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The Real Meaning of Self-realization

  • Categories: Mindfulness Self Awareness

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Words: 932 |

Published: Feb 12, 2019

Words: 932 | Pages: 2 | 5 min read

Works Cited:

  • Alter, S. (2018). Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. Penguin Books.
  • Beltramini, R. F., & Pitts, R. E. (2017). Millennials’ social media usage, narcissism, and loneliness. In T. M. Harrison & T. D. Schmaltz (Eds.), Digital marketing strategies for fashion and luxury brands (pp. 77-92). IGI Global.
  • Chen, G. M., & Starosta, W. J. (2005). The impact of new media on intercultural communication in a global context. In K. Popovic (Ed.), Global communication and culture (pp. 109-122). University of West Indies Press.
  • Gross, E. F., Juvonen, J., & Gable, S. L. (2002). Internet use and well-being in adolescence. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 75-90.
  • Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials rising: The next great generation. Vintage Books.
  • Pew Research Center. (2019). Millennial life: How young adulthood today compares with prior generations. Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends.
  • Rosen, L. D. (2017). The distracted mind: Ancient brains in a high-tech world. MIT Press.
  • Sussman, S., Sussman, A. N., & Sussman, R. (2017). Considering the definition of addiction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8), 944.
  • Twenge, J. M. (2017). iGen: Why today's super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy--and completely unprepared for adulthood. Atria Books.
  • Wang, Q. (2013). Virtual connections, real support: A literature review on the relationship between Internet use and loneliness among older adults. Ageing International, 38(4), 561-576.

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self realization examples essay

4 Reasons Self-Realization is the Key to Unlocking Your Best Life

  • March 24, 2023

Woman in a forest displaying self-realization

The reality is, life can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up in the constant pressure of who you should be and what you should do. But amidst all the noise, there’s a powerful concept that can help you find clarity and direction—it’s called self-realization.

To get into the essence of it, Jon Butcher , co-founder of Lifebook and co-trainer of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online Quest, encourages you to ask yourself, “ What kind of a life do you want to live, and what kind of a person gets a life like that? ”

It’s like taking off a pair of dirty glasses and seeing the world in a new light. And it’s with this clarity of who you are and what you want that you can live a more fulfilling life.

What Is Self-Realization?

“Realization” is when one is fully aware of something. And in the case of “self-realization,” it’s when you’re tapped into your authentic self as well as your purpose in life.

Think of Neo from The Matrix . He comes into self-awareness as he lets go of his limiting beliefs and realizes his unique “gift” to stand up against the machines.

But this concept isn’t just for the movies. It can be found in both eastern and western philosophies. 

In eastern religions, self-realization is deeply woven into their belief systems. In Hinduism, for example, the concept is viewed as the knowledge of one’s true self that goes beyond illusions and material things. And in Buddhism, it’s an awakening to true reality.

The self-realization definition in western philosophy, on the other hand, is all about:

  • Reaching one’s full potential,
  • Cultivating your self-identity and purpose, and
  • Contributing to the greater good of mankind and society.

While they’re not the same thing, both philosophies have the same goal in mind when it comes to self-realization. And that goal is a peaceful, fulfilled life—a life of virtue and abundance.

Self-realization vs. self-actualization

Self-realization and self-actualization are concepts that often get mixed up. Let’s take a look at a side-by-side comparison of their differences.

It goes without saying, both concepts are essential for personal growth and fulfillment. However, while self-actualization can help with external factors for a wonderful life, it first takes a good look inward with self-realization to truly achieve it.

As Jon says, “ The life you get is going to be the result of the choices you make and the actions you take. ”

Examples of Self-Realization in Life

Self-realization is about rising above your limiting beliefs and going through the stages of personal transformation . Here are a few examples of it in life:

  • With career. You may have felt pressured to pursue a certain career path because of societal expectations of family pressure. However, you realize that your true passion lies elsewhere, and you decide to make a change. For example, Vishen , the founder of Mindvalley, was always taught that his career choices were to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer (fun fact: he decided to study engineering). He, as you may already know, decided to teach meditation and founded Mindvalley.
  • With relationships. You may have experienced being in an unhealthy relationship. But you realize you deserve better and choose to, instead, focus on your own well-being. This is what Katherine Woodward Thomas , the author of best-selling Conscious Uncoupling and trainer of the Mindvalley Quest with the same name, went through in her previous relationship. She and her husband amicably split up but practiced the intention of being kind and generous toward each other.
  • With well-being. You may have learned that material wealth equals happiness, leaving you wondering, “ What should I do with my life? ” But with reflection and understanding, you realize that true happiness comes from meaningful relationships and experiences. Take Jon Butcher , for instance. Before he founded Lifebook with his wife, Missy, he was struggling with anxiety and stress, to the point where he couldn’t leave his own house. They both weren’t happy with the way their life was going, so they decided “ to live a life that was uniquely [theirs]. ”

Self-realization is essentially a journey of self-discovery. Every stop offers you a new perspective and a chance to appreciate all that is around you. 

Jon and Missy Butcher, trainers of Mindvalley's Lifebook Online Quest

Why Is Self-Realization Important?

It comes as no surprise that those who’re connected to their inner selves and the world around them are more resilient. In fact, one study looking at how this concept helps in the face of adversity found that those who were more aware of their true selves showed “ better health profiles .”

What’s more, it has a huge impact on all twelve areas of life, which are defined in Lifebook created by Jon and Missy. Here are a few benefits that it offers:

1. Higher confidence and self-esteem

Self-realization is about making connections on a deep, meaningful level—both with your inner self and with the world around you. It’s like unplugging yourself from “the matrix” and seeing the world for what it truly is.

This connection allows you to rise above your worries, fears, and feelings of unworthiness. And just like Neo, it allows you to be the best you can be.

2. A sharper focus

Self-realization aligns your actions with your deepest values and ideals. This heightened awareness can help you create impactful goal statements , which you can pursue with more drive and focus. 

There’s also the ability to identify and remove toxic influences from your life, which then frees up space for positive experiences and relationships. It’s like having a laser-sharp focus on what truly matters to you and having the confidence and determination to make it happen.

Think of it like Neo after he learns to see beyond the illusion—he becomes unstoppable. And so can you.

3. Not being controlled by emotions

Fear, anxiety, and loneliness are just a few emotions that can hold you back. But when you reach a state of self-realization, you aren’t at their mercy.

This concept teaches you how to observe, face, and overcome thoughts and feelings as they arise. And as a result, you learn how to control your emotions better. 

4. Acceptance

As someone who’s self-realized, you become more open and accepting. You allow yourself to communicate freely and authentically, not only to yourself but also to those around you.

There’s no “ one size fits all ,” as Jon always says. However, when you allow yourself to embrace openness and realness, you build deeper, more meaningful relationships.

12 Ways to Develop Self-Realization

Developing self-realization is a crucial part of living a fulfilled and meaningful life. By understanding your true self and purpose, you can achieve a higher level of self-awareness and great potential.

Here are twelve ways you can tap into your authenticity, with insights taken from Jon in Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online Quest.

1. Take care of your health

The Butchers are advocates of taking care of physical health. In fact, it’s the foundational aspect of their Lifebook program. 

“ When you understand the relationship that exists between your health and your life, ” Jon explains, “ it leaves you with a choice to make regarding your actions. ” 

That means, what you choose to do in the moment can impact your life now or in the future.   For example, if you choose to eat sugary foods every day, you know you’ll have short-term satisfaction. However, in the long run, it’ll have a not-so-great effect on your body.

What you can do: Eat mindfully, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and get deep sleep—these are all important to maintain physical health. Not only that but when your actions are done consciously, you’ll realize the things that are good for your body and the things that aren’t.

2. Be aware of your thoughts

The incredible thing about the mind is that your thoughts can shape your reality . The way you think about yourself and the world around you can have a profound impact on your experiences and outcomes. 

“ Thinking is the foundation of achieving your extraordinary life, ” says Jon. “ The life you get is going to be the result of the choices you make and the actions you take. ”

What you can do: Journaling allows for self-reflection, helping you to process the events you experience. Additionally, it helps you work through past traumas and gain insight to move forward.

Just remember: negative or limiting beliefs can hold you back from achieving your potential. Positive and empowering ones, on the other hand, can help you reach new heights of success and fulfillment.

3. Embrace your emotions

Emotions are a natural part of the human experience. However, we’re often taught to suppress and ignore them (especially negative ones) rather than acknowledge and accept them.

As Jon says, “ Emotions are body wisdom. ” It can provide valuable information about yourself and your needs. You can use this information to make more conscious and informed decisions.

What you can do: Mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing or kundalini awakening , can help you become more aware of your emotions. 

After all, embracing your emotions is a journey that takes time and practice. So be patient and compassionate with yourself as you strive to better understand and accept them.

4. Build good character

“ The process of building a good character can be thought of as stamping your values onto yourself ,” says Jon. He further explains that the quality of your character is “ determined by how deeply engraved your values are onto your sense of self. ”

What you can do: To define the person you want to be and create the life you desire, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you do the things you know you should do?
  • Do you take care of your duties and responsibilities?
  • Can you be counted on to make good decisions from a moral perspective?

Additionally, seek feedback from others. It’ll give you an objective view of your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with the opportunity to embrace those qualities or improve on them.

5. Cultivate a spiritual practice

Spirituality is often seen as a path towards self-realization. It involves a connection to something greater than yourself, whether that is a higher power, the universe, or a collective consciousness. 

“ Spirituality is a deeply personal experience ,” Jon explains. “ It goes directly to who and what you are at the deepest possible level, and what you believe about why you’re here .”

It’s not something someone can tell you. Rather, it’s up to you to discover what spirituality means to you.

What you can do: Meditation is one of the more powerful tools for achieving self-realization. And doing it regularly can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, which can help you gain insight into your absolute authenticity.

6. Work on your love relationships

What’s the connection between love relationships and self-realization? A few things, actually:

  • When you develop a positive relationship with yourself , you start to accept and love yourself for who you are. This self-love can lead to greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of your values and goals.
  • When it comes to positive relationships with others , you can learn a lot about yourself by how you interact with them. For example, you can gain awareness of how you communicate, what triggers you emotionally, and patterns in your relationships.

This level of awareness can help you identify areas where you may need to grow and develop, leading to personal growth and self-realization.

What you can do: Research shows that practicing compassion is not only good for your health, but it’s good for the world. When you’re able to understand and share the feelings of others, it can help build deeper connections and create a more supportive environment.

“ The natural state of things is to disorganize and decay, ” says Jon. “ And that will happen to your love relationship if you don’t consciously put energy back into the system. ”

7. Define what kind of parent you want to be

If you’re a parent, you understand the pure joy having children can be. But self-realization isn’t only important for children; it’s also essential for parents.

As they grow, they depend on you for food, clothing, and shelter, according to Jon. What’s more, they also look to you for guidance on what’s important, like values, morals, and a sense of life. 

And because you’re responsible and accountable for little humans, your experience as a parent can be a catalyst for personal growth and development.

What you can do: Connecting with other parents can help you gain perspective on your own experiences and beliefs. Consider joining a support group, seeking out a mentor, or getting a certified life coach to help you through your parenting journey.

8. Nurture your social life

“ Creating quality experiences for yourself and the people you love is one of the best things in life, ” says Jon. And with good reason.

In social situations, you’re more than likely to encounter different beliefs, values, and opinions. This can challenge your own assumptions and lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of yourself.

What’s more, it provides the opportunity to learn how to express yourself more effectively, listen actively, and collaborate with others. 

What you can do: One of the key factors in building relationships is being open to new connections. Attend events, like the ones at Mindvalley, to find a community that shares the same interests as you. 

9. Build financial wellness

Let’s face it, money has the power to make every aspect of your life better. It can give you greater freedom and flexibility to pursue your goals and aspirations.

However, it doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to it; rather, you can learn to work with it. When you’re able to manage your finances responsibly, you develop greater self-control and learn to prioritize your money goals over short-term impulses.

What you can do: Managing your finances often requires being aware of what your values and priorities are. As part of the Lifebook process, Jon encourages you to clear your limiting beliefs around money and set those financial goals for where you want to be.

10. Discover a career path that fulfills you

Careers are such a big part of our lives; we spend a big chunk of our days at work. The reality is, though, that we’re not taught to find a career path we love. Instead, we’re encouraged to join the rat race.

So it comes as no surprise that the number of people quitting is high. As a matter of fact, in November 2021 alone, a record 4.5 millio n Americans left their jobs . 

As much as we don’t like to admit it, our careers are important. And pursuing one that aligns with our values and interests can help us develop a sense of purpose and direction in life.

What you can do: “ If you’re connected to what you love (if you know what that is), you might start to look for ways to do it ,” Jon explains. So reflect on your interests and passions, identify your values, assess your skills and strengths, research potential career paths, and network with professionals. And when that’s all said and done, you may just find what you’re looking for.

11. Enhance your quality of life

According to Jon, you’re not going to be able to contribute to the people around you if your life is a mess. However, when you focus on improving all aspects of your life, it’ll ultimately lead to its enhancement. 

It’ll provide you with a sense of purpose and meaning. In turn, that can help you develop a stronger sense of self and personal identity.

What you can do: Jon advises you to integrate your quality of life into your financial plan. Why? “ A lot of this ,” he says, “ is going to come down to your ability to be able to afford the things and experiences you want. ”

12. Create a clear life vision

Your life vision is a roadmap to identify and pursue your most meaningful goals and aspirations that are aligned with your core values and passions. So it’s important to create a really clear and compelling one.

If you need inspiration, you can get it from self-realization quotes. They can provide valuable insights, wisdom, and perspective. Here are a few to get you going:

  • “ Nothing can make you as happy as living a mission-oriented life. ” ― Vishen , founder of Mindvalley
  • “ The quest for wholeness can never begin on the external level. It is always an inside job. ” ― Dr. Shefali Tsabary , clinical psychologist and trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
  • “ Too many people never get what they desire in their life because they never actually claim what they want; they never actually get clear on what they’re asking for so in some ways we have to teach ourselves to dream again. ” ― Regan Hillyer , manifestation teacher and trainer of Mindvalley’s The Art of Manifesting Quest

What you can do: Jon suggests asking yourself this question: If you were able to execute the 11 points above and really make your life vision a reality, what would that look like for you five years from now?

