“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
Pride Recognition of good fortune and help of others
Self-promotion Understatement and self-reliance
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.