8 ways to achieve self-actualization
The term "self-actualization" is often bandied about on the web, but how does one go about becoming self-actualized really?
- Often, the term "self-actualization" is relegated to the realm of the theoretical.
- However, Abraham Maslow, who incorporated the term in his famous hierarchy of needs, believed that there are eight behaviors that can lead to self-actualization.
- He stressed that everybody's version of self-actualization is different, but these eight behaviors can encourage you to find the way to yours.
The word "self-actualization" gets tossed around pop psychology and wellness blogs quite a bit, but what does it actually mean to become self-actualized? How does one go about it?
Self-actualization is the pinnacle of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a model of human motivation developed in the mid-twentieth century. Psychology at this point in time was mostly focused on how to fix sick people, but Maslow was more interested in explaining what motivates healthy people and what makes people happy on a fundamental level.
From this, he formulated the hierarchy of needs. It's typically depicted as a pyramid (though Maslow didn't necessarily present it as such) showing more basic needs on the bottom and more sophisticated needs on the top. As one need is fulfilled, people begin to feel the next need on the pyramid more keenly, and so on. As a human being climbs this pyramid, they first feel the need for food most severely, then the need for safety, then love, then self-esteem, and finally, self-actualization.
Maslow also thought these needs could be broadly divided into two groups: deficiency needs and growth needs. If you have no food, you will feel a need of deficiency. On the other hand, if you feel a bit crummy about being less talented than your peers at your job, you will feel a desire to grow and become more competent (which serves as an example of a self-esteem need).
But at the very top of this pyramid is self-actualization, the need to realize your potential and become everything you are capable of being. As Maslow put it, "What a man can be, he must be." There's no one-size-fits-all formula for this — what one individual can become is going to be different than what another can become. Maslow did, however, believe that certain behaviors could help point people toward a version of self-actualization that works for them. In his book, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Maslow described eight behaviors he argued would lead to self-actualization.
1. Be present.
Maslow wrote that one of the characteristics of self-actualizing individuals was their un-self-conscious ability to be wholly absorbed in the present. "Self-actualization," he wrote, "means experiencing fully, vividly, selflessly, with full concentration and total absorption. It means experiencing without the self-consciousness of the adolescent. At this moment of experiencing, the person is wholly and fully human. This is a self-actualizing moment. This is a moment where the self is actualizing itself."
2. Be aware of your choices.
Throughout our days, we are consistently presented with choices. Maslow argued that for many of these choices, we could classify each option as being either progressive or regressive. Rather than instinctively choosing the safe, fear-motivated option, we need to be aware of our choices and whether one option encourages growth. "Self-actualization is an on-going process," cautions Maslow. "It means making each of the single choices about whether to lie or be honest, whether to steal or not steal at a particular point, and it means to make each of these choices as a growth choice."
3. Get to know yourself.
"To talk of self-actualization," wrote Maslow, "implies there is a self to be actualized. A human being is not a tabula rasa, a lump of clay or Plasticine. He is something that is already there." Rather than consult society, your peers, or the establishment about how you should feel and think about something, get to know your internal self. Far more often than we realize, we offload our opinions to authority, but it's in those opinions that we can identify our true selves.
4. Most of the time, be honest.
Not all of the time — sometimes we need to be diplomatic, or polite. Maslow argued that being truly honest, especially with oneself, is a method of taking responsibility. "In psychotherapy, one can see it, can feel it, can know the moment of responsibility. Then there is a clear knowing of what it feels like. This is one of the great steps. Each time one takes responsibility, this is an actualizing of the self."
5. Don't worry about conformity.
Part of learning more about yourself means that you can more often rely on yourself to make judgements. Various authorities act as arbiters of taste, but when you understand yourself better, you'll also understand what works for you and what does not. In particular, Maslow wanted to highlight how this could make you unpopular. However, acknowledging that relying on yourself may not make you popular with everybody and being okay with that was something he believed was indispensable for self-actualization.
6. Self-actualize continuously.
"Self-actualization is not only an end state," wrote Maslow, "but also the process of actualizing one's potentialities at any time, in any amount." Self-actualization is a process, and it's a difficult one. If you are "meant" to be a fantastic musician or an inspiring leader, you won't be satisfied with being just a decent musician or a decent leader. Self-actualized individuals are constantly working to be the best they can be.
7. Recognize peak experiences.
Maslow describes peak experiences as "transient moments of self-actualization," brief moments of beauty and wonder. Everybody experiences them to some degree, but they can't be actively sought out. Instead, they must be recognized when they do happen as they can point you in the right direction for your self-actualization.
8. Be prepared to deal with psychopathology.
Part of becoming a better person means identifying and dealing with some of the least pleasant parts of yourself. You're going to run into some defenses that you'll need to take down. "This is painful," wrote Maslow, "because defenses are erected against something which is unpleasant. But giving up the defenses is worthwhile. If the psychoanalytic literature has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that repression is not a good way of solving problems."
While Maslow believed that these behaviors could help you become self-actualized, it's also important to remember that while this is an innate desire that human beings possess, it's not a priority for many. Driving yourself crazy in the pursuit of "perfection" (which is not synonymous with self-actualization, it should be emphasized) won't do you any good; taking a frank account of your identity, your needs, and your circumstances may reveal that you're just not ready to undertake any kind of extreme personal quest. In either case, implementing these behaviors and perspectives in your life isn't likely to hurt your development.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.