Put the law of assumption to work and assume your life vision is fulfilled. Visualize it and meditate on it. Embrace what it would feel like and send your intentions that way.

Mindvalley member writing in their journal

Awaken Your True Self

Self-realization is a step towards awakening your true self and living your best life. As Morpheus said in The Matrix , “ I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it. ”

That’s exactly what Mindvalley’s FREE Lifebook Online Masterclass with Jon and Missy Butcher is all about. Here’s what you’ll be in for:

  • Identify what you truly want in the 12 areas of your life
  • Discover what your unique purpose is
  • Gain the clarity you need if you’re going through a major transition (e.g., divorce, career change, personal loss, and so on)

Lifebook gives you the tools, insights, and support you need to walk through the door of self-realization and unlock your full potential.

As Jon says, “ This world needs more self-responsible people making the world a better place by making themselves better .” And you have the opportunity to do just that.

Welcome in.

Recommended Free Masterclass For You

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Design a Life So Amazing, You’ll Want to Live It Over and Over and Over Again

Discover the 12 categories of the Lifebook system and the four critical questions to ask yourself. Join Jon and Missy Butcher in this free masterclass so you can begin moving towards your dream life. Reserve My Free Spot Now

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Self-Actualization In Psychology: Theory, Examples & Characteristics

Ayesh Perera

B.A, MTS, Harvard University

Ayesh Perera, a Harvard graduate, has worked as a researcher in psychology and neuroscience under Dr. Kevin Majeres at Harvard Medical School.

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Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

Self-actualization is the complete realization of one’s potential, and the full development of one’s abilities and appreciation for life. This concept is at the top of the Maslow hierarchy of needs , so not every human being reaches it.

Key Takeaways

  • Kurt Goldstein, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow are three individuals who have contributed immensely to our understanding of the concept of self-actualization.
  • The present-day understanding of self-actualization tends to be more aligned with the view of Maslow than with the perspectives of Goldstein or Rogers.
  • According to Maslow, the internal drive to self-actualize would seldom emerge until more basic needs are met.
  • Self-actualized people have an acceptance of who they are despite their faults and limitations and experience to drive to be creative in all aspects of their lives.
  • While self-actualizers hail from a variety of backgrounds and a diversity of occupations, they share notable characteristics in common, such as the ability to cultivate deep and loving relationships with others.

Maslow Hierarchy of needs physiological safety love belonging esteem self actualization in pyramid diagram modern flat style vector design.

Self-actualization (also referred to as self-realization or self-cultivation) can be described as the complete realization of one’s potential as manifest in peak experiences which involve the full development of one’s abilities and appreciation for life (Maslow, 1962).

The attainment of self-actualization involves one’s full involvement in life and the realization of that which one is capable of accomplishing.

Generally, the state of self-actualization is viewed as obtainable only after one’s fundamental needs for survival, safety, love, and self-esteem are met (Maslow, 1943, 1954).

Self-Actualization Theory

Self-actualization theory emphasizes the innate drive of individuals to reach their full potential.

Kurt Goldstein highlighted the holistic nature of self-actualization, encompassing physical, psychological, and social well-being.

Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs, with self-actualization at the highest level, while Rogers focused on the importance of congruence and unconditional positive regard in fostering personal growth. 

Kurt Goldstein

Even though the term “self-actualization” is most associated with Abraham Maslow, it was originally introduced by Kurt Goldstein, a physician specializing in psychiatry and neuroanatomy during the early part of the 20th century.

Goldstein (1939, 1940) viewed self-actualization as the ultimate goal of every organism and refers to man”s” desire for self-fulfillment, and the propensity of an individual to become actualized in his potential.

He contended that each human being, plant, and animal has an inborn goal to actualize itself as it is.

Goldstein pointed out that organisms, therefore, behave in accordance with this overarching motivation.

In his book, “The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived from Pathological Data in Man”, Goldstein argued that self-actualization involves the tendency to actualize an organism’s individual capacities as much as possible (Goldstein, 2000).

According to Goldstein’s (1940) view, self-actualization was not necessarily a goal to be reached in the future but an organism’s innate propensity to realize its potential at any moment under the given circumstances.

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers described self-actualization as the continuous lifelong process whereby an individual’s self-concept is maintained and enhanced via reflection and the reinterpretation of various experiences, which enable the individual to recover, change and develop (Rogers, 1951).

According to Rogers (1967), the human organism has an underlying “actualizing tendency”, which aims to develop all capacities in ways that maintain or enhance the organism and move it toward autonomy.

According to Rogers, people could only self-actualize if they had a positive self-view (positive self-regard).  This can only happen if they have unconditional positive regard from others – if they feel valued and respected without reservation by those around them (especially their parents when they were children).

Self-actualization is only possible if there is congruence between how an individual sees themselves ( self-image ) and their ideal self (the way they want to be or think they should be).

If there is a large gap between these two concepts, negative feelings of self-worth will arise, making it impossible for self-actualization to occur.

congruence 1

Rogers (1967) posits that the structure of the self is a consistent yet fluid pattern of perceptions of oneself that is organized and formed via evaluational interactions.

However, the tension between one’s ideal sense of self and one’s experiences (or self-image) can produce incongruence, a psychopathological state stemming from the perversions of one’s unitary actualizing tendency.

For Rogers (1967), a person who is in the process of self-actualizing, actively exploring potentials and abilities and experiencing a match between real and ideal selves is a fully functioning person.

Becoming a Fully functioning person means “that the individual moves towards “being”, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually “is.” He moves away from what he is not, from being a facade.

He is not trying to be more than he is, with the attendant feelings of insecurity or bombastic defensiveness. He is not trying to be less than he is, with the attendant feelings of guilt or self-deprecation.

He is increasingly listening to the deepest recesses of his psychological and emotional being, and finds himself increasingly willing to be, with greater accuracy and depth, that self which he most truly is”.

Fully functioning people are in touch with their own feelings and abilities and are able to trust their innermost urges and intuitions.

To become fully functioning, a person needs unconditional positive regard from others, especially their parents in childhood.

Unconditional positive regard is an attitude of acceptance of others despite their failings.

However, most people don’t perceive the positive regard of others as being unconditional. They tend to think they will only be loved and valued if they meet certain conditions of worth.

These conditions of worth create incongruity within the self between the real self (how the person is) and the ideal self (how they think they should be or want to be).

Abraham Maslow

As did Goldstein, Maslow viewed self-actualization as realizing one’s potential. However, Maslow (1967) described self-actualization more narrowly than Goldstein by applying it solely to human beings—rather than all organisms.

Maslow pointed out that humans have lower-order needs that must be generally met before their higher order needs can be satiated, such as self-actualization. He categorized those needs as follows (Maslow, 1943):

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

1. Basic needs: a. Physiological needs (ex- water, food, warmth and rest). b. Safety needs (ex- safety and security). 2. Psychological needs. a. Belongingness needs (ex- close relationships with loved ones and friends). b. Esteem needs (ex- feeling of accomplishment and prestige). 3. Self-actualization needs (realizing one’s full potential).

Self-actualize is the final stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs , so not every human being reaches it.

maslow needs3

To Maslow, self-actualization meant the desire for self-fulfillment, or a person’s tendency to be actualized in what he or she is potentially.

Individuals may perceive or focus on this need very specifically. For example, one individual may have a strong desire to become an ideal parent. In another, the desire may be expressed economically, academically, or athletically. For others, it may be expressed creatively in paintings, pictures, or inventions.

Maslow further explained that self-actualization involves the intrinsic development of an organism. He contended that self-actualization is more growth-oriented than deficiency-focused (Gleitman, Fridlund, & Riesberg, 2004).

Maslow acknowledged the apparent rarity of self-actualized people and argued that most people are suffering from psychopathology of normality.

Unlike Sigmund Freud , whose psychodynamic approach was focused on unhealthy individuals engaging in disturbing conduct, Maslow was associated with the humanistic approach, which focuses on healthy individuals.

Consequently, Maslow’s perspective is more consistent with a positive view of human nature, which sees individuals as driven to reach their potential. This humanistic perspective markedly differs from the Freudian view of human beings as tension-reducing organisms.

Examples of Self-Actualizations

Examples of self-actualization can vary greatly from person to person as it involves the pursuit of personal growth and fulfillment in line with one’s unique values and aspirations. 

Some examples may include:
  • Pursuing a passion or creative endeavor, such as painting, writing, or playing an instrument.
  • Setting and achieving meaningful goals that align with personal values and aspirations.
  • Engaging in acts of kindness and altruism to contribute to the well-being of others.
  • Seeking personal development through continuous learning and acquiring new skills.
  • Embracing authenticity and living in alignment with one’s true values and beliefs.
  • Cultivating meaningful relationships and connections with others based on mutual respect and support.
  • Engaging in self-reflection and introspection to gain deeper self-awareness and personal insight.
  • Making choices and decisions that prioritize personal happiness and well-being rather than external validation.
  • Embracing and accepting oneself fully, including both strengths and weaknesses.
  • Experiencing moments of flow, where one is fully immersed and engaged in an activity that brings a sense of joy, purpose, and fulfillment.

Moving beyond mere theory and speculation, Maslow identified several individuals he considered to have attained a level of self-actualization (Maslow, 1970).

Noteworthy herein are the diversity of occupations and the variety of the backgrounds which these individuals represent while still meeting the criteria of self-actualization.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865; American President) Albert Einstein (1879- 1955; Theoretical Physicist) Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965; Writer, Humanitarian, Theologian, Organist, Philosopher, and Physician) Aldous Huxley (1894- 1963; Philosopher and Writer) Baruch Spinoza (1632- 1677; Philosopher) Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962; Diplomat and Activist) Jane Addams (1860-1935; Settlement Activist, Sociologist, Public Administrator) Thomas Jefferson (1743- 1826; American President, Architect, Philosopher) William James (1842- 1910; Philosopher and Psychologist)

Characteristics of Self-Actualized Individuals

Abraham Maslow based his theory on case studies of historical figures whom he saw as examples of self-actualized individuals, including Albert Einstein, Ruth Benedict, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Maslow examined the lives of each of these people in order to assess the common qualities that led each to become self-actualized.

Based on Maslow’s description of self-actualizers, one can find several striking similarities that these supposedly self-actualized individuals share in common.

Some of such characteristics which distinguish self-actualized individuals from the rest of humanity are as follows (Maslow, 1954, 1970).
  • Self-actualized people are accepting of others as well as their own flaws, often with humor and tolerance. Not only do self-actualized people fully accept others, but they are also true to themselves rather than pretending in order to impress others (Talevich, 2017).
  • Self-actualized people also tend to be independent and resourceful: they are less likely to rely upon external authorities to direct their lives (Martela & Pessi, 2018).
  • Can cultivate deep and loving relationships with others.
  • Tendency to exude gratitude and maintain a deep appreciation even for the commonplace blessings in life.
  • Can often discern between the superficial and the real when judging situations.
  • Seldom depend upon their environment or culture to form their opinions.
  • Tendency to view life as a mission that calls them to a purpose beyond themselves.

Critical Evaluation

Despite the popularity of self-actualization as a concept associated with positive psychology and motivation theories, it does not cease to draw criticism.

The Canadian psychiatrist Eric Berne for instance, has called self-actualization the game of self-expression based on the belief that good feelings are to be pursued (Berne, 2016).

Additionally, critics have pointed out that self-actualizing tendencies can lead to a positive but non-relational approach to human beings (Thorne, 1992). Moreover, Fritz Perls has noted that the focus can easily shift from striving to actualize one’s sense of self to merely attempting to build an appearance of self-actualization, which can be misleading (Perls, 1992).

Vitz (1994) has contended that Maslow and Rogers have turned the psychological concept of self-actualization into a moral norm. Finally, the possibility of self-actualization has also come to be seen as a special privilege reserved only for a select few.

In response to these concerns, Maslow has acknowledged that expressions of unrestrained whims and the pursuit of private pleasures have often been mislabeled as self-actualization (Daniels, 2005). Maslow, too, shared the concern that the concept might be misunderstood.

In fact, when many people wrote to Maslow describing themselves as self-actualized persons, Maslow doubted whether he had sufficiently articulated his theory (Steven, 1975).

However, Maslow did not hold that only an elite few could attain the state of self-actualization. On the contrary, he pointed out that often people living in strikingly similar circumstances experience enormously different outcomes in life.

He reasoned that such a reality underscores the importance of attitude as a factor that influences one’s destiny.

Paradoxical narrative of self-actualization

Winston (2018) takes a fresh look at Abraham Maslow’s classic work on self-actualization. She provides a nuanced analysis of the paradoxical nature of self-actualizers’ perceptions of themselves, others, and the world.

Winston dismantles Maslow’s chapter on self-actualization from his seminal Motivation and Personality book and rearranges it to demonstrate the ongoing struggle Maslow faced in describing self-actualizers.

On one hand, he would characterize them in a certain way, only to provide a contradictory example shortly after. For instance, he described them as accepting reality yet noted they display resignation. Or as free from excessive guilt yet not immune to anxiety and self-criticism (Winston, 2018).

On one hand, Maslow portrayed self-actualizers as comfortable with uncertainty, doubt and vagueness. Yet he also stated they are rarely unsure or conflicted (Winston, 2018).

Additionally, he characterized them as capable of fully identifying with, and losing themselves in, close relationships. However, he also noted they retain a certain detachment from loved ones.

