“Self-actualization” represents a concept derived from humanistic psychological theory and, specifically, from the theory created by Abraham Maslow. Self-actualization, according to Maslow, represents the growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs—those for meaning in life, in particular.
Maslow created a psychological hierarchy of needs, the fulfillment of which theoretically leads to a culmination of fulfillment of “being values," or the needs that are on the highest level of this hierarchy, representing meaning.
Maslow’s hierarchy is described as follows:
1. Physiological needs, such as needs for food, sleep, and air.
2. Safety, or the needs for security and protection, especially those that emerge from social or political instability.
3. Belonging and love including, the needs of deficiency and selfish taking instead of giving, and unselfish love that is based upon growth rather than deficiency.
4. Needs for self-esteem, self-respect, and healthy, positive feelings derived from admiration.
5. And “being” needs concerning creative self-growth, engendered from the fulfillment of potential and meaning in life.
Adapted from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us?tr=Hdr_Brand
Maslow was direct in pointing out however (contrary to many popular interpretations), that the hierarchy of needs is not a lineal path. Most people, he explained, are working in, or exist in, more than one level of the hierarchy.
Additionally, Maslow described 15 traits of self-actualizing people that characterizes the "self" in self-actualization as not being restricted to the ideations of individualism, lack of concern for others, or elitism. In fact, as Maslow described it, "self-actualization must not have too individualistic a flavor" (Compton, 2018, p.
Maslow, also said self-actualizing people are "meta-motivated." They are motivated by being-values and not by fame, wealth, influence, or self-esteem. In short, self-actualization is a component of discovering purpose and passion in one's life. However, it is a condition that recognizes that serving others, community and greater society, is also a large part of self-actualizing.
Compton, W. C. (2018). Self-Actualization Myths: What Did Maslow Really Say? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 0(0). https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1177/0022167818761929
Maslow, Abraham H. (Abraham Harold). Motivation and Personality. Second edition. New York: Harper & Row, 1970. Print.