A CBT look at Maslows ‘characteristics of self-actualizers’ …


I really like the following list of Maslow’s characteristics of ‘self-actualizers’ as cited on the SimplyPsychology.org website.

You can see a diagram of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Human Needs pyramid above, and then scroll down in this post to see the self actualization characteristics – it fits beautifully with the third wave of CBT’s cognitive reframing, and indeed the academic movement of Positive Psychology – with a view to having a guide to live as happy a life as we can.

Read through the list and compare your attributional style (how you explain the world to yourself, either positively or negatively), and your own patterns of behaviours. Think about thinking….

[McLeod S. A. (2007) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html]

“The growth of self-actualization (Maslow, 1962) refers to the need for personal growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life. For Maslow, a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms.  In self-actualization a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them”

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:

(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;

(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;

(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;

(d) Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;

(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;

(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;

(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

The characteristics of self-actualizers and the behaviors leading to self-actualization are shown in the list above.  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).

It is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them.  Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection. Self-actualization merely involves achieving ones potential.  Thus someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize.  Less than two percent of the population achieve self-actualization.


McLeod, S. A. (2007). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html


5 thoughts on “A CBT look at Maslows ‘characteristics of self-actualizers’ …

  1. Pingback: Why Many Companies Struggle With Employee Engagement - 95Percent co

  2. Pingback: A CBT look at Maslows ‘characteristics of self-actualizers’ … – Veronica Walsh’s CBT Blog Dublin, Ireland – Nova's Namaste 365 Online

  3. Pingback: Teaching Philosophy. – Exploring literature and learning

  4. Hi Veronica,
    I love the Illustration of Maslov’s Hierarchy in this Journal Post.
    Can you tell me where I can Order this Illustration? It would add color and fun to my office walls during the dark days of Winter.


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