Rather than dismissing these opposing descriptions as contradictions or inconsistencies, as some scholars have done, Winston sees them as paradoxes that convey the complexity of psychological health. In her analysis, she uncovers three key paradoxes:

  • Self-actualizers share common traits yet remain utterly unique individuals.
  • Their perceptions of themselves, others and the world are simultaneously positive and negative. They have an accurate view of reality as messy rather than black-and-white.
  • They can accept what cannot change yet have the courage to change what they can, displaying wisdom in discerning the difference (Winston, 2018).

Winston argues that the paradoxical nature of self-actualization illustrates that psychological health entails the contextually appropriate expression of human potentialities, whether viewed as positive or negative.

Her framework challenges approaches that unconditionally promote some potentials while suppressing others. Instead, she advocates examining the conditions under which any given potentiality may be adaptive or maladaptive.

For individualistic cultures only?

The concept of self-actualization, characterized by realizing one’s full potential, is often seen as the pinnacle of psychological development. However, the cultural specificity of self-actualization has been questioned (Itai, 2008).

Specifically, the individualistic focus on developing uniqueness, fulfilling one’s capacities, and prioritizing personal growth over social belonging may not generalize across cultures.

Research suggests self-actualization aligns closely with individualistic values prominent in the West, but not necessarily with the collectivist values of interdependence and social harmony found in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

Itai Ivtzan (2008) compared 100 British (individualistic culture) and 100 Indian (collectivist culture) participants aged 18-25 on their responses to the Personal Orientation Inventory (POI). The POI measures 12 characteristics seen as central to self-actualization (Shostrom, 1963).

As predicted, the British group scored significantly higher than the Indian group on 10 out of 12 scales, including time competence, inner-directedness, self-actualizing values, feeling reactivity, and self-acceptance.

Ivtzan concluded that the concept of self-actualization, as currently defined, lacks cross-cultural validity. The lower POI scores from the Indian group likely reflect measurement bias rather than truly less self-actualization. Cultures shape the meaning of self-fulfillment in different ways. While the drive to achieve one’s potential is universal, how this manifests likely depends on cultural values.

These findings underscore the need to re-examine concepts like self-actualization through a cross-cultural lens.

Applying Western models globally risks promoting an ethnocentric view of human motivation and adjustment. Future research should explore how self-actualization presents in diverse cultures. Practically, the study also cautions the use of self-actualization theory in multi-cultural organizational contexts.

What is self-actualization?

Self-actualization is a concept in psychology that refers to the process of fulfilling one’s true potential, becoming the best version of oneself, and achieving personal growth, meaning, and fulfillment in various aspects of life.

According to Maslow, what are some of the traits and qualities of self-actualizing individuals?

According to Maslow, self-actualizing individuals exhibit traits and qualities such as autonomy, authenticity, creativity, self-acceptance, a sense of purpose, strong values, peak experiences, and the ability to have meaningful relationships. They strive for personal growth, fulfillment, and reaching their highest potential.

What is the difference between self-actualization and self-transcendence?

Self-actualization refers to fulfilling one’s potential and becoming the best version of oneself, while self-transcendence goes beyond the self and involves connecting to something greater, such as meaning, values, or the well-being of others, to achieve a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Berne, E. (2016). Games people play the psychology of human relationships . Penguin Life.

Daniels, M. (2005). Shadow, self, spirit: essays in transpersonal psychology (p. 122) . Imprint Academic.

Gleitman, Henry & Fridlund, Alan & Riesberg, Daniel. (2004). Psychology (6th Ed.) . New York: Norton.

Goldstein, K. (1939). The Organism . New York, NY: American Books.

Goldstein, K. (1940). Human Nature . Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press.

Itai, I. (2008). Self actualisation: For individualistic cultures only?.  International Journal on Humanistic Ideology ,  1 (02), 113-139.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50 (4), 370-96.

Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality . New York: Harper and Row.

Maslow, A. H. (1962). Toward a psychology of being . Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company.

Martela, F., & Pessi, A. B. (2018). Significant work is about self-realization and broader purpose: defining the key dimensions of meaningful work . Frontiers in Psychology , 9, 363.

Maslow, A.H. (1970). Motivation and Personality . New York: Harper & Row.

Perls, F. S. (1992). In and out the garbage pail . Gestalt Journal Press.

Rogers, C. (1951). Client-centered. Therapy , 515-520.

Rogers, C. (1963) The Actualizing Tendency in Relation to “Motives” and to Consciousness. In: Jones, M.R., Ed., Nebraska Symposium on Motivation , University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1-24.

Rogers, C. (1967). On becoming a person: a therapist’s view of psychotherapy . London: Constable.

Rogers, C., & Kramer, P. D. (1995). On becoming a person : a therapist’s view of psychotherapy . Houghton Mifflin.

Shostrom, E. L. (1963). Personal orientation inventory.

Stevens, B. (1975). Body work. Gestalt is , 160-191.

Talevich, J. R., Read, S. J., Walsh, D. A., Iyer, R., & Chopra, G. (2017). Toward a comprehensive taxonomy of human motives . PloS one, 12 (2), e0172279.

Thoma, E. (1963). Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Psychosomatics, 4 (2), 122–123.

Thorne, B. (1992). Key figures in counselling and psychotherapy. Carl Rogers. Sage Publications, Inc.

Venter, Henry. (2017). Self-Transcendence: Maslow’s Answer to Cultural Closeness. Journal of Innovation Management, 4 (4), 3-7.

Vitz, P. C. (1994). Psychology as religion: The cult of self-worship . Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Winston, C. N. (2018). To be  and  not to be: A paradoxical narrative of self-actualization.  The Humanistic Psychologist, 46 (2), 159–174.  https://doi.org/10.1037/hum0000082

Further Reading

  • A cognitive‐systemic reconstruction of Maslow’s theory of self‐actualization
  • An inventory for the measurement of self-actualization
  • Questionnaire: Are you self-actualized?

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What Is Self-Actualization? Meaning, Theory + Examples


Today, self-actualization is a bit more widely known, but most psychology students still learn of it as the top level of Maslow’s pyramid.

This article will define self-actualization, review the relevant research on self-actualization, and discuss its relevance to the positive psychology movement and to the average person.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Self-Compassion Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will not only help you increase the compassion and kindness you show yourself but will also give you the tools to help your clients, students, or employees show more compassion to themselves.

This Article Contains:

What is self-actualization a definition, abraham maslow, the theory of self-actualization and the hierarchy of needs, examples of self-actualization, self-actualization and positive psychology, a take-home message.

Although self-actualization is most often associated with Maslow, the term was first coined by Kurt Goldstein. Goldstein characterized self-actualization as an individuation, or process of becoming a “self,” that is holistic (i.e., the individual realizes that one’s self and one’s environment are two pieces of a greater whole) and acts as a primary driving force of behavior in humans (Whitehead, 2017).

Although Goldstein’s concept didn’t get much traction at the time, it was popularized when Maslow adopted it into his theory on the human hierarchy of needs. In his seminal paper about human motivation (in which he first introduced his hierarchy of needs), Maslow discussed self-actualization by stating, “ What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization ” (Maslow, 1943).

Self-actualization has also been described as:

the psychological process aimed at maximizing the use of a person’s abilities and resources. This process may vary from one person to another

(Couture et al., 2007).

In other words, self-actualization can generally be thought of as the full realization of one’s creative, intellectual, and social potential through internal drive (versus for external rewards like money, status, or power).

self realization examples essay

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As you may already know, Abraham Maslow was a prominent psychologist most known for his contributions to humanistic psychology. His interests in human motivation and self-actualization stemmed from his experiences both early on as a timid child, and later on as a father witnessing the horrors of World War II (Frick, 2000; Hoffman, 2008).

His hierarchy of needs–first introduced over 70 years ago–is still taught as a critical part of motivational psychology. In fact, there is a noticeable overlap between Maslow’s work and the work that underpins positive psychology (Goud, 2008); the emphasis on self-growth and self-development has a decidedly “positive” flavor to it.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s idea of self-actualization has far-reaching applications, but it should be considered within the context of his hierarchy of needs.

Maslow felt that human motivation needed to be studied beyond the contemporary scope of behaviorism, as he believed that the study of “[m]otivation should be human-centered rather than animal-centered” (Maslow, 1943).

Maslow first outlined his hierarchy of needs in his seminal 1943 paper on human motivation. He identified five needs:

  • Physiological
  • Self-actualization

Physiological needs refer to things that are necessary for survival, such as breathable air, food, and water. Safety needs are things that make you feel healthy (like having health care and knowing your water is clean) and physically safe (like adequate shelter or being in a large group).

Love needs are met through feeling liked, loved, and accepted by others. Esteem is achieved by feeling self-confident and respected by others. Finally, self-actualization needs are met when an individual engages in self-development and personal growth.

Maslow posited that each level of needs must be taken care of before the next one can be met. So, fulfilling one’s physiological needs is a prerequisite to their safety needs being met; one’s safety needs must be met before one’s love needs take priority, and so on. Self-actualization is the highest level, meaning that it can only be fulfilled when one’s physiological, safety, love, and esteem needs are already met.

While it was later acknowledged that there is some flexibility in the order in which these needs can be met (e.g., there are homeless people who have their esteem or self-actualization needs met while going hungry and/or without shelter), it’s generally considered a necessary prerequisite to make sure your more basic needs are being met before trying to achieve self-actualization.

This is an intuitive idea; after all, if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you will probably spend your time on figuring that out rather than worrying about whether people respect you as an authority in your field or whether you are spending enough time on developing your skills.

A father can reach self-actualization

“[a] musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy”

(Maslow, 1943).

  • Extrapolating from this quote, we can see self-actualization in examples like:
  • An artist who has never made a profit on his art, but he still paints because it is fulfilling and makes him happy.
  • A woman who finds joy in achieving mastery in a niche hobby.
  • A father who gets a sense of purpose from raising his children to be a positive force in the world.
  • An employee at a nonprofit who uses her ever-increasing skills to improve the lives of others.

To give some real-world examples of (presumably) self-actualized people, Maslow (1970) also once named a few people who he considered to have reached a level of self-actualization in their lifetimes.

These included:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Albert Einstein
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Jane Addams
  • William James
  • Albert Schweitzer
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Baruch Spinoza

In that same book, Maslow also listed a few other potential cases of self-actualization. These included Eugene Debs, Frederick Douglas, Ida Tarbell, Harriet Tubman, George Washington, George Washington Carver, and Walt Whitman.

While all of the above names were public figures in one way or another, it is interesting to note that Maslow listed a wide variety of people, from abolitionists and authors to philosophers, politicians, and poets, meaning that there is no one “type” of person or career that lends itself to self-actualization; anyone can reach self-actualization, and they will do it in their unique way.

A recent study conducted by Krems et al. (2017) explored how non-psychologists viewed self-actualization. The authors found that “ lay perceptions of realizing one’s full potential are linked to the fundamental motive of achieving status and esteem .”

In other words, participants most associated realizing their potential (and the drive to do so) with reaching some level of internally-recognized success (esteem, which is notably on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs itself) and some level of externally-recognized success (status).

This conflicts with Maslow’s (1943) initial separation of status/ esteem and self-actualization; however, the authors point out that “a functional reading” of Maslow’s work, such as the one discussed by Kenrick et al. (2010), indicates that “ many of the behaviors involved in pursuing one’s full potential are linked to status, both directly and indirectly ” (Krems et al., 2017).

This is not to say that self-actualization must be accompanied by external status or accolades, or that external markers of success are necessary for self-actualization to be realized; but, it does underscore the link between success and self-actualization, suggesting that Maslow and Goldstein may have been right in viewing self-actualization as the driving force in our lives.

What even is “Self-Actualization”? – Humanistic Theory

The concept of self-actualization ties into positive psychology through its connection with wellbeing; as you might imagine, those who are considered self-actualized are also generally high in wellbeing.

According to Bernard et al. (2010), the work of another renowned humanistic psychologist, Albert Ellis, indicated that “ self-actualization involves the pursuit of excellence and enjoyment; whichever people choose to desire and emphasize .”

This focus on excellence and enjoyment as a symptom of the realization of potential explains the link between self-actualization and wellbeing; if reaching your full potential is enjoyable and fulfilling, it logically follows that wellbeing will also be positively affected.

Multiple studies within the field of positive psychology have examined self-actualization as a component of wellbeing (Compton, 2001; Kim et al., 2003), suggesting that it’s a topic that is perfectly at home amongst the other popular positive topics.

Another more recent study examined the effects of a positive psychology course on wellbeing and found that college students who took a course on positive psychology reported increased levels of happiness, hope, mindfulness, and self-actualization, providing correlative evidence of at least some sort of relationship between positive psychology and self-actualization (Maybury, 2013).

Aside from wellbeing, one of the main drives behind founding positive psychology was the reinstatement of a “fundamental [misson] of psychology” that Martin Seligman felt had been too long ignored by contemporary psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

This mission that Maslow highlighted was the goal of “nurturing genius;” since nurturing genius can logically be viewed as a precursor (and companion to) self-actualization and reaching one’s potential, this indicates that self-actualization is comfortably nestled within the field of positive psychology.

self realization examples essay

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While Abraham Maslow’s groundbreaking theory of motivation and hierarchy of needs are still taught today, it can be useful to view self-actualization within the context of the positive psychology movement.

Not only is self-actualization a worthy goal on its own, but it is also a valuable area of inquiry in positive psychology for at least two reasons: it can be viewed as a component of wellbeing, and it can be used as a way to measure the nurturing of genius.

So, what relevance does self-actualization hold for the average person? At the end of the day, realizing one’s potential is a personal endeavor that depends on where your creative, intellectual, or social potential lies.

Once we realize that self-actualization is not about making the most money or achieving the highest status, that it is a desirable state achieved through reaching one’s full personal potential, we open the door of possibility in our own lives.

Self-actualization is about achieving your dreams, which means that it is within your grasp–whether that means becoming a painter, a politician, a philosopher, a teacher, or anything else that sparks your passion.

If you want to take self-actualization to the next step, start with these self-actualization tests and tools to help you self-reflect and understand what self-actualization could mean for you.

