Key Difference – Self Esteem vs Self Actualization
Self esteem and self actualization are two related terms that have somewhat similar meanings. Self esteem is a reflection of a person’s own evaluation of his or her worth. Self actualization is the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities. This is the key difference between self esteem and self actualization. Both these concepts are considered as tiers in Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’. Self actualization is its final tier, and all other human needs including esteem have to be achieved, in order to attain self actualization.
What is Self Esteem?
Self esteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is an attitude towards the self and encompasses beliefs and emotional states (shame, pride, despair, etc.) Self esteem can be described simply as the way we think of ourselves. In psychology, self esteem helps to determine whether a person likes himself or not. This can be described as low self esteem and high self esteem. A person with high self esteem may feel that they are good at things and are worthwhile while a person with low self esteem may feel that they are bad at things and worthless. A person with high self esteem may feel pride and triumph whereas a person with low self esteem may feel despair and shame. Low self esteem is often associated with eating disorders, depression, self-harm