Self-actualization is one of the most important human needs which help me to understand myself and find my ‘unique place in society. Self-actualization is defined as: “the process of growth beyond meeting deprivation needs in which a person begins to fully realize his or her unique potential” (Knapp and Vangelisti 2004, p. 56). Self-actualization is achieved only after a person has received sufficient security, love, and acceptance from others.
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It further expects that an individual will joyfully offer the distinctive contributions that only she or he can make in return. Maslow points out that there is a level beyond these that can give us more life, greater fulfillment, more humanness (Knapp and Vangelisti 2004). He calls this level self-actualization. In describing self-actualization he uses the following words: “self -fulfillment, emotional maturity, individuation, productiveness, authenticity, full humanness” (Knapp and Vangelisti 2004, p. 57).
Self-actualization is very important for me because it helps me to understand ‘who I am and my role in life. Maslow believes that self-actualization is basically a process through which a person develops his or her own inner nature. In sharp contrast to both traditional Christian thought, which (on the whole) tends to see our inner nature as sinful, and modern psychoanalytic theory, which tends to see it as essentially amoral and instinctual, Maslow sees the inner core of the person as essentially good.
It is a positive potential that must be developed if we are to live creative, vital lives. Part of the process of self-actualization depends on our ability to transcend —to stand over and against—our society, our peers, our friends and loved ones, and indeed ourselves and our own personal beliefs and values. This sounds logically impossible at first. It is something that most of us have experienced (Wood 2003). Self-actualization describes the growth of human beings from the point of view of an individual seeking to achieve greater authenticity.
I suppose that this need is very important for me right now because my life has changed and I find new friends and new interests. They influence my perception of the world and people around me, my personal values, and life expectations. The idea that we can “change our mind” about something or someone who is particularly important to us points to this capacity in a simple way. The experience of being caught up in the beauty of the sunset does so in yet another way (Wood 2003).
When we become aware of our experiences of living we readily recognize that we are not what others think we are, that we are not even what we think we are. Our experience of ourselves and our world is richer, fuller, more expansive than any beliefs or expectations we may have about either. If it were not so, we could not change our minds or play with a raindrop or love another unique human being. In self-actualization, we increase our capacity to do these things in the midst of all the problems that come to our attention and call for our concern. Abraham Maslow describes self-actualization as the highest of our basic human needs (Knapp &Vangelisti 2004).
It can be achieved only after the lower (or deprivation) needs have been met reasonably well. Men and women must be able to find safety and security, feel belonging, love, and acceptance, and achieve a reasonable degree of self-esteem before they can give themselves to the process of self-actualization. It is not possible to self-actualize without the love and concern of others and the expectation that one will give at least as much as one receives (Wood 2003).
Self-actualization is not a matter of survival but a matter of the creative fulfillment of the person and as such is a distinctively human experience. It is possible to assume that life would be a lot simpler if people could grow to greater self-actualization—if they could realize more and more of what they are capable of becoming—and at the same time find that their partnership is deepening and growing as a result.
Knapp, M.L. Vangelisti, A. (2004). Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships. Allyn & Bacon; 5 edn.
Wood, J.T. (2003). Interpersonal Communications. Wadsworth Publishing.