Maslow’s characteristics of self-actualizers
A self-actualizer is a person who is living creatively and fully using his or her potentials. What a man can do, he must do. It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. While the theory is generally portrayed as a fairly rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression. For example, he notes that for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for love. For others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs. In his studies, Maslow found that self-actualizers share similarities. Whether famous or unknown, educated or not, rich or poor, self-actualizers tend to fit the following profile.
Maslow’s self-actualizing characteristics
Efficient perceptions of reality. Self-actualizers are able to judge situations correctly and honestly. They are very sensitive to the fake and dishonest, and are free to see reality ‘as it is’.
Comfortable acceptance of self, others and nature. Self-actualizers accept their own human nature with all its flaws. The shortcomings of others and the contradictions of the human condition are accepted with humor and tolerance.
Reliant on own experiences and judgement. Independent, not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views.
Spontaneous and natural. True to oneself, rather than being how others want.
Task centering. Most of Maslow’s subjects had a mission to fulfill in life or some task or problem ‘beyond’ themselves (instead of outside of themselves) to pursue. Humanitarians such as Albert Schweitzer are considered to have possessed this quality.
Autonomy. Self-actualizers are free from reliance on external authorities or other people. They tend to be resourceful and independent.
Continued freshness of appreciation. The self-actualizer seems to constantly renew appreciation of life’s basic goods. A sunset or a flower will be experienced as intensely time after time as it was at first. There is an “innocence of vision”, like that of an artist or child.
Profound interpersonal relationships. The interpersonal relationships of self-actualizers are marked by deep loving bonds.
Comfort with solitude. Despite their satisfying relationships with others, self-actualizing people value solitude and are comfortable being alone.
Non-hostile sense of humor. This refers to the ability to laugh at oneself.
Peak experiences. All of Maslow’s subjects reported the frequent occurrence of peak experiences (temporary moments of self-actualization). These occasions were marked by feelings of ecstasy, harmony, and deep meaning. Self-actualizers reported feeling at one with the universe, stronger and calmer than ever before, filled with light, beauty, goodness, and so forth.
Socially compassionate. Possessing humanity.
Few friends. Few close intimate friends rather than many superficial relationships.
In summary, self-actualizers feel finally themselves, safe, not anxious, accepted, loved, loving, and alive, certainly living a fulfilling life. Additionally, Schott discussed in connection with transpersonal business studies.
Instead of focusing on what goes wrong with people, Maslow wanted to focus on human potential, and how we fulfill that potential. Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people as those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of. It refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. “The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions.”
The hot system is characterized as being highly emotional, reflexive, and impulsive. This system leads to go response (instant gratification) and therefore undermines efforts in self-control. It is specialized for quick emotional processing/response when confronted with “hot stimulus” (stimulus that will sabotage self-control efforts). The Cool System is characterized as being cognitive, emotionally neutral/flexible, slow, integrated, contemplative, and strategic. It specializes in complex episodic representations. The hot system develops early in life, whereas the cool system develops later as it relies on particular brain structures, notably the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, and particular cognitive capacities that develop later. With age, there is a shift of dominance from the Hot System to the Cool System. However, it is possible to have a balance between both the hot and cool system. The balance is determined by stress, developmental levels, and a person’s self-regulating dynamics. Furthermore, the different systems triggered decide how one reacts to different stimuli presented.
Lapsley and Narvaez in their paper (e.g., A Social-Cognitive Approach to Moral Personality) outline how social cognition explains aspects of moral functioning that other theories alone could not cover. The social cognitive approach to personality has six critical resources of moral personality; cognition, self-processes, affective elements of personality, changing social context, lawful situational variability, and the integration of other literature. Lapsley and Narvaez suggest that our moral values and actions stem from more than our virtues and are more so controlled by a set of schemas, cognititve structures that organize related concepts and integrate past events, that we have created in our minds. They claim that schemas are “fundamental to our very ability to notice dilemmas as we appraise the moral landscape” (p. 197)
The moral self is a differential process wherein some people integrate moral values into their self-concept. This construct specifically refers to motivational processes. Research on the moral self has mostly focused on adolescence as a critical time period for the integration of self and morality, which gives rise to a moral self. In other words, self and morality are traditionally seen as separate constructs that become integrated in adolescence. However, the moral self may be established around 2–3 years-old. In fact, children as young as 5 years-old are able to consistently identify themselves as having certain moral behavioral preferences reflective of the two internally consistent dimensions of the moral self: preferences for prosocial and avoidance of anti-social behaviour.