As always, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. What does self-actualization mean to you? When do you feel most self-actualized, and what does it feel like? Do you think self-actualization is necessarily linked to wellbeing? If so, is it a vital piece of the wellbeing puzzle or only one of many ways to achieve wellbeing?

Thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Self Compassion Exercises for free .

  • Bernard, M.E., Froh, J.J., DiGiuseppe, R., Joyce, M.R., Dryden, W. (2010). Albert Ellis: Unsung hero of positive psychology. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(4) , 302-310.
  • Compton, W.C. (2001). Toward a tripartite factor structure of mental health: Subjective well-being, personal growth, and religiosity. Journal of Psychology, 135(5) , 486-500.
  • Couture, M., Desrosiers, J., Leclerc, G. (2007). Self-actualization and poststroke rehabilitation. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 30(2) , 111-117.
  • Frick, W.B. (2000). Remembering Maslow: Reflections on a 1968 interview. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 40(2) , 128-147.
  • Goud, N. (2008). Abraham Maslow: A personal statement. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 48(4), 448-451.
  • Hoffman, E. (2008). Abraham Maslow: A biographer’s reflections. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 48(4) , 439-443.
  • Kenrick, D.T., Neuberg, S.L., Griskevicius, V., Becker, D.V., Schaller, M. (2010). Goal-Driven Cognition and Functional Behavior: The Fundamental-Motives Framework. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(1) , 63-67.
  • Kim, Y., Kasser, T., Lee, H. (2003). Self-concept, aspirations, and well-being in South Korea and the United States. Journal of Social Psychology, 143(3) , 277-290.
  • Krems, J.A., Kenrick, D.T., Neel, R. (2017). Individual Perceptions of Self-Actualization: What Functional Motives Are Linked to Fulfilling One’s Full Potential? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(9) , 1337-1352.
  • Maslow, A.H. (1970). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Row. Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review 50(1) , 370-396.
  • Maybury, K.K. (2013). The Influence of a Positive Psychology Course on Student Well-Being. Teaching of Psychology, 40(1), 62-65.
  • Seligman, M.E.P., Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology – An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1) , 5-14.
  • Whitehead, P. M. (2017). Goldstein’s self-actualization: A biosemiotic view. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45 (1), 71–83.

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hemachandra manamperi

Perhaps aging and matured wisdom through experience may also contribute to self-realization. As described in Erickson’s Theory Stage 8.


Well done, young master Selva. I found your essay both informative and mentally nourishing (although the latter may be due in part from the recent stimulate I took for one of the many illnesses I’m constantly battling on my road to self actualization)


I believe this process of becoming self-realized means a person is developing well grounded self-worth for more unconditional positive regard, which in turn upon experiencing and understanding these intuitive systems (or our full potential) can allow one to learn to leverage these abilities to a much greater degree at will — having more moments of being self-actualized.

For the average person and in terms of self-actualization, this I think can be summarized into three oversimplified practical areas to maintain: stable energy levels through consistency in prioritizing basic self-care, a person wholeheartedly accepting/embracing the moment to be present-minded in openly expressing themselves for meaningful experiences/interactions, and decondition/replace false beliefs and limiting mindsets that hold one back to more unconditional intrinsic aspects of these underlying processes in experiencing the moment.

Essentially, this can be a result from a person having secure high self-esteem, and a high autonomy orientation. These individuals are further along the process of self-realization have become virtuosos in these abilities, actively seeking uncertainty and challenging themselves by leaning into stressors with a growth mindset due to knowing any friction/resistance they experience is proof of progress and change happening within their body in manifesting the embodiment of these virtues they practice reaching ever so closer to these ideals.

Richard Gresham

I believe Knowledge of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was Necessary for my Transitioning from Child to Adult!


Super article. Yes, personally, Maslow`s Hierarchy of Needs gives me direction since young, leading to becoming a vegan before taking the natural next step embracing Utopianism and even Minimalism (like relating to reducing being materialistic) too, while exploring layering positivity on positivity, and discovering that it displaces negativity entirely when applied fully. There is no end to enjoying and embracing feeling good and whole constantly and spontaneously, as a normal way and quality of life, beyond being a mere exception, also made possible by acknowledging, understanding and resolving the past to open up the present totally as exciting and adventurous being alive and thriving, while putting intelligent and ideal beneficial self interest first and foremost without ever being a slave to anything or anyone. Being one`s own friend results in the ability to be there for another similarly as well, all part of bringing out empathy and the best in ourselves and each other.

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“My existence on this earth is pointless.”

That thought crossed my mind every night before I fell asleep.

It had been several months since I graduated from high school and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. My future plans were falling to pieces, and everyone around me kept telling me that I needed to start accomplishing things that I had not yet accomplished.

I was not where I thought I should be in life. Everyone had expectations that I hadn’t met. I became too focused on becoming a version of myself that everyone else wanted, and I constantly compared myself to other people who had already taken the dive into the next chapter of their life.

I was relentlessly questioned and judged for my slower progression in life, which convinced me that no one supported me or believed in me. I wondered why I even bothered to exist if I was getting nowhere and disappointing everyone. I began to blame everyone but myself for the state of misery I had fallen into.

My self-esteem began to suffer as the months went by. I felt inferior to everyone and it made me hate myself. I still did not know what I wanted to do with my life—and I was starting to not even care.

But several months and hundreds of needless self insults later, I decided to block out the negativity , both from myself and other people. I silenced the voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough and asked myself what would really make me happy.

I’ve always been very creative and expressive. I used to sing, act, and dance when I was younger. But my favorite thing has always been writing.

Some of the happiest moments in my life came from opportunities to express myself or put my heart and soul out for everyone to see. Every path I tried to take always led me back to writing.

I got to a point where I realized that I was only trying to pursue other paths because I thought that’s what other people would accept. I was afraid that if I let my imagination soar to all the different possibilities, people would tear me down or tell me to be “realistic.”

The bottom line is that I became paralyzed with this fear of not being accepted. I was afraid to be different or go my own way and pursue what truly made me happy. I put myself in a box.

One day, I decided that enough was enough. I spent an entire year of my life trying to be “realistic” and conform to the expectations of other people. I realized that you can’t please everyone anyway, so trying will definitely not lead to contentment.

Real happiness comes from being content with and proud of yourself .

I finally decided that I was going to devote my time to learning about writing and working on my writing skills. I am happy with that decision and I feel better about myself because I made it for me.

I have learned a few things about choosing the right path for yourself, focusing on what will make you happy. If you’ve been struggling to make that choice, I recommend:

Drop your worries.

Worry puts a burden on your mind, body, and spirit. They can keep you up all night if you let them. Find comfort in the fact that everything happens for a reason and everything will fall into place at the right time.

During my period of low self-esteem and extreme uncertainty, I relentlessly questioned every aspect of my life. I would go to bed frustrated and upset as I told myself I wasn’t good enough, and that I wished I was like everyone else my age.

By constantly bashing yourself and worrying about every single thing that happens to you, you’re missing out on happiness that you could’ve had all along.

Do not try to please or impress anyone but yourself.

The need to impress, please, and compare ourselves to other people all the time is one of the most common causes of self-loathing. As long as you’re trying to please other people and live up to their expectations, you will not be pleasing yourself.

What I’ve learned is that happiness does not come from pleasing other people. Happiness comes from feeling content with your own life and goals.

Embrace your unique qualities and talents.

Everyone is different. Figure out what you’re good at and what sets you apart from everyone else. Your mission is to create a reason for being here.

Believe in your path.

When you start to figure out what you want in life, there will be obstacles. Do not let anyone or anything discourage you from continuing on. Believe in yourself and believe in your decisions.

Stay positive and keep moving forward.

Take your time.

Life does not come with a rulebook or deadlines for accomplishing certain things. I used to always think that I needed to be at the same level as everyone else my age. Life is not a race or a contest.

Have faith in the fact that you are exactly where you need to be at this very moment in time and as long as you’re content, don’t let anyone convince you that you’re not where you need to be. You be the judge of what you want to change in your life and then do it for you .

Surround yourself with positivity.

Try to limit the amount of time you spend with people who nay-say, judge, or ridicule. Choose to completely surround yourself with positive, inspiring influences. You will feel much happier and better about yourself if you do.

Make a list of sayings or quotes that make you feel encouraged or inspired and keep it where you can see it each day. Try putting the list under your pillow or on your refrigerator door.

The most important thing to remember is that you are worth it, you can go another day, and you can be happy. Life will not throw you anything you cannot handle or overcome.

Once you start to accept and love yourself and your desired path, the smoke will clear and you will breathe easy again. Be kind to yourself and life will be a whole lot brighter.

Photo by QuinnDombrowsky

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About Madison Sonnier

Madison is a writer of feelings and lover of animals, music, nature and creativity. You can follow her blog at journeyofasoulsearcher.blogspot.com/ and buy her first eBook through Amazon . She loves making new friends, so be sure to say hi if you like what you see!

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self realization examples essay

self realization examples essay

Abstract:  The naturalistic extension of "developing your potential" for realization of self is outlined as an ethical philosophy.

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Apa paraphrasing, self realization essay sample, example.


Say we look at a wall. We can think it is a wall and many other things about it. But beyond these thoughts, is it a wall? Nothing at all and yet everything. This reality is a whole experience—without thought, our awareness sees reality as one stream of consciousness, where things simply are without further explanation and the need for further explanation.

But this is only talk if we cannot achieve the state of thoughtless awareness. Without being in a state of awareness without thought, reality will continue to be clouded with our mental intervention.

The easiest way to get into the state of thoughtless awareness is through the process of self realization. To realize the self means to realize reality. As mentioned before, reality is a seamless whole, which is one. That one is the self, hiding behind mental intervention, the identification with a separate self (the body), and emotions.

What follows is the process of self realization, developed by the great spiritual teacher, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi . It requires only yourself and a willingness to achieve self realization.

Self Realization Process

Sit comfortably. Place your hands on your lap with your palms up. Repeat each phrase in quotation marks, until you feel peaceful and ready to move on.

1. Take a few slow, deep breaths. This will help you to relax and meditate better.

2. The following steps will help you calm your thoughts. For best results, do them slowly:

  • Put your right hand on your lower left side, just above your hip and quietly say, either out loud or to yourself, “I want to experience pure knowledge.”
  • Move your right hand up along your side until it is just below the rib cage and say, “I am my own teacher.”
  • Place your right hand on your heart and say, “I am not this body, these thoughts, or these emotions. I simply am.”
  • Move your right hand to your left shoulder, where it meets the neck, and say, “I do not condemn myself.”
  • Next, put your right hand across your forehead, lower your head slightly, and say, “I forgive everyone, including myself.”
  • Lastly, put your right hand on the top of your head, the center of your palm making firm contact, and rotate it slowly in a clockwise direction, as if a face of a clock is laying on your head. While doing this, say, “Let me experience the state of meditation.”

3. Raise your right hand about six inches over your head, palm down. Slowly move your hand up and down until you feel an energy, possibly a warm or cool breeze, coming out of the top of your head and/or on the palm of your hand. If you do not feel it or are uncertain that it is, simply sit and observe what you are feeling inside.

4. Sit quietly for approximately 5-10 minutes. Without trying, without effort, notice the mental silence—how your thoughts have calmed. If a thought does pop into your head, let it rise and fall away.

5. At the end of your meditation, slowly open your eyes and repeat Step 3.

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15 Self-Actualization Examples (Maslow’s Hierarchy)

self-actualization examples

Self-actualization is the realization or fulfillment of one’s full talents and potentialities. It is the process of fully developing oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The concept was first introduced by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of needs . It is the top growth need for human beings and represents the full realization of human potential.

Examples of self-actualization include realizing your dreams, being true to yourself, and achieving inner peace. According to Maslow, one person who achieved self-actualization was Mahatma Gandhi.

Definition of Self-Actualization Needs

Maslow referred to the unique potential of each person in his hierarchy of needs. If a person is able to meet the needs of each of the first four levels, they can eventually reach the top level, which he called Self-Actualization .

When a person has realized their fullest potential, they have reached a state of self-actualization. As Maslow stated, “What a man can be, he must be.”

Very few people are able to obtain this state, but those that do have several characteristics in common. For example, they possess a high level of morality and concern for the welfare of others. They are not interested in money or fame, and are usually very courageous and independent.

1. Achieving a Peak Experience

A peak experience is a moment of intense joy or deep perception. It can include feelings of awe and ecstasy, or a profound sense of understanding. Although Maslow said self-actualized people were likely to have peak experiences, other people could have them as well.

Some examples of peak experiences include: the birth of a baby, a rush of creativity , or a profound insight into a complex problem. People that have had a peak experience describe them as transcendent moments of great change.

Other characteristics of the peak experience include an incredible moment of insight into one’s personal existence and purpose in life. It can become a life-changing event. It could also be an intense spiritual moment when a person feels at one with the world that lacks a sense of time.

The peak experience is a truly unique component of the highest level in Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs.

2. Being All You Can Be

For 20 years, from 1980 to 2000, the U.S. Army embarked on its most expensive advertising campaign in history. It was also one of the most successful recruitment campaigns the Army has ever created.

The slogan for the commercial was a simple statement: Be all you can be . Those 5 words motivated thousands of young American men and women to enlist. The commercial showed images of soldiers engaged in tough, demanding activities, such as jumping from planes.

The designers of the campaign were attempting to tap into the desire of young people to achieve greatness. It can be a time in life that is confusing with a future that is uncertain. The message in the ad however, was clear: if you join the Army, you can reach your fullest potential.

3. Realizing your Dreams and Goals

One aspect of self-actualization is realizing your dreams and goals. To get there, a person needs to have a clear sense of what they want to achieve in life and they have to make a plan to achieve it.

The ultimate goal for someone might be to achieve business success, become the best sports star you can be, or simply raising a happy family.

According to Maslow, to get to this point of realization, you need to have climbed up the levels of Maslow’s hierarchy: you need to have your basic needs and securities met, plus you need to have self-esteem and be positively regarded by others.

