Struggling Deeply With Self-Actualization

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hi. I chose the title because I feel it best describes the problem I am having. When I was in my early teens I saw a Psychiatrist and was diagnosed with depression. The time during my treatment, I really didn’t take it too seriously but seemed like I grew out of it. Recently, I have been trying to discover who I really am and how I can improve myself for others around me. I feel as if people do not really like me or that I am just a big joke. No one actually says these things to me and nobody has ever told me they heard anyone say this but the feelings I have about it are strong. I feel that because I go to church, people automatically think they know everything about me and treat me differently. Few people even know that I was addicted to Oxycontin for a year and was able to get off it on my own. This was incredibly difficult, yet I feel that I have come out stronger since then. I’m not the best physically looking person, but I am hoping to start exercising to look better. Weight has always been a problem for me and while not obese, I am sure that losing 40 pounds would help me incredibly in the romance department. I have gotten surprisingly far with attractive women, but have never had a real long term relationship.

The amount of turmoil in myself takes a toll on me daily, and I often think that I am not truly liked by others. Often, I am very conflicted on what I should or shouldn’t do, and beat myself up constantly. Yet, when around others I do attempt to be a good friend. There is, however, an over-whelming want to talk to friends about my problems, and most often I really shouldn’t.

Some days, I do feel good with myself but become frustrated and worry with anxiety. When I smoke marijuana, I think it helps me get an introspection of myself, but it is often a session of picking my flaws and trying to correct them.

I don’t know if what I’ve said here is enough information to help you draw any conclusion. The dynamics to any problem are often so complex that a paragraph just can’t do it. My real question that I at least need to know is, do I have a legitimate concern in that I think I may be unstable or am in need of treatment? If I could afford a therapist, I would go. However, I no longer have insurance. Any answer would be appreciated and I realize that anything said is mostly a hypothesis. Thank you for taking the time to assist the distraught; and for reading this long statement.

A. There seems to a disconnect between what you are attempting to do with your life and how you are going about it. You are interested in developing yourself and growing as a human being yet you are looking to others for answers.

You used the word self-actualization. Self-actualization is an ongoing, lifelong process. According to Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who studied characteristics of self-actualizing individuals, it means that an individual becomes more fully who they are. It is the process of becoming more fully human, more fully yourself, realizing your potential. Self-actualizing individuals are thought to be the mentally healthiest people. To learn more about self-actualization I would suggest reading the work of Maslow directly. One of his books about this topic is Motivation and Personality. In lieu of a therapist, his work could be used as a guide to understanding how to improve your life, how to change your thinking and how to become more fully who you are.

One of the characteristics of self-actualizing individuals is that they do not rely on the opinion of others to feel good about themselves. They are essentially immune to the opinions of others. If you were able to develop this characteristic (anyone can) then you would no longer need or rely on the opinion of others.

Your self-esteem should be self-determined, not determined by others. Relying on the opinion of others may lead you astray. Are others really qualified to have opinions about you? Are they in a place to advise you about how to live your life?

You smoke marijuana. Psychologically healthy individuals do not use mind-altering substances. They don’t need to. Smoking marijuana is not only psychologically unhealthy but makes you more likely to focus on negative aspects of yourself. It’s clearly not helping you.

There are other self-help books you may want to review in addition to the work of Abraham Maslow. One book that is quite popular is The Road Less Traveled by psychiatrist M. Scott Peck. I would highly recommend it as well as his other books. His writing style is easy to follow and engaging.

I hope this answers your question. As you alluded to in your letter, it is difficult to give you a fully comprehensive answer when I know so little about your life and situation. I appreciate your question and I hope that you will find some answers in the suggested books.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Struggling Deeply With Self-Actualization. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/15/struggling-deeply-with-self-actualization/