Joyful or painful self-actualisation

We all want to fulfill our highest potential.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom towards self-actualisation.

What image do you have when you hear “self-actualisation”?

“I want to do what I love to do”

“I will become what I want to be”

“I will fulfill my potential through work”

Self-actualisation may sound similar to achieving our wildest dreams and fulfilling our highest potential.

Actualising a self-image of the best possible version of ourselves.

On one level, this may be true.

But from the perspective of achieving fundamental happiness, I’ve realised that there is much more depth to it.

Self-actualisation which leads to fundamental happiness is not actualising the self-image of our best possible self, but being our full self. 

When we seek to realise a self-image of our best possible version, our effort can stem from a sense of inadequacy and deficiency.

We make efforts because we feel we are not good enough as we are.

We are driven to have more – more skills and abilities, more money, better job and house, better qualification and social status, etc.

Our worth is conditioned.

Our effort to become happy can make us suffer if it is derived from our unconscious attempt to cover up our sense of unworthiness and feel good about ourselves by having more. 

Eckhart Tolle says that when we try to eliminate fear of feeling unworthy and satisfy our need for more, we will fall into a “bottomless hole that can never be filled.” (1)

When we are driven by fear, a sense of inadequacy and deficiency, our effort to be happy will become an endless painful austerity. 

This is a fear-based way of life.

By contrast, genuine self-actualisation leads to a joy of life.

A joy of becoming ourselves, all of ourselves.

Through deepening our connection with our inner world, we will be able to get in touch with our full self.

Spiritual growth towards living our full self includes the following changes as an example:

  • Stop putting on a “nice” front and accept ourselves as we are
  • Free ourselves from the tyranny of “shoulds” and “musts”
  • Able to decide our own path
  • Become open to our own experience and responsive to everything that spontaneously arises from within
  • Able to trust ourselves more and become more accepting of others as well

I believe that genuine self-actualisation is making our own life blossom in a way that is most natural and true for us.

There is no greater joy than feeling free to be ourselves!

This joy based way of life begins with going within and honouring every honest feeling we have in this present moment.

(1) Tolle, E. (2006) A new earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose. p. 12