4. Being True to Your Values

People who are self-actualized are true to their values. They have a clear sense of who they are and they behave in ways that are consistent with their beliefs and values. They are not afraid to be different from the rest of society, and they do not try to conform to what others think they should be.

These people accept themselves for who they are, flaws and all.

For example, Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, chose to go to prison rather than be silent in the face of Vladamir Putin’s oppressive dictatorship. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, but in the process, was martyred as a hero who was true to his own values and had achieved self-actualization as a moral figure.

5. Achieving Inner Peace

People who have attained self-actualization often report a sense of inner peace. They are able to accept themselves and the world around them. They feel comfortable in their own skin and they are not disturbed by the negative things that happen in life.

This is, perhaps, most important at the end of a person’s life. If you have lived a moral life and achieved great wisdom , you might reach a point where you’re peaceful with the idea of your life coming to an end. These people achieved self-actualization by the end of their lives.

6. Living a Fulfilling and Meaningful Life

At the end of the day, people who have attained self-actualization often feel that their lives were fulfilling and meaningful. They have a sense that they made a difference in the world and that their lives mattered.

Even if they did not achieve great fame or fortune, they feel that they lived a life that was meaningful.

For example, many people who had a career in healthcare or education where they spent their days caring for and supporting other people will feel a sense of satisfaction at the end of their lives. Similarly, mothers and fathers who spent their lives caring for their children may feel fulfilled that they did their best for their own children.

7. Making a Positive Difference in the World

People who have attained self-actualization often want to make a positive difference in the world. They feel that they have a responsibility to contribute to society in some way. This may manifest itself in their work, their hobbies, or their volunteering.

For example, Bill Gates has made a positive difference in the world through his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has also made a difference in the world of technology through his work with Microsoft.

Similarly, Mother Theresa made a positive difference in the world by working with the poor and sick in India. She was able to make a real difference in the lives of the people she helped.

8. Experiencing Loy, Happiness, and Love on a Regular Basis

People who have achieved self-actualization often report experiencing joy, happiness, and love on a regular basis. This is because they are living a life that is authentic and true to themselves. They are not living a life of pretending or trying to be someone they are not.

For example, monks and other spiritual people will often speak of their joy with the simple things in life. These people have achieved self-actualization and are living a life of joy and contentment.

At a simpler level, grandparents who are retired and spend their final decades spending happy days with their grandchildren may feel as if their twilight years are the years when they get to enjoy every day and squeeze every last moment of happiness out of their lives.

9. Developing a Strong Sense of Self-Acceptance

People who have attained self-actualization often develop a strong sense of self-acceptance. They are able to accept themselves for who they are, flaws and all.

This is an important quality because it allows them to live an authentic life. They are not trying to be someone they are not. They are comfortable in their own skin and they are not trying to hide their flaws from the world.

For example, many people who have achieved self-actualization will speak openly about their struggles with mental health or addiction. They are not afraid to share their story because they know that it is part of who they are and they accept themselves for it.

Real-Life Examples of Self-Actualization

1. mahatama gandhi.

Maslow himself recognized Gandhi as being a rare example of a person that reached self-actualization.

Gandhi was an Indian lawyer and social activist that became the leader of a national movement against British rule. During his time in South Africa, he endured insults and physical attacks by members of the white ruling class.

As he witnessed his fellow Indians being treated in the same manner, he became more assertive of his rights as a human being. He started to defend his dignity and refused to accept the unjust social order as normal. The rest of his life was comprised of political activism in both South Africa and India. He organized protests and utilized the act of civil disobedience.

Scholars today give him credit for being the catalyst of three revolutions against colonialism, racism, and violence.

A monk is a man or woman that has joined a religious community. They have chosen a life that is simple and free from many of the ill trappings of modern society. For example, they usually live in a monastery, do not drink alcohol, smoke, or engage in sexual activities.

Many characteristics of a monk’s lifestyle are the same as those identified by Maslow as being part of self-actualization. For example, monks are devoted to a religious cause that is larger than themselves. They are uninterested in fame or monetary awards, and they have a perspective on life that is free from judgment.

Some monks spend a great deal of time meditating. During mediation one can feel a connection with the universe, have deep and meaningful insights, and may experience emotional states that are highly unusual and awe-inspiring. These are very similar to the peak experience that Maslow described.

3. Starving Artists

One of the characteristics of a person that has reached a state of self-actualization is that they are completely unconcerned with money. They do what they do because of their love and devotion to that endeavor. They are totally absorbed with their pursuit.

Unfortunately, being an artist is not a lucrative career choice. Of course, there are exceptions, but an overwhelming percentage of artists only have the rewards of their creativity to benefit from.

Their works often address broad societal issues that are relevant in today’s society. Powerful commentary on the injustices of the world dominate their thinking and they often feel an obligation to speak out on such matters. These are some of the same characteristics that Maslow used to describe people who are self-actualized.

4. Motherhood

Some of the key characteristics of self-actualized people include: being courageous, independent, good problem-solvers, and having a tremendous sense of personal responsibility. They are also dedicated to a cause that is larger than themselves and are willing to make personal sacrifices.

Those all sound like the exact characteristics of motherhood. Mothers are fully devoted to raising their children as best as they possibly can. They are willing to make extreme sacrifices if necessary. And of course, mothers must be excellent problem-solvers.

Mothers also must be enduring, patient, and capable of incredible multi-tasking. Although most scholars may not identify motherhood as an example of self-actualization, the fact that it contains many of the same characteristics makes it a very suitable example.

5. The Stars in Nike Advertising

Nike commercials have helped bring the company huge success. One famous entrepreneur, Steve Jobs, was particularly impressed with the Nike shoe campaigns. He marveled at how successful the advertising designers were at tapping into people’s desire for greatness, through shoes.

He once noted that in most Nike commercials, the shoe is hardly ever seen on screen. There is little to no information in the ad about the shoe itself. No elaborations on its structure or the materials used to make it superior.

The ads are all about achieving greatness and excelling like you have never excelled before. This is a perfect example of advertising trying to tap into Maslow’s fifth level of his hierarchy of needs: the need for self-actualization.

6. The Enlightened Woman in “The Greatest Commercial of All Time”

Of course, there is no way to determine what is the “greatest commercial of all time.” This is purely a personal opinion. However, one commercial that often gets mentioned by professionals in the advertising industry is the Apple 1984 ad.

The commercial aired during Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. The ad depicted a grainy monochrome grey auditorium with a large screen at the front. The audience stood in front of the screen, nearly lifeless and bald, all dressed in grey.

As a big-brother-type character was preaching about the “unification of thought”, all of a sudden, a young woman runs inside. Carrying a huge sledgehammer and being chased by police, she slings the hammer and destroys the screen.

The goal of the ad was to tap into people’s desire to not conform, to be different and unique. The message was clear: if you want to be transcendent, use a Mac.  

Other Needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a five-tier hierarchy. The two foundational tiers (or ‘basic needs’) are fundamental needs for people to survive. As you move up to the top three tiers (or the ‘growth needs’), a person starts thriving:

  • Physiological needs – these are the basic needs for people to survive, such as air, water, food, and shelter.
  • Safety needs – these are the needs for people to feel safe and secure, such as personal safety, financial security, and health.
  • Social needs (belongingness and love needs) – these are the needs for people to feel a sense of connection and belonging, such as family, friends, and intimacy.
  • Esteem needs – these are the needs for people to feel a sense of self-worth and achievement, such as respect, recognition, and success.
  • Self-actualization needs – these are the needs for people to reach their full potential, such as creativity, self-fulfillment, and personal growth .

According to Maslow, few people ever reach the self-actualization level.

See More Humanistic Psychology Examples Here

Maslow’s fifth level in his hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. This is the highest level in Maslow’s original theory. A person can only reach this level if the needs of the other four levels have been sufficiently satisfied.

In Maslow’s view, each individual has a unique talent, and to be self-actualized means that you have exercised that talent to your fullest potential. He also spoke of the peak experience, which was a moment of transcendence that brought about deep insights and awe-inspiring emotional states.

Although most people will never achieve self-actualization, Maslow did identify many famous historical figures that possessed several of the key characteristics. These were individuals that made tremendous personal sacrifices for a greater cause. They were independent and not interested in fame, wealth or recognition.  

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review,50(4) , 370-96.

Dhingra, N., Samo, A., Schaninger, B., and Schrimper, M. (2021, April 5). Help employees find purpose – or watch them leave. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave

Privette, G. Defining moments of self-actualization: Peak performance and peak experience, in K. J. Schneider, J. F. T. Bugental, and J. F. Pierson (Eds.). The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology , 161-180; 2001.

Shyles, L., & Hocking, J. E. (1990). The Army’s “Be All You Can Be” Campaign. Armed Forces & Society , 16 (3), 369–383. http://www.jstor.org/stable/45305171


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Gregg Henriques Ph.D.

  • Relationships

A New Integrative Model of the Self

The self emerges as animals model themselves across time and in relationships..

Posted September 30, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams

  • Research and scholarship on the nature of the self have yielded conflicting messages, but a new model helps frame the self in a coherent way.
  • The model suggests that the self emerges as animals model themselves over time in different contexts and relationships.
  • The human self consists of a nonverbal experiential self, a narrating ego, and a persona that manages impressions.

The post was co-authored by John Vervaeke and Christopher Mastropietro.

What is the self? Is it the core essence that defines what and who we truly are? Or is it an egoic illusion that we fallaciously cling to and, to be healthy and mature, we must learn to become detached from? Many voices in psychology and education teach us to be our true selves or be true to our core self. And yet other traditions, such as Buddhism, seem to argue that there is no such thing as the self. Research and scholarship on the nature of the self have yielded similar confusions and conflicting messages. Consider the tensions between the following quotes from two well-known psychologists:

"Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their head." — William James

"But the concept of the self loses its meaning if a person has multiple selves … the essence of self involves integration of diverse experiences into a unity … In short, unity is one of the defining features of selfhood and identity ." — Roy Baumeister

The self, alongside concepts like behavior, mind, cognition , and consciousness, represents one of the most central but also most elusive concepts in psychology and cognitive science. However, recent work on developing metatheoretical synergies optimistically point to the possibility of a coherent articulation of what the self is in a way that is consistent with the best current research, the focus and concerns of therapists, and the deep existential reflections given by philosophical perspectives that reflect on how we relate to ourselves and our place in the cosmos.

A New Model for Framing the Self

Earlier this year, John Vervaeke produced an educational video series, " The Elusive “I”: On the Nature and Function of the Self ," that tackled these questions and generated a new model for framing the self. The series built from an earlier exploration into the tangled knot of consciousness that blended some of the best metatheories in psychology (i.e., Henriques’ Unified Theory) and cognitive science (i.e., Vervaeke’s Recursive Relevance Realization ) to generate a clear, holistic picture of how subjective conscious experience emerges in the animal-mental plane of existence.

That series identified two broad steps in the evolution of animal consciousness. First, perhaps as early as the Cambrian Explosion some 520 million years ago, there was an integration in the brain of sensory inputs with inner drives that functioned to generate “valence qualia,” which are bodily feeling states like pleasure and pain that guide animals toward and away from valued stimuli. Then, as animals advanced in their capacity to model the environment and their anticipated outcomes, and deliberate based on possible action sequences, a more extended form of subjective consciousness emerged, something we might call “an inner mind’s eye” that arises in a global neuronal workspace. As was described in the series, this inner mind’s eye can be effectively divided into a witness function that frames and indexes specific aspects of attention with a hereness-nowness-togetherness binding that can be called “adverbial qualia,” and the contents of that frame, such as the redness of an apple, which can be called “adjectival qualia.”

A Need to Model the Self Across Time

It turns out that this model of animal consciousness has crucial implications for the emergence of a sense of self. Work in robotics over the past several decades has demonstrated that any complex adaptive system that can move with efficiency must simultaneously model not just the exterior environment but also account for the interior movements and positions of the robot. Put simply, coordinating agent-arena actions require models of both the agent and arena and their dynamic relation. This is true of both robots and animals.

If this fact is coupled to the idea that higher forms of cognition and consciousness allow animals to extend themselves across time and situations, we move from modeling the immediate agent-arena relationship to modeling the agent across many separate arenas that are extended in time. For example, a rat at a choice point in a maze will project itself down the right arm of the maze, and then down the left arm. Crucially, although the rat’s simulation of the two paths will be different, the deliberation requires a consistent model of the self (i.e., the rat is the same, whereas the paths are what differ). This insight gives rise to the claim that as animals engage in deliberation across time, a model of the self that is distinct from the many possible environments is required. The point here is that the jump in cognition and consciousness that allows animals to extend themselves across time also points to the need for a more elaborate model of the self.

Modeling the Self in Relation to Others

The series argued that a second crucial jump would occur as animals became increasingly intertwined in relationships with others. Consider, for example, parental care and the attachments formed with offspring. In such relationships, the caregiver must not only model their own actions and place across time but also model the needs of the other. Moreover, they are in dynamic participatory relation with each other across time. Attachment theory shows how this dance between caregiver and young is enacted and can lead to either a secure relational holding environment or not.

This process of modeling self-in-relation-to-other is framed by Vervaeke by adding “relational” to recursive relevance realization. That is, it is the self-other feedback loop that should be tracked for relevant information. This formulation is directly aligned with Henriques’ Influence Matrix, which maps the process dimensions of the human primate relationship system. Specifically, it suggests that humans intuitively track processes of exchange for indications of having social influence or being valued by others, as well as implications for power/ competition , love/affiliation, and levels of dependency or independence.

self realization examples essay

Consistent with work from Tomasello, humans have particularly strong capacities among the great apes to track others' perspectives and feelings, and develop a shared attention and intention. Tomasello calls this the intersubjective “we” space that can form as humans sync up with others. Following the logic above, this suggests massive mapping of self across time in relationship to many others and in many contexts. The result is a dynamic picture of the human primate, pre-verbal self that is very consistent with both James’ assertion that the self is a function of the other and Baumeister’s claim that there is a felt sense of unity.

