to self-actualization:

  1. Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
  2. Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
  3. Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
  4. Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;
  5. Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
  6. Taking responsibility and working hard;
  7. Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share certain characteristics.  However, self-actualization is a matter of degree, “There are no perfect human beings” (Maslow).

It is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them. Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection. Self-actualization merely involves achieving one’s potential. Thus, someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize. Less than two percent of the population achieve self-actualization.