VIRTUE AND SELF – PART VII – CRITIQUE OF SELF-ACTUALIZATION

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – e.e. cummings

 

 

At one time, when I alluded to self-actualization in the presence of my high school age niece, she pointed out that contemporary thinking is mixed or negative on the concept. Her concern related to whether emphasis on fulfillment of one’s authentic self invariably devolves into selfishness, self-promotion, or excess competitiveness. In my opinion, these concerns are valid but define contrasts to sincere self-actualization. It seems to me such diversions on the road to self-actualization can be repurposed into guardrails for genuine success. The following are the possible errant paths and the responses it seems we need to pursue.

Errant path­                                            Response

Selfishness                                           Concern for others, supererogatory duty

Arrogance                                             Modesty

Pride                                                        Recognition of good fortune and help of others

Self-promotion                                    Understatement and self-reliance

Self-aggrandizement                        Unpretentiousness

Self-importance                                    Humility

Over-competitiveness                       Support for others’ valid purposes

Danger of evil intention                      Study of ethics

Ambiguity of potentiality                   Self-reflection, mentor

Yielding to social hindrances            Persistence, fortitude

Self-actualization takes place on the stage of real life; itself unpredictable, overtly unfair, and abounding in obstacles to our success. Marcus Aurelius offers some sympathetic comfort:  “In this world there is only one thing of value, to live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true nor just.” Self-actualization must follow on and occur in parallel with unselfishness, humility, co-operation with others, and a strict moral compass. For the uncertain, seek a mentor-  a willing person of meaningful accomplishments and high ethical standards. Each of us has a unique aggregate of traits and beliefs that make up our authentic self. The most basic virtue underlying a fully functional life and inner happiness is located at the Archimedean point of mastery and actualization of the authentic self.

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