The Justifying Ego

Of course, as humans evolved over the past 200,000 years, we have moved from implicit intersubjective coordination to explicit intersubjectivity, via the emergence of symbolic language and the development of justification systems that function to generate a shared propositional field of what is and ought to be. Henriques’ work on the Unified Theory shows how the problems and processes of justification set the stage for the evolution of the human ego as the mental organ of justification and help explain the relationship between the ego, the primate experiential self, and the persona, which is the public image or face or mask that people project to manage status and maintain favorable impressions.

The diagram below provides a map of the insights generated by the series. It depicts how layers of cognitive modeling emerge that function to generate models of both the world and the “Generalized Me” that models the self across time. It also places that in relationship to human consciousness via the inner mind’s eye that functions as the adverbial qualia framing of the adjectivally experienced properties. On top of that primate self in humans is the justifying ego that manages the “legitimacy of the self” on the culture-person plane of existence.

Gregg Henriques

After elaborating on the cognitive science that grounds the model, the series shifted into the world of clinical psychology and explored how many neurotic conditions can be understood as arising from the conflicts between a core, emotionally charged experiential self, a justifying ego, and a persona on the social stage. Consistent with this frame, both humanistic and psychodynamic approaches are structured to identify these conflicts and bring insight and acceptance in a way that affords a more coherent, integrated identity. The last part of the series shifted to existential concerns, drawing on insights from Kierkegaard and other philosophers to show how the above model of the self is consistent with and can ground and inform intrapersonal and interpersonal dialogical reflections on how we relate to ourselves and our place in the cosmos.

The Elusive "I" Episode 1, Problematizing the Self

The Elusive "I" Episode 2, Problematizing the Self Part II

The Elusive "I" Episode 3, The Social and Developmental Aspects

The Elusive "I" Episode 4, The Self and Recursive Relevance Realization

The Elusive "I" Episode 5, A Naturalistic Account of Self and Personhood

The Elusive "I" Episode 6, Existential Concerns

The Elusive "I" Episode 7, Psychedelic and Mystical Experiences

The Elusive "I" Episode 8, Connecting the Dots with Predictive Processing

The Elusive "I" Episode 9, A Unified Clinical View of the Self

The Elusive "I" Episode 10, The Self, the Ego, and the Persona

The Elusive "I" Episode 11, The Existential-Spiritual Dimension of the Self

The Elusive "I" Episode 12, The Self, Soul and Spirit

Commentary: An "I" for the Elusive I (Bruce Alderman and Layman Pascal; Integral Stage)

Dialogical Reflections on the Elusive I (Vervaeke, Henriques, Mastropietro, Alderman and Pascal)

Gregg Henriques Ph.D.

Gregg Henriques, Ph.D. , is a professor of psychology at James Madison University.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self Reliance

What does Emerson say about self-reliance?

In Emerson's essay “ Self-Reliance ,” he boldly states society (especially today’s politically correct environment) hurts a person’s growth.

Emerson wrote that self-sufficiency gives a person in society the freedom they need to discover their true self and attain their true independence.

Believing that individualism, personal responsibility , and nonconformity were essential to a thriving society. But to get there, Emerson knew that each individual had to work on themselves to achieve this level of individualism. 

Today, we see society's breakdowns daily and wonder how we arrived at this state of society. One can see how the basic concepts of self-trust, self-awareness, and self-acceptance have significantly been ignored.

Who published self-reliance?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the essay, published in 1841 as part of his first volume of collected essays titled "Essays: First Series."

It would go on to be known as Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self Reliance and one of the most well-known pieces of American literature.

The collection was published by James Munroe and Company.

What are the examples of self-reliance?

Examples of self-reliance can be as simple as tying your shoes and as complicated as following your inner voice and not conforming to paths set by society or religion.

Self-reliance can also be seen as getting things done without relying on others, being able to “pull your weight” by paying your bills, and caring for yourself and your family correctly.

Self-reliance involves relying on one's abilities, judgment, and resources to navigate life. Here are more examples of self-reliance seen today:

Entrepreneurship: Starting and running your own business, relying on your skills and determination to succeed.

Financial Independence: Managing your finances responsibly, saving money, and making sound investment decisions to secure your financial future.

Learning and Education: Taking the initiative to educate oneself, whether through formal education, self-directed learning, or acquiring new skills.

Problem-Solving: Tackling challenges independently, finding solutions to problems, and adapting to changing circumstances.

Personal Development: Taking responsibility for personal growth, setting goals, and working towards self-improvement.

Homesteading: Growing your food, raising livestock, or becoming self-sufficient in various aspects of daily life.

DIY Projects: Undertaking do-it-yourself projects, from home repairs to crafting, without relying on external help.

Living Off the Grid: Living independently from public utilities, generating your energy, and sourcing your water.

Decision-Making: Trusting your instincts and making decisions based on your values and beliefs rather than relying solely on external advice.

Crisis Management: Handling emergencies and crises with resilience and resourcefulness without depending on external assistance.

These examples illustrate different facets of self-reliance, emphasizing independence, resourcefulness, and the ability to navigate life autonomously.

What is the purpose of self reliance by Emerson?

In his essay, " Self Reliance, " Emerson's sole purpose is the want for people to avoid conformity. Emerson believed that in order for a man to truly be a man, he was to follow his own conscience and "do his own thing."

Essentially, do what you believe is right instead of blindly following society.

Why is it important to be self reliant?

While getting help from others, including friends and family, can be an essential part of your life and fulfilling. However, help may not always be available, or the assistance you receive may not be what you had hoped for.

It is for this reason that Emerson pushed for self-reliance. If a person were independent, could solve their problems, and fulfill their needs and desires, they would be a more vital member of society.

This can lead to growth in the following areas:

Empowerment: Self-reliance empowers individuals to take control of their lives. It fosters a sense of autonomy and the ability to make decisions independently.

Resilience: Developing self-reliance builds resilience, enabling individuals to bounce back from setbacks and face challenges with greater adaptability.

Personal Growth: Relying on oneself encourages continuous learning and personal growth. It motivates individuals to acquire new skills and knowledge.

Freedom: Self-reliance provides a sense of freedom from external dependencies. It reduces reliance on others for basic needs, decisions, or validation.

Confidence: Achieving goals through one's own efforts boosts confidence and self-esteem. It instills a belief in one's capabilities and strengthens a positive self-image.

Resourcefulness: Being self-reliant encourages resourcefulness. Individuals learn to solve problems creatively, adapt to changing circumstances, and make the most of available resources.

Adaptability: Self-reliant individuals are often more adaptable to change. They can navigate uncertainties with a proactive and positive mindset.

Reduced Stress: Dependence on others can lead to stress and anxiety, especially when waiting for external support. Self-reliance reduces reliance on external factors for emotional well-being.

Personal Responsibility: It promotes a sense of responsibility for one's own life and decisions. Self-reliant individuals are more likely to take ownership of their actions and outcomes.

Goal Achievement: Being self-reliant facilitates the pursuit and achievement of personal and professional goals. It allows individuals to overcome obstacles and stay focused on their objectives.

Overall, self-reliance contributes to personal empowerment, mental resilience, and the ability to lead a fulfilling and purposeful life. While collaboration and support from others are valuable, cultivating a strong sense of self-reliance enhances one's capacity to navigate life's challenges independently.

What did Emerson mean, "Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide"?

According to Emerson, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to you independently, but every person is given a plot of ground to till. 

In other words, Emerson believed that a person's main focus in life is to work on oneself, increasing their maturity and intellect, and overcoming insecurities, which will allow a person to be self-reliant to the point where they no longer envy others but measure themselves against how they were the day before.

When we do become self-reliant, we focus on creating rather than imitating. Being someone we are not is just as damaging to the soul as suicide.

Envy is ignorance: Emerson suggests that feeling envious of others is a form of ignorance. Envy often arises from a lack of understanding or appreciation of one's unique qualities and potential. Instead of being envious, individuals should focus on discovering and developing their talents and strengths.

Imitation is suicide: Emerson extends the idea by stating that imitation, or blindly copying others, is a form of self-destruction. He argues that true individuality and personal growth come from expressing one's unique voice and ideas. In this context, imitation is seen as surrendering one's identity and creativity, leading to a kind of "spiritual death."

What are the transcendental elements in Emerson’s self-reliance?

The five predominant elements of Transcendentalism are nonconformity, self-reliance, free thought, confidence, and the importance of nature.

The Transcendentalism movement emerged in New England between 1820 and 1836. It is essential to differentiate this movement from Transcendental Meditation, a distinct practice.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Transcendentalism is characterized as "an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson." A central tenet of this movement is the belief that individual purity can be 'corrupted' by society.

Are Emerson's writings referenced in pop culture?

Emerson has made it into popular culture. One such example is in the film Next Stop Wonderland released in 1998. The reference is a quote from Emerson's essay on Self Reliance, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

This becomes a running theme in the film as a single woman (Hope Davis ), who is quite familiar with Emerson's writings and showcases several men taking her on dates, attempting to impress her by quoting the famous line, only to botch the line and also giving attribution to the wrong person. One gentleman says confidently it was W.C. Fields, while another matches the quote with Cicero. One goes as far as stating it was Karl Marx!

Why does Emerson say about self confidence?

Content is coming very soon.

Self-Reliance: The Complete Essay

Ne te quaesiveris extra."
Man is his own star; and the soul that can Render an honest and a perfect man, Commands all light, all influence, all fate ; Nothing to him falls early or too late. Our acts our angels are, or good or ill, Our fatal shadows that walk by us still." Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher's Honest Man's Fortune Cast the bantling on the rocks, Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat; Wintered with the hawk and fox, Power and speed be hands and feet.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance

Ralph Waldo Emerson left the ministry to pursue a career in writing and public speaking. Emerson became one of America's best known and best-loved 19th-century figures. More About Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance Summary

The essay “Self-Reliance,” written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is, by far, his most famous piece of work. Emerson, a Transcendentalist, believed focusing on the purity and goodness of individualism and community with nature was vital for a strong society. Transcendentalists despise the corruption and conformity of human society and institutions. Published in 1841, the Self Reliance essay is a deep-dive into self-sufficiency as a virtue.

In the essay "Self-Reliance," Ralph Waldo Emerson advocates for individuals to trust in their own instincts and ideas rather than blindly following the opinions of society and its institutions. He argues that society encourages conformity, stifles individuality, and encourages readers to live authentically and self-sufficient lives.

Emerson also stresses the importance of being self-reliant, relying on one's own abilities and judgment rather than external validation or approval from others. He argues that people must be honest with themselves and seek to understand their own thoughts and feelings rather than blindly following the expectations of others. Through this essay, Emerson emphasizes the value of independence, self-discovery, and personal growth.

What is the Meaning of Self-Reliance?

I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instill is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to think that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.

Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light that flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought because it is his. In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

Great works of art have no more affecting lessons for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility than most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance that does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

Trust Thyself: Every Heart Vibrates To That Iron String.

Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, and the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

What pretty oracles nature yields to us in this text, in the face and behaviour of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look in their faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself. Do not think the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.

The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.

Society everywhere is in conspiracy - Ralph Waldo Emerson

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, — "But these impulses may be from below, not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass? If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why should I not say to him, 'Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest: have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.' Rough and graceless would be such greeting, but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. The lintels of the door-post I would write on, Whim . It is somewhat better than whim at last I hope, but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Then, again, do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and the thousandfold Relief Societies; — though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.

Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule. There is the man and his virtues. Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world, — as invalids and the insane pay a high board. Their virtues are penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. Wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. The primary evidence I ask that you are a man, and refuse this appeal from the man to his actions. For myself it makes no difference that I know, whether I do or forbear those actions which are reckoned excellent. I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.

This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. The easy thing in the world is to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is, that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers, — under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. And, of course, so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman's-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? With all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution, do I not know that he will do no such thing? Do not I know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side, — the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation. Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. There is a mortifying experience in particular, which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history; I mean "the foolish face of praise," the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved, but moved by a low usurping wilfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face with the most disagreeable sensation.

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlour. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the college. It is easy enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. Their rage is decorous and prudent, for they are timid as being very vulnerable themselves. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people is added, when the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.

But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Do not follow where the path may lead - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I suppose no man can violate his nature.

All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere. Nor does it matter how you gauge and try him. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; — read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing, contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not, and see it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects. The swallow over my window should interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into my web also. We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. They shed an united light on the advancing actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels. That is it which throws thunder into Chatham's voice, and dignity into Washington's port, and America into Adams's eye. Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemeris. It is always ancient virtue. We worship it today because it is not of today. We love it and pay it homage, because it is not a trap for our love and homage, but is self-dependent, self-derived, and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree, even if shown in a young person.

I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us never bow and apologize more. A great man is coming to eat at my house. I do not wish to please him; He should wish to please me, that I wish. I will stand here for humanity, and though I would make it kind, I would make it true. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you, and all men, and all events. Ordinarily, every body in society reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called "the height of Rome"; and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.

Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy, a bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists for him. But the man in the street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air, much like a gay equipage, and seem to say like that, 'Who are you, Sir?' Yet they all are his, suitors for his notice, petitioners to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. The picture waits for my verdict: it is not to command me, but I am to settle its claims to praise. That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke's house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince.

Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history, our imagination plays us false. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day's work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum total of both is the same. Why all this deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus? Suppose they were virtuous; did they wear out virtue? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day, as followed their public and renowned steps. When private men shall act with original views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.

The world has been instructed by its kings, who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own, make his own scale of men and things, and reverse theirs, pay for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent the law in his person, was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness, the right of every man.

The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust.

Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. We first share the life by which things exist, and afterwards see them as appearances in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. My wilful actions and acquisitions are but roving; — the idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, command my curiosity and respect. Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions, or rather much more readily; for, they do not distinguish between perception and notion. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. But perception is not whimsical, but fatal. If I see a trait, my children will see it after me, and in course of time, all mankind, — although it may chance that no one has seen it before me. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun.

