The one thing that binds us all as spiritual beings having a human experience is that our experiences are so individually unique; it is really quite astounding. Try as we might to put ourselves in others’ shoes, all we can ever do is just that, try. Other people’s experience can only be imagined, never known intimately, if at all. Everyone is on their own path toward what unites them most with living an authentic and joyful life. Each path, though vastly different, is carved through the same process of self-study, self-compassion, and surrender into self-acceptance.
What does it mean to be self-actualized?
Self-actualization means “the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone,” (Oxford Languages). Essentially, the definition of self-actualization is straightforward, and in the name; it is realizing one’s potential. From a psychological perspective, self-actualization is a theory based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Psychology Today, August 2013). Maslow believed that self-actualization was at the top of the hierarchy of needs and relates to one’s need to fulfill their unique purpose in life. He believed it was not necessary to ‘fully realize’ each level before moving on. That means that even those people who are living in unstable phases of life can find great meaning in their passions, their existence. One might also say that self-actualization describes a complex understanding of the meaning of life; specifically one’s own life.
What might self-actualization look like?
The answer to this question will be different for everyone. If self-actualization is becoming everything that we are capable of becoming, then the possibilities are endless. Some might self-actualize through spiritual or religious practices. One might self-actualize through creating art. One might say that the likes of the great Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Viktor Frankl are examples of those who are living in self-actualization. They have realized their purpose and chosen paths that beautifully encompass the divinity of the individual.
The path to self-actualization requires an intimate relationship with the self. The true self, not just the physical self. Self-study is the way to develop an intimate relationship with the self. Through asana and meditation, one can learn about their patterns, their tendencies, their samskaras. One can learn about these aspects of themselves to become more connected with their authentic embodiment of the universe. The path of self-actualization is the perfect amalgamation of holding space for contradictions, dichotomies, and discomfort. They have perfected the art of holding space for both/and. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, turned inward to stay connected to the meaning of life. He writes about his experience of dancing with death while holding space for the beauty that he willed himself to stay attentive to.
It might even suffice to say that self-actualization is accompanied by a certain level of contentment. Contentment is not a synonym for peaceful, easy, or clear. Contentment is rooted in mindful presence that comes with nonattachment to anything but what is. It would be wrong to even equate contentment with acceptance. Contentment implies a level of ease within the idea that nothing can happen to change the inherent divinity we have just by existing.
What can you do to facilitate your own self-actualization?
Meditation is a great tool to begin the process of discernment. When the body is still and distractions are minimal, we can begin to tap into the deeper parts of ourselves. Meditation is a state of being. It is the act of settling into oneself, turning inward to observe the fluctuations of the mind. In meditation, we can begin to take the seat of the observer and witness our thoughts and feelings as separate from ourselves. When we can hold space for our experience without changing it, we open ourselves up to the possibility of contentment. Because meditation is a state of being and not an act, it’s not really possible to do it wrong.
Here are some tips to remember as you begin your meditation journey:
- Start small – begin with two or three minutes of stillness and be kind to yourself if you don’t make it that long
- Set a timer – using a time can eliminate the feeling of wondering how long you’ve been still and how long there is left to go
- Find a comfortable position – it doesn’t have to be seated; you might even decide to lie all the way down.
- Allows yourself to move and adjust as you need to – if you are uncomfortable, then adjust
Journaling can be a really helpful tool along your journey of self-study. Journaling allows you to work through thoughts or feelings that might not make sense to you in the moment. It allows you to pause and this is extremely important. Our initial reaction or response to something might not be based on reality or might not support us to stay within our integrity. When you pause and sit with what has arisen within you, you can choose how to show up, how to respond.
You might also consider finding online Entrepreneurship Training or wellness training that fosters self-study and personal development. By taking continuing education courses and fostering growth, you might discover the tools you need to feel empowered and prepared to take the steps needed to reach your goal.