The other day, I had the pleasure of accidentally overhearing a conversation.
Two women, perhaps in their early to mid-thirties, were in my local Starbucks at the table next to me. Both were unhappy in some way – one had an issue with her partner, and the other hadn’t been sleeping well.
The first woman said she “needed something more” in her life. The second kept giving her suggestions – was she bored at work? Maybe she needed a new hobby, or a new haircut? But, the first woman just couldn’t put her finger on what it was that she was “missing.”
Not wanting to butt in, I knew exactly what the “thing” she was missing was:
What is Self Actualization?
Yes – self actualization.
It sounds kind of strange, saying those two words together. Because how can you “self actualize?” If you aren’t actually yourself, then who are you?
Well yes, you are still who you are – but self actualization pushes you to become a better version of yourself. To put it simply, it’s a way for you to fulfill your needs.
And not just those needs to sleep, eat, rave, repeat – it means every need, from the most basic to the most high-level. It’s working out what your dream is, and striving to make it happen. It’s what the woman in Starbucks just couldn’t say out loud.
And it’s not easy. Merely saying “I want to do the things which make me happy” is one thing, but:
- Knowing what it is that makes you happy, and
- Knowing how to do that thing which makes you happy
…are altogether more difficult to work out. After all, it’s way easier to accept a job offered to you, even if you don’t really want it and could have gotten a better job if you’d just worked slightly harder or gone to a few more interviews. It’s the difference between coming home from work and starting that online business you’ve been dreaming about, or choosing to slump in front of the TV instead.
And that is self actualization in a nutshell.
A Quick Intro to Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Needs
No overview of self actualization would be complete without a introduction to Abraham Maslow.
You might have even heard his name before – his theory was so influential, it’s used as a theoretical basis in everything from teaching courses to business and leadership forums.
His theory of “the pyramid of needs” states that every human has different stages of needs, which they need to fulfill in order to live. The better their needs are met, the better their quality of life.
The above pyramid explains how your needs are separated into 5 different stages:
- Physiological – the basic needs we have, in order to stay alive
- Safety – the needs we have to feel safe – having a job, being healthy, having the support of family, etc.
- Love and belonging – feeling loved, needed and satisfied
- Esteem – feeling good about ourselves
- Self actualization – fulfilling our creative and higher needs
In other words, you can only achieve self actualization once all of your other, more basic needs have been met, as only then are you ready to maximize your talents.
Self Actualization Needs
The Starbucks woman, even though she could tell something was missing from her life was still in a fantastic position, from a needs-point of view. Many of us never even make it to the self actualization stage of the pyramid, as we’re too bogged down by low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or otherwise.
If you look again at the pyramid, can you think of a stage which you’ve found hard to reach?
Sufferers of depression, for example, at their worst can often find themselves stuck in the “Needs” level of the pyramid – they might feel as if they are doing the bare minimum to keep alive – eat, breathe, go to the bathroom etc.
As for the “Safety” stage, well, who among us hasn’t felt uncertain or insecure in their body, at their school or in their job – doesn’t it sound a lot like anxiety?
The point is, it’s actually fairly easy to achieve self actualization – but only once you have strengthened yourself along the way, rising through the pyramid by satisfying all of your other needs, along with any issues they bring along for the ride.
Your Self Actualization Journey
Next time you happen to be in Starbucks listening to a conversation similar to the one I shared above, please feel free to share this post.
Self actualization is all about self awareness, and working on yourself and your needs to develop into the best version of yourself.
Life is too short to waste at the bottom of the pyramid. It’s time you took a deep, long look at what you’re “missing” – and set a plan in action of how to fix it.
Good luck, and all the best,
Check out more from Fliss over at Sweet Clean Living, a great site focused on personal development from a mind-body perspective.