The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when God speaketh he should communicate, not one thing, but all things; should fill the world with his voice; should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the centre of the present thought; and new date and new create the whole. Whenever a mind is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away, — means, teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it, — one as much as another. All things are dissolved to their centre by their cause, and, in the universal miracle, petty and particular miracles disappear. If, therefore, a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an injury, if it be anything more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; 'I think,' 'I am,' that he dares not say, but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see, — painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.

And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought, by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; not see the face of man; and you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. It shall exclude example and experience. You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are alike beneath it. There is somewhat low even in hope. In the hour of vision, there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea, — long intervals of time, years, centuries, — are of no account. This which I think and feel underlay every former state of life and circumstances, as it does underlie my present, and what is called life, and what is called death.

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life only avails, not the having lived.

Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world hates is that the soul becomes ; for that forever degrades the past, turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why, then, do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power, not confidence but an agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, because it works and is. Who has more obedience than I masters me, though he should not raise his finger. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits. We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.

This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain. Commerce, husbandry, hunting, whaling, war, eloquence , personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my respect as examples of its presence and impure action. I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth. Power is in nature the essential measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying soul.

Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home with the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions, by a simple declaration of the divine fact. Bid the invaders take the shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simplicity judge them, and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune beside our native riches.

But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. We must go alone. I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. How far off, how cool, how chaste the persons look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit. Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood, and I have all men's. Not for that will I adopt their petulance or folly, even to the extent of being ashamed of it. But your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must be elevation. At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door, and say, — 'Come out unto us.' But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act. "What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love."

If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience and faith, let us at least resist our temptations; let us enter into the state of war, and wake Thor and Woden, courage and constancy, in our Saxon breasts. This is to be done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. Check this lying hospitality and lying affection. Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth's. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities. To nourish my parents, to support my family I shall endeavour, to be the chaste husband of one wife, — but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. I appeal from your customs that I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions if you are not. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men's, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh today? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. — But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me, and do the same thing.

The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides. There are two confessionals, in one or the other of which we must be shriven. You may fulfil your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct , or in the reflex way. Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father, mother, cousin, neighbour, town, cat, and dog; whether any of these can upbraid you. But I may also neglect this reflex standard, and absolve me to myself. I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. It denies the name of duty to many offices that are called duties. But if I can discharge its debts, it enables me to dispense with the popular code. If anyone imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day.

And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster. High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law, to himself, that a simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity is to others!

If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction society , he will see the need of these ethics. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out, and we are become timorous, desponding whimperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and night continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate , where strength is born.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart.

Men say he is ruined if the young merchant fails . If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it , farms it , peddles , keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the resources of man, and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations, that he should be ashamed of our compassion, and that the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no more, but thank and revere him, — and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor, and make his name dear to all history.

It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; education; and in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.

1. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which they call a holy office is not so much as brave and manly. Prayer looks abroad and asks for some foreign addition to come through some foreign virtue, and loses itself in endless mazes of natural and supernatural, and mediatorial and miraculous. It is prayer that craves a particular commodity, — anything less than all good, — is vicious. Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action. The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar, are true prayers heard throughout nature, though for cheap ends. Caratach, in Fletcher's Bonduca, when admonished to inquire the mind of the god Audate, replies, —

"His hidden meaning lies in our endeavours; Our valors are our best gods."

Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired. Our sympathy is just as base. We come to them who weep foolishly, and sit down and cry for company, instead of imparting to them truth and health in rough electric shocks, putting them once more in communication with their own reason. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him, because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation. The gods love him because men hated him. "To the persevering mortal," said Zoroaster, "the blessed Immortals are swift."

As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect . They say with those foolish Israelites, 'Let not God speak to us, lest we die. Speak thou, speak any man with us, and we will obey.' Everywhere I am hindered of meeting God in my brother, because he has shut his own temple doors, and recites fables merely of his brother's, or his brother's brother's God. Every new mind is a new classification. If it prove a mind of uncommon activity and power, a Locke, a Lavoisier, a Hutton, a Bentham, a Fourier, it imposes its classification on other men, and lo! a new system. In proportion to the depth of the thought, and so to the number of the objects it touches and brings within reach of the pupil, is his complacency. But chiefly is this apparent in creeds and churches, which are also classifications of some powerful mind acting on the elemental thought of duty, and man's relation to the Highest. Such as Calvinism, Quakerism, Swedenborgism. The pupil takes the same delight in subordinating everything to the new terminology, as a girl who has just learned botany in seeing a new earth and new seasons thereby. It will happen for a time, that the pupil will find his intellectual power has grown by the study of his master's mind. But in all unbalanced minds, the classification is idolized, passes for the end, and not for a speedily exhaustible means, so that the walls of the system blend to their eye in the remote horizon with the walls of the universe; the luminaries of heaven seem to them hung on the arch their master built. They cannot imagine how you aliens have any right to see, — how you can see; 'It must be somehow that you stole the light from us.' They do not yet perceive, that light, unsystematic, indomitable, will break into any cabin, even into theirs. Let them chirp awhile and call it their own. If they are honest and do well, presently their neat new pinfold will be too strait and low, will crack, will lean, will rot and vanish, and the immortal light, all young and joyful, million-orbed, million-colored, will beam over the universe as on the first morning.

2. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.

I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.

Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. The Vatican, and the palaces I seek. But I am not intoxicated though I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions. My giant goes with me wherever I go.

3. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate, and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind? Our houses are built with foreign taste; Shelves are garnished with foreign ornaments, but our opinions, our tastes, our faculties, lean, and follow the Past and the Distant. The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed. And why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, and quaint expression are as near to us as to any, and if the American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government, he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fitted, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also.

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation, but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.

To be yourself in a world - Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does our spirit of society. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other and undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous,  civilized, christianized, rich and it is scientific, but this change is not amelioration. For everything that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts, and loses old instincts. What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing, thinking American, with a watch, a pencil, and a bill of exchange in his pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a spear, a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under! But compare the health of the two men, and you shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength. If the traveller tell us truly, strike the savage with a broad axe, and in a day or two, the flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch, and the same blow shall send the white to his grave.

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe, the equinox he knows as little, and the whole bright calendar of the year are without a dial in his mind. His note-books impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a Christianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue. For every Stoic was a Stoic, but in Christendom, where is the Christian?

There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard of height or bulk. No greater men are now than ever were. A singular equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages; nor can all the science, art, religion, and philosophy of the nineteenth century avail to educate greater men than Plutarch's heroes, three or four and twenty centuries ago. Not in time is the race progressive. Phocion, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no class. He who is really of their class will not be called by their name, but will be his own man, and, in his turn, the founder of a sect. The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing boats, as to astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted the resources of science and art. Galileo, with an opera-glass, discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than anyone since. Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The great genius returns to essential man. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napoleon conquered Europe by the bivouac, which consisted of falling back on naked valor and disencumbering it of all aids. The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect army, says Las Casas, "without abolishing our arms, magazines, commissaries, and carriages, until, in imitation of the Roman custom, the soldier should receive his supply of corn, grind it in his hand-mill, and bake his bread himself."

Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not. The same particle does not rise from the valley to the ridge. Its unity is only phenomenal. The persons who make up a nation today, next year die, and their experience with them.

And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance. Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem the religious, learned, and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is. But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property, out of new respect for his nature. Especially he hates what he has, if he see that it is accidental, — came to him by inheritance, or gift, or crime; then he feels that it is not having; it does not belong to him, has no root in him, and merely lies there, because no revolution or no robber takes it away. But that which a man is does always by necessity acquire, and what the man acquires is living property, which does not wait the beck of rulers, or mobs, or revolutions, or fire, or storm, or bankruptcies, but perpetually renews itself wherever the man breathes. "Thy lot or portion of life," said the Caliph Ali, "is seeking after thee; therefore, be at rest from seeking after it." Our dependence on these foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers. The political parties meet in numerous conventions; the greater the concourse, and with each new uproar of announcement, The delegation from Essex! The Democrats from New Hampshire! The Whigs of Maine! the young patriot feels himself stronger than before by a new thousand of eyes and arms. In like manner the reformers summon conventions, and vote and resolve in multitude. Not so, O friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit you, but by a method precisely the reverse. It is only as a man puts off all foreign support, and stands alone, that I see him to be strong and to prevail. He is weaker by every recruit to his banner. Is not a man better than a town? Ask nothing of men, and in the endless mutation, thou only firm column must presently appear the upholder of all that surrounds thee. He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head.

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

Which quotation from "Self-reliance" best summarizes Emerson’s view on belief in oneself?

One of the most famous quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance" that summarizes his view on belief in oneself is:

"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string."

What does Emerson argue should be the basis of human actions in the second paragraph of “self-reliance”?

In the second paragraph of "Self-Reliance," Emerson argues that individual conscience, or a person's inner voice, should be the basis of human actions. He writes, "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." He believes that society tends to impose conformity and discourage people from following their own inner truth and intuition. Emerson encourages individuals to trust themselves and to act according to their own beliefs, instead of being influenced by the opinions of others. He argues that this is the way to live a truly authentic and fulfilling life.

Which statement best describes Emerson’s opinion of communities, according to the first paragraph of society and solitude?

According to the first paragraph of Ralph Waldo Emerson's " Society and Solitude, " Emerson has a mixed opinion of communities. He recognizes the importance of social interaction and the benefits of being part of a community but also recognizes the limitations that come with it.

He writes, "Society everywhere is in a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members." He argues that society can be limiting and restrictive, and can cause individuals to conform to norms and values that may not align with their own beliefs and desires. He believes that it is important for individuals to strike a balance between the benefits of social interaction and the need for solitude and self-discovery.

Which best describes Emerson’s central message to his contemporaries in "self-reliance"?

Ralph Waldo Emerson's central message to his contemporaries in "Self-Reliance" is to encourage individuals to trust in their own beliefs and instincts, and to break free from societal norms and expectations. He argues that individuals should have the courage to think for themselves and to live according to their own individual truth, rather than being influenced by the opinions of others. Through this message, he aims to empower people to live authentic and fulfilling lives, rather than living in conformity and compromise.

Yet, it is critical that we first possess the ability to conceive our own thoughts. Prior to venturing into the world, we must be intimately acquainted with our own selves and our individual minds. This sentiment echoes the concise maxim inscribed at the ancient Greek site of the Delphic Oracle: 'Know Thyself.'

In essence, Emerson's central message in "Self-Reliance" is to promote self-reliance and individualism as the key to a meaningful and purposeful life.

Understanding Emerson

Understanding Emerson: "The American scholar" and his struggle for self-reliance.

Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09982-0

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Other works from ralph waldo emerson for book clubs, the over-soul.

There is a difference between one and another hour of life, in their authority and subsequent effect. Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.

The American Scholar

An Oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837

Essays First Series

Essays: First Series First published in 1841 as Essays. After Essays: Second Series was published in 1844, Emerson corrected this volume and republished it in 1847 as Essays: First Series.

Emerson's Essays

Research the collective works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Read More Essay


Emerson's most famous work that can truly change your life. Check it out

Early Emerson Poems

America's best known and best-loved poems. More Poems

Self-Realization Essays

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Essay Self-Realization


Self-realization refers to the development and fulfillment of potential on an individual. In the theory of self-actualization, it is perceived that, an individual life of Excellency highly bases on the actualization of human potentiality. In a political perspective, self-realization is refers to a process of individuals attaining freedom from external coercion, which include both economic and political freedom, freedom from earthly desires and attachment as well as freedom from cultural demands. There are four fundamental conditions, which are necessary for individuals to attain self-realization or self-development in the modern society. These conditions are equality, freedom, reciprocity, and democracy. Thus the papers seeks to discuss the four fundamental conditions namely, equality, freedom, reciprocity and democracy, which are necessary for self-realization or development in a political theory while underpinning the argument with political thoughts of theorists John Stuart Mill and Michel Foucault’s in the book “On Liberty” and “Discipline & Punish” respectively.

The first vital condition is equality. Equality means that individuals would have equal access to power, instruments of labour among other resources that are deemed vital for human beings’ development. In an agent capacity, no one has a right to enjoy factors that boost self-development at the expense of others (Mill, 35). Equality is considered as a more essential condition for self-realization as lack of it may cause one group to exercise dominance in a direct way over another. Similarly, Lack of equality renders freedom in self-development to become empty, as mere possession of resources does not guarantee the attainment of self-realization. Conversely, The problem with this argument is that, when individual are placed at an equal ground, they may not attain self-realization as they have unique natural capability such as talent, personality and values (Mill, 41). Another problem is that, other people may utilize the equitable resources to develop negative aspects such as corruption, manipulation, and lies.

Similarly.In Mill’s attempt to make a case for perfect equality, he uses an example of gender equality, whereby women were were being exploited. According to Mill, women were being treated as slaves, a phenomenon that greatly hindered their improvement as well as self-realization. Women’s ability to attain self-development was stagnated since they did not have equal access to education as men. Additionally, Mill also suggests that equality is key for individual to develop by arguing that it should begin by dissemination of political and administrative power. Relatedly, Foucault covered on the subject of equality by emphasizing that equal access to power and knowledge is vital for every individual as lack of it may lead to punishment. According to Foucault, the modern society uses supervision and system of institution to measure human knowledge against the societies norms on the basis of their behavior (Foucault, 60).

The second condition is freedom. Freedom emanates from the doctrine of equality as one enjoys freedom when they have free access to various kind of necessary resources. Individual are said to enjoy freedom when they can access intelligent, talent or character as well as wealth. Freedom is split into two, which are, the internal freedom and the external freedom. The internal freedom includes right to basic freedom such freedom of expressing feeling, ideas, proposal, and speech (Mill, 112). Therefore, complete freedom will boosts people’s inner aspects such as personality, habits, needs, values and emotions, which are key for self-realization. Internal freedom capacity is vital as it allows an individual to realize his total personalities, which leads to positive freedom. In others words, an individual mind should be fully involved to its potentiality to earn the freedom of mind. In a situation where the mind is not fully engaged to its potentiality or it is not in a position to exploit all the available facilities, then its freedom is restricted, external freedom includes the right to own properties and enter into contracts in accordance with the stipulated guidelines (Mill, 87). These tend to grant individual with economic freedom, hence enabling them to attain self-realization.

