Self-Actualization + Our Spiritual Journey

"What a man can be, he must be" -Maslow

Hey Soul Fam!

Last week during Thankful Thursday we discussed Self-Actualization and how this concept and theory coincides with our spiritual journey. In my opinion, this journey is intertwined with one another, and you cannot achieve one without fulfilling the other. That is why I believe it is so important to understand the psychological processes one will endure on their spiritual journey. It is important to understand these concepts and learn what it all means. It is important to understand how it will all affect the mind and psyche as we grow and evolve. I truly believe that we can’t grow and reach our highest selves without self-actualizing in the process.

Here we’ll be exploring some of these concepts and the man who made it famous- Abraham Maslow. His approach was different at the time, and he became one of the founders of the Humanistic approach to psychology. One of the most important aspects of his theory was that in order to reach the most highly developed state of consciousness and realize your greatest potential, one would have to discover their true purpose in life and pursue it. This ultimate state of being is what we call self-actualization. Self-actualization was a theory that Maslow made famous with his Hierarchy of Needs, but it was a concept that was originally coined by Kurt Goldstein in 1939.

How does one self-actualize? Well, according to Maslow one would have to go through fulfilling their needs through the Hierarchy of Needs, which is often drawn as a pyramid. This pyramid is a highly structured plan, which is meant to explain the path of human motivation and defines the steps that one would follow as they moved towards self-actualization. This hierarchy positions the most basic needs at the base and each of the other essential requirements in groups on top. It is split into two distinct sections, at the base there are 4 areas that make up the deficiency needs, and they are followed by 4 areas that make up the growth needs.

According to Maslow’s theory, one would have to achieve the first 4 sections before a person is able to reach for greater intellectual satisfaction through the growth needs. The deficiency needs are simple and basic and encompass things such as physiological needs (like food and water), the need for safety (like security and shelter), the need for love and belonginess (like our need to be close and accepted by others), and our need for self-esteem (like our need to achieve and be recognized). Then there are the growth needs that encompass the need for cognitive growth (like the need to know and understand), the need for aesthetic (like a desire for order and beauty), then the last two sections which define the purpose of life and lead to intense spiritual and psychological fulfilment. Self-actualization is the desire for self-fulfillment and self-transcendence is the need to move beyond the self to connect with something higher, or to help others realize their potential.

Maslow proposed that each one of us has an individual purpose to which we have been uniquely suited to fulfill. He believed that part of the path to fulfillment is to identify and then pursue that purpose. If someone isn’t doing what they are best suited to do in life, it will not matter if all of their other needs are met or fulfilled, the person will remain perpetually restless and unsatisfied. It is our job to discover our potential and then seek out experiences that will allow us to fulfill it.

These are some of his key works you can look into if you wanted to research deeply into the psychology behind this: Maslow’s “A Theory of Human Motivation” (1943), “Motivation and Personality” (1954), and “Towards a Psychology of Being” (1962)

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, 1970a, p. 176).

This just means that it is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people display these characteristics. Maslow did not equate self-actualization with a sense of perfection or attempting to be perfect at all. Self-actualization merely involves achieving one's potential, and their potential alone. Which means that someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize. The pyramid is a spectrum of sorts and not everyone will even follow the order. Other things to consider is also the importance an individual places in one section over the other. So, that means that for some love may be more important to fulfill than their safety, or that for someone else their cognitive needs supersede their need for love.

According to psychologist, less than two percent of the population achieves self-actualization. Personally, I believe this happens because when one starts to ascend the pyramid, a lot of people get stuck on their shadow work. Shadow work can persist when it comes to a lot of the deficiency needs and fulfilling and balancing that energy can become a little too much for most people. This leads them to never resolving these issues within themselves, thus stagnating their ascension of their needs and thus self-actualization.

To read more about this, check out this article:

To learn more about the hierarchy of needs and what they entail, check out these articles:              

This next article also touches upon some interesting concepts concerning the hierarchy of needs and cognitive dissonance. As you already know we have discussed cognitive dissonance before, which means the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. This just means that what is going on in your mind, does not match actual (or real) reality. Cognitive dissonance is a killer of growth and allows one to become complacent and stagnant in their evolution.

“Many people who have met all their deficiency needs remain unable to self-actualize, instead of inventing more deficiency needs for themselves, because to contemplate the meaning of life would lead them to entertain the possibility of its meaninglessness and the prospect of their own death and annihilation. A person who begins to contemplate her bigger picture may come to fear that life is meaningless and death inevitable, but at the same time cling on to the cherished belief that her life is eternal or important or at least significant. This gives rise to an inner conflict, and the inner conflict to existential anxiety. Existential anxiety is so disturbing that most people avoid it at all costs, constructing a false reality out of goals, aspirations, habits, customs, values, culture, and religion in a bid to deceive themselves that their lives are special and meaningful, and that death is distant or delusory. Unfortunately, such self-deception comes at a heavy price. According to the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, people who refuse to face up to ‘non-being’ are acting in ‘bad faith’ and living out a life that is inauthentic, that is contrived, constrained, and unfulfilling. Facing up to non-being can bring insecurity, loneliness, responsibility, and consequently anxiety, but it can also bring a sense of calm, freedom, and even nobility. Far from being pathological, existential anxiety is a necessary transitional phase, a sign of health, strength, and courage, and a harbinger of bigger and better things to come.”

To read this article in full, you can go here:

To check out some articles about self-actualization and what the means, you can go here:

Self-Actualization Assessment

Self-actualization was a concept I first came across when I took Personality Theory, which psychologically dissects how one’s personality is formed. In my text, there is a way to assess your personality and the scale is called “Index of Self-Actualization”. To assess your own personality, look at this scale and then calculate your score.

Assessment Instructions: Indicate the extent to which each of the following statements applies to you, using this 4 point scale: 1= Disagree, 2= Disagree Somewhat, 3= Agree Somewhat, 4= Agree.

  1. I do not feel ashamed of any of my emotions.
  2. I feel I must do what others expect of me.
  3. I believe that people are essentially good and can be trusted.
  4. I feel free to be angry at those I love.
  5. It is always necessary that others approve of what I do.
  6. I don’t accept my own weaknesses.
  7. I can like people without having to approve of them
  8. I fear failure.
  9. I avoid attempts to analyze and simplify complex domains.
  10. It is better to be yourself than to be popular.
  11. I have no mission in life to which I feel especially dedicated.
  12. I can express my feelings even when they may result in undesirable consequences.
  13. I do not feel responsible to help anyone.
  14. I am bothered by fears of being inadequate.
  15. I am loved because I give love.

To calculate your score, first, reverse the values for items 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, and 14 (1=4, 2=3, 3=2, and 4=1). Then add the values for all 15 items. The higher the score, the more self-actualized you are said to be at this point in your life. You can compare your scores with the norms for college students reported by these test developers.

Men: Standard Score 45.02, with a mean deviation of 4.95

Women: Standard Score 46.07, with a mean deviation of 4.79

For those of you who don’t know psychology jargon, this just means that on average the standard score for men or women were 45 and 46. The mean deviation accounts for +4 or -4 from the standard score, which means that for men the score range is 41-49, and for women it its 42-50. Take the assessment and see where you fall on the scale.

I hope these tips help you out Soul Fam, until next week! Sending mucho luz + amor always.


Luna Estrellas

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