The humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow devoted his research to the study of maximizing human potential. His approach to psychology was all about helping people live the best lives they possibly could.
In his famous hierarchy of needs, Maslow placed self-actualization at the peak human needs. He identified a number of different characteristics of self-actualized people. Individuals who exhibit these traits are those whom Maslow believed were the most psychologically healthy.
So what exactly makes a person self-actualized? According to Maslow, there are a few important things that you shouldn’t do if you want to achieve maximum psychological health. Here are 17 things that self-actualized people avoid.
1. Self-actualized people don’t fool themselves into believing things that are not true.
Self-actualized people are honest with themselves, and they accept reality. These individuals view the world as it truly is and do not come up with excuses or fantasies to make themselves, others, or the world seem better or different.
After all, you can’t become a better you if you are unwilling to accept who you are in the here and now. You first need to acknowledge your faults before you can begin to work on them.
2. They don’t cling to rigid ideas.
Psychologically healthy people understand that the world is not a static place. They know that not only are they constantly changing, but that the people, societies, and culture around them are in a constant state of flux.
Because of this, they are able to accept change and not stick to rigid routines, ideas, or beliefs. Success is a moving target, so it is important to be able to adapt and be flexible in the face of a changing world.
3. They don’t overshare.
Self-actualized people have a need for privacy and autonomy. They don’t feel the need to let the world know about all of their accomplishments or other events taking place in their lives. They don’t constantly boast on Facebook, post rants and diatribes on Twitter, or show off a highly curated glimpse of their lives on Instagram.
Instead of posting every single detail of their life on social media, they are busy having experiences and living life to the fullest. They are able to keep their own counsel on certain details in our lives and only share important things with those with whom they are close.
4. They don’t obsess about themselves.
This is not to say that self-actualized people are not interested in their own interior lives. Being introspective is only natural, particularly for people striving toward actualization. But they also don’t obsess over every detail about themselves. They have a great deal of interest in other people.
When psychologically healthy people face a problem, they tend to focus on what they can do to solve that problem rather than obsessing over how the problem might affect them. Instead of ruminating and obsessing, they take an action-oriented approach.
5. They don’t reject others.
Self-actualized individuals are able to accept other people for who they are. They don’t obsess over things that bother them about others and instead embrace the differences, quirks, and characteristics that make other people unique.
6. They don’t stereotype others.
Psychologically healthy people are able to look at other people with fresh eyes. They don’t fall back on tired stereotypes that make it difficult or impossible to see other people clearly. This also includes seeing themselves with fresh eyes. They are able to re-evaluate their own ideas and experiences in light of new information. Making new discoveries can lead to a new understanding of the self and others.
7. They aren’t co-dependent.
Self-actualized people have a great deal of independence. They are highly autonomous and have faith in their own ability to handle problems. This is not to say that they don’t have strong relationships with other people, they just don’t derive all of their self-confidence and esteem from these relationships.
8. They don’t have superficial relationships.
Self-actualized people tend to have deep and meaningful relationships with other people. They don’t focus on having many acquaintances. Instead, they have a smaller circle of people with whom they are deeply involved.
In other words, quality matters more than quantity. While they might not have a ton of friends, the ones they do have are loyal and deeply loved.
9. They don’t disrespect others.
Self-actualized people are able to identify with other people. They have a great deal of empathy and understanding for those around them. When they do find themselves frustrated or angry with someone else, they focus on understanding the other person’s perspective rather than getting bitter, argumentative, or aggressive.
10. They don’t use the ends to justify the means.
Self-actualized people are highly committed to achieving their goals, but they also understand that the way you accomplish your goals is also important. They are just not merely focused on the outcome; they also understand the journey has just as much importance as the destination.
11. They aren’t shallow.
One of the key characteristics of self-actualized people is that they are very deep and often spiritual, although not necessarily religious. They are not focused on the superficial and are instead interested in achieving deeper meaning and connection with the world.
12. They aren’t insensitive to others.
Self-actualizing people tend to pay a great deal of attention to others. That is because psychologically healthy people understand that they are part of a society and world, so it is important to consider the feelings and experiences of other people in addition to your own.
13. They don’t trample over others.
Psychologically healthy people are able to listen to others and take what they say into account. They don’t assume that they know everything or that they have all the answers. Instead, they are able to take advice, allow others to offer their input, and learn from more knowledgeable experts.
14. They don’t take themselves too seriously.
Self-actualized people are very interested in understanding themselves, but they also don’t take themselves too seriously. They tend to have a very philosophical sense of humor and can see the funny aspects of their lives, even during difficult times.
15. They don’t think inside the box.
Creativity is another key characteristic of self-actualization. People who are highly actualized are capable of seeing new ways of doing things. They are not overly tied to traditional or conventional ideas. While they respect old ways of doing things, they understand that sometimes thinking outside the box is the best way to develop a good solution.
16. They don’t get caught up with trends.
Actualizing people don’t spend a great deal of time worrying about what other people are doing. While they might be aware of current trends, they aren’t concerned with following them. Instead, they are perfectly happy to blaze their own trail and make their own choices.
17. They don’t think they’re perfect.
Self-actualization is all about growth; it is about becoming all that you can possibly be. This doesn’t mean that becoming self-actualized is an end point and that you simply reach it and then stop. Strong self-actualizers know that it is a continual process. They know they are not perfect but they are always ready to keep trying.
Do you have some of the characteristics of self-actualized people? If this is an area that you would like to work on, remember that it is something that takes time and effort. Becoming a self-actualized person is a process and something that you can continue to work on each and every day.
Start by taking our self-actualization test to see how self-actualized you really are.
Kendra Cherry, MS.Ed., is an author, educator, and founder of Explore Psychology, an online psychology resource. She is a health writer and editor specializing in psychology, mental health, and wellness. She also writes for Verywell Mind and is the author of the Everything Psychology book (Adams Media).
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