Freedom has been a major theme in Mill’s coverage in the book “On Liberty.” Mills argues that the intensive contestation about freedom and liberty actions in the society today helps individuals towards achieving a greater level of self-realization as it fights for their opportunities. However, Mill says that, “in spite the fact that freedom can be made universal, self-realization cannot be uniform to every individuals as each one has a unique trait such as talent, personality, and values.” (Mill, 52). Additionally, Mill declares that the fact that freedom creates different kind of self-realization implies that such freedom can be at odds with the plans for leaders and reformers to the improvement of the people’s welfare.

The third condition is reciprocity. Reciprocity is referred to as a moral value that is rooted in individuals’ relational traits to utilize their freedom and equality. As equality and freedom are essential in the establishment of self-realization, then reciprocity becomes important automatically as it uses an implication of the elements of freedom and equality (Foucault, 150). When individuals comprehend what is necessary and important for their development process, they get insight and are obliged to reciprocate the same conditions to others. In others words, one realizes how to motivate others once they lean how to motivate themselves. Under customary reciprocity, individual self-development is created by the sense of recognition and identity received from expressing equality and freedom to fellow individuals. Additionally, self-realization can be established by a small expression of customary reciprocity such as the thank you statement.

Foucault underpinned the argument by suggesting that the universal human rights are fringed with human notion of responsibility and reciprocity of care. He said that, “Every individual rely on each other in the process of attaining self-realization as they each have an irreplaceable role to play.” (Foucault, 93). Further, Foucault argues that, the society ought to practice equality with utmost integrity to every group of human beings as a reciprocation of equilibrium and sustainability provided by nature. In his theme of power and knowledge, Foucault concluded that individuals will not only enjoy self-realization but also enjoy harmony and peace among each other when the society practices proper reciprocity (Foucault, 200).

The fourth condition is democracy. Democracy is defined as a government for the people of the people by the people (Mill, 59). In this respect, democracy comprises of equality, freedom, and reciprocity. An environment of democracy is created where there are no unfair restrictions and distribution of resources is a society. For example, access to power should be equally be distributed in a society by encouraging a free and fair representation in a manner that satisfy both the majority and the minority. Concerning the instruments of labour, democracy ought to ensure that there is freedom in the right to work. In the society, individuals should have the chance to choose employment that offers proper working condition and good remuneration packages. Right to the free choice of employment will serve as a vital tool to inspired people towards self-realization and self-development (Foucault, 183). Relatedly, the Universal Declaration of human rights assert that the right to work as well as declaring self-realization through work. However, in a society where democracy is deprived, self-realization will be hampered by people’s struggle to balance between the actions that generate scarce resources and the actions that consumes them (Mill, 86). In such circumstances, chaos tend to ensue when the powerful individuals attempts to overwrite the individual’s right to persue the means of self-realization

According to Mills, the idea of liberal democracy is measured on the degree of participation of citizens and the competency of the rulers. For instance, Mill is one of the theorists who advocated for plural voting, whereby more qualified candidates are given extra votes, an idea that was hugely rejected by other theorists. Similarly, Mill notably advocated for women right votes as the definition of democracy encompasses women, Mill says, “Women will earn a sense of self-realization if granted the right to participate in the election of their representative as they will feel that their voices counted.” (Mill, 28). Foucault had a different opinion on the same, as he believed that society should operate in a meticulous basis where restrictions to certain aspects are controlled through a series of punishment. In this respect, freedom would be deprived and this will hinder self-realization and self-development on individuals.


From the argument, it is clear that for an individual to attain a greater level of self-realization, four fundamental conditions namely, equality, freedom, reciprocity, and democracy must be put in place. Equality places people at a uniform platform to develop their living standards. As a result, every human will develop sense of self- realization. Additionally, Freedom relies on the degree of equality in a society in that, once people have the accessibility to important to resources, their rights is assumed to have been observed. Freedom to human rights also gives individuals a sense of self-realization as they feel as part of the society. Reciprocity has also emerged as a necessary condition for self-realization as it urges individual to return the share of equality and freedom to others to boost their level of self-realization. Lastly, democracy serves as a common necessity that will only exist if a society practices equality as well as observing citizen’s freedom. In a perfect democratic environment, individual have a higher affinity of attaining self-actualization.

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Do you feel the need to examine some previously written College Essays on Self-Realization before you begin writing an own piece? In this open-access collection of Self-Realization College Essay examples, you are given a fascinating opportunity to examine meaningful topics, content structuring techniques, text flow, formatting styles, and other academically acclaimed writing practices. Adopting them while composing your own Self-Realization College Essay will definitely allow you to finish the piece faster.

Presenting the finest samples isn't the only way our free essays service can help students in their writing ventures – our experts can also create from scratch a fully customized College Essay on Self-Realization that would make a strong foundation for your own academic work.

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The aim of Bodhisattva is to reach Awakening and self-realization. The state of self-realization means feeling pure compassion towards all beings. The purpose of the essay is to look at the different perspectives of Bodhisattva and the true meaning of Sanskrit word. The paper essentially demonstrates the dynamics of the bodhisattva's carrier and the wisdom for the practical life, and how its meaning has evolved over time.

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Self Reflection Essay

self realization examples essay

What goes through your mind when you have to write a self reflection essay? Do you ponder on your life choices, the actions you take to get where you want to be or where you are now? If you answered yes and yes to both of the questions, you are on the right track and have some idea on what a reflection essay would look like. This article would help give you more ideas on how to write a self reflection essay , how it looks like, what to put in it and some examples for you to use. So what are you waiting for? Check these out now.

10+ Self Reflection Essay Examples

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Defining Self

A person’s self that is different from the rest. On occasions it is considered as an object of a person’s view.

Defining Self Reflection

A self reflection is often described as taking a step back to reflect on your life. To take a break and observe how far you have become, the obstacles you have gone through and how they have affected your life, behavior and belief.

Defining Self Reflection Essay

A self- reflection essay is a type of essay that makes you express the experiences you have gone through in life based on a topic you have chosen to write about. It is a personal type of essay that you write about.  It makes you reflect on your life and journey to who you are today. The struggles, the fears, the triumphs and the actions you have taken to arrive at your current situation.

Tips on Writing a Self Reflection Essay

When writing a self reflection essay, there are some guidelines and formats to follow. But I am here to give you some tips to write a very good self reflection essay. These tips are easy to follow and they are not as complicated as some might believe them to be. Let’s begin. To write a good self reflection essay, one must first do:

  • Think : Think about what you want to write. This is true for the title of your essay as well. Thinking about what to write first can save you a lot of time. After this tip, we move on to the next one which is:
  • Drafting : As much as it sounds like a waste of time and effort, drafting what you are preparing to write is helpful. Just like in the first tip, drafting is a good way of writing down what you want and to add or take out what you will be writing later.
  • State the purpose : Why are you writing this essay? State the purpose of the essay . As this is a self reflective essay, your purpose is to reflect on your life, the actions you did to reach this point of your life. The things you did to achieve it as well.
  • Know your audience : Your self reflection essay may also depend on your audience. If you are planning on reading out loud your essay, your essay should fit your audience. If your audience is your team members, use the correct wording.
  • Share your tips: This essay gives you the opportunity to share how you have achieved in life. Write down some tips for those who want to be able to achieve the same opportunity you are in right now.

How long or short can my self reflection essay be?

This depends on you. You may write a short self reflection essay, and you may also write a long one. The important thing there is stating the purpose of you writing your essay.

Writing a self reflection essay, am I allowed to write everything about my life?

The purpose of the self reflection essay is to reflect on a topic you choose and to talk about it.

Is there a limit of words to write this type of essay?

Yes, as much as possible stick to 300-700 words. But even if it may be this short, don’t forget to get creative and true in your essay.

A self reflective essay is a type of essay that people write to reflect on their lives. To reflect on a certain topic of their life and talk about it. Most of the time, this type of essay is short because this is merely to take a step back and watch your life throughout the beginning till the present time. Writing this type of essay may be a bit difficult for some as you have to dive deep into your life and remember the triumphs and the loss. The beauty of this essay though is the fact that you are able to see how far you have reached, how far you have overcome.

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Death Awareness Effects on Self-Realization Essay

Self-realization is an important part of an individual’s life that is not always straightforward to achieve. At some point in life, many people tend to think about their purpose, and it is good if they have a clear image of what they should do to accomplish their mission in the world. It is much more complicated when people do not see their purpose clearly because this can cause an array of mental issues or sometimes be a reason for unhappiness.

In some cases, however, a sense that death is nearing can clarify one’s mind about the matter. This essay will discuss the question of whether or not aware of one’s approaching death affects self-realization, and hypothesize that it does.

It appears that an increasing frequency of reassessment and self-analysis furthers the understanding of the constituents of self-realization. In the book Intoxicated by my Illness , the author proposes that by approaching the end of his life, he became more conscious about human existence in general and his existence in particular. Indeed, it appears that in realizing one’s finite nature a person, one comes to question oneself about whether one has lived a good life and if one has accomplished enough to be “ready” to die. In the author’s case, he did not feel he had fully accomplished enough, but it made him “concentrated as a diamond” (4).

What one can discern from this is that the awareness of nearing death sets a clear deadline that was previously invisible. Having no date by which one should achieve self-realization, at least to a certain degree, seems to make an individual less concerned with his or her purpose. On the other hand, the knowledge of the approximate date on which a person is going to die initiates a mental process of “connecting the dots,” as famously formulated by Steve Jobs (Stanford University).

The awareness of imminent death also seems to enable people to seek closure and pushes them to fill the rest of their lives with the events and achievements that matter to them. There are widely known English phrases for the activities of someone who is soon to pass, such as “getting things in order” or “making final arrangements.” The notion of being prepared for what is to come is naturally linked to self-realization in the sense that people consciously try to achieve as much as possible in the period of life before life itself ceases to exist for them. Broyard mentioned in his story that prostate cancer made him finish the book he was writing, which is a vivid example of that (2).

The desire to finish what has been started seems to be an innate mental feature that drives actions and differs from person to person. Self-realization may include child upbringing, career, self-development, or acquisition of traits or knowledge. All of these aspects often seem to be protracted, as there is rarely a deadline for them, yet death creates a deadline and makes an individual rush to complete them.

On the other hand, there might be a religion-induced mindset that can incorporate a different understanding of self-realization. Toews, in conveying the story of her father, connects his last days with Mennonite beliefs and argues that these beliefs made him somewhat disinclined toward his life on earth (113-115). In light of this, one might take the view that life may not have an ultimate concrete and single purpose, and an individual may not seek self-realization if he or she has instructions on how to live.

Rules and regulations seem to relieve people of having to wonder about the purpose of life and one’s place in it, as doing so might breed complications and unnecessary mental issues. Consequently, provided that one’s adherence to these rules is strong, death might not be a significant factor that can affect one’s mindset. The reason for this is that many religious beliefs have a concept of an afterlife, the nature of which changes depending on the “quality” of behavior in the earthly life. Under such a paradigm, there is no need for self-realization and ultimate purpose beyond the requirement to uphold a status quo.

Yet, if observed from another angle, self-realization does fit into a religious worldview through serving God. Individuals achieve closure at the end of their lives if they did not sin, atoned for their misdeeds, or committed enough godly acts to balance out their misconduct. Thus, it seems that when nearing the end, a person will still try to reassess his or her life from the standpoint of the value system they have. This can be compared to having taken an exam and calculating one’s score to know what grade to expect.

In terms of religion, the closure or achievement of the ultimate purpose appears to be not something one could achieve in one’s lifespan, but instead something that extends to the afterlife. Only reaching Heaven or Valhalla or Nirvana can bring satisfaction to a person and form a logical conclusion to his or her earthly path. In abiding by God’s commandments, one progresses on the path to this place, which seems to parallel the process of self-realization.

What probably puts the issue in a slightly different context is the notion of self-fulfillment as an achievement that may be sped up or assessed at death, but is essentially a continuous path throughout one’s life. This idea is relayed through the plot of a movie called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed by and starring Ben Stiller (IMDb). One might propose that regarding death as an endpoint or an exam where one must summarize and evaluate his or her achievements is highly dependent on one’s understanding of life.

Yet the search for meaning should continue to make one’s life more exciting and more filled with emotion, which is demonstrated by the protagonist in the movie. Still, it is important to be able to reassess one’s life goals and priorities, not necessarily only on one’s deathbed, but throughout one’s life so that one does not regret anything at death and not have a chance to correct one’s course.

In conclusion, an awareness of death does affect self-realization if one uses a finite paradigm with a concrete goal. Although reassessment of one’s life often happens regardless of the chosen framework, the final sensations and feelings might differ. Thus, if the goal- and achievement-oriented thinking is applied, there seems to be a necessity to accelerate the process of “checking off” meaningful boxes.

In a worldview dominated by religion with a strong emphasis on the afterlife, self-realization is a process that transcends the limits of earthly reality, but which does not eliminate the painful process of near-death self-assessment. Finally, one could adopt another paradigm that might change the meaning of life and death by introducing a continuous and fluid cycle of re-evaluating priorities during one’s lifetime. Under such a model, the significance of death for self-realization seems to be less pronounced.

Works Cited

Broyard, Anatole. Intoxicated by My Illness: And Other Writings on Life and Death . Edited by Alexandra Broyard, Ballantine Books, 2010.

IMDb. “ The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . ” IMDb , n.d. Web.

Stanford University. “Text of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address.” Stanford News. 2005. Web.

Toews, Miriam. “A Father’s Faith.” Dropped Threads , edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson, 4th ed., Vintage Books, 2001, pp. 111-115.

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