Self-Actualizing Needs: Making it to the Top

Self-Actualizing Needs – Personal Growth 

Spouses that survive the clawing and biting of meeting their lower level needs and expectations can suddenly relax. The primal desires become satiated and higher level intellectualism begins to take root. Small things remain small things. The anxiety dissipates and no longer causes an imbalance to the individual’s perception of reality. Bigger things have the opportunity to come to the forefront of the mind. Ideas, curiosity and appreciation are at center stage and life is about to get really good.

According to research, there are 12 main characteristics identified in those Maslow observed as actualizers (Sze 2015).

Let’s review the first 11:

  1. Self-actualized people embrace the unknown and the ambiguous.
  2. They accept themselves, together with all their flaws.
  3. They prioritize and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
  4. While they are inherently unconventional, they do not seek to shock or disturb
  5. They are motivated by growth, not by the satisfaction of needs.
  6. Self-actualized people have purpose.
  7. They are not troubled by the small things.
  8. Self-actualized people are grateful.
  9. They share deep relationships with a few, but also feel identification and affection towards the entire human race.
  10. Self-actualized people are humble.
  11. Self-actualized people resist enculturation.

Quite the detailed list. Almost appears overwhelming and like the person trying to reach actualization must lead a near perfect life. It is also plain to see how those consumed with reaching lower level needs cannot expend the energy, necessarily, to work towards the level of personal growth this list conveys.

While it is plausible that some may simply skip over particular levels and reach the top quicker, it is good to remember that each level of need must be perceived as met by the individual. Let’s take the middle level, Love/Belonging, as an example. For some, that could mean finding one good friend to have coffee with once a month. Others might feel their spouse (and/or kids) completely meet their needs, while others will not feel the need of love and belonging is met until they are President of a local club and have several friends to meet with on a regular basis.

Each path to the top is different, tailored to the personality of each individual. Comparison and competition only harms the spouse and can hold them back from reaching the level of personal growth they wish to seek.  In other words, they must be remain subjective, and grateful, to the process and journey.


The continuation of the path at the top is no less complicated than any other level. It is more fulfilling for each individual, but it does not come without it’s own concerns. As mentioned above, someone looking at the list of characteristics may automatically be discouraged thinking they cannot and will not be that ‘perfect.’ But, is the continuing pursuit of happiness / personal growth really a pursuit of perfection? 

Good question.

An important component of the actualized individual is the ability to experience what Maslow coined as ‘peak’ experiences. Simply defined, they are moments when the individual has reached a moment of highest happiness and fulfillment. Like feeling they are ‘on top of the mountain.’

Unfortunately, these peak experiences tend to be rare and difficult to describe. However, these moments of high elation show their importance to the process through it’s ability to motivate the individual to continue growth by defining the pursuit of happiness for that individual. The greatest ‘Aha!’ moments of their life dig deep below the surface to reveal the potential they hold and the desire to become their best selves begins to control their actions. Lower level needs become irrelevant, and remain so, until catastrophe strikes.

So, the answer to the question – is the pursuit of happiness really a pursuit of perfection? The answer is NO. Actualizers are not trying to reach perfection, they are attaining to reach fulfillment. To see how much potential they have. To test and risk and stretch their minds, talents and skills. They don’t want to be perfect. They want to be happy.

Which brings us to characteristic #12 –

12. Despite all this, self-actualized people are not perfect. (Sze 2015)

Simply knowing that actualization is not the same as perfection can help spouses relax and enjoy the journey. Remember, actualizers accept their flaws (#2), they don’t try to eradicate them. Through acceptance, there is humility (#10). With humility, there is growth (#5) and gratitude (#8).

All forces work together, continually and potentially to infinity.

To be continued…UP NEXT: Self-Actualization Realization

New to the journey? Start reading here.



Sze, D. (2015). Maslow: The 12 Characteristics of a Self-Actualized Person. Retrieved from


New to the series? Start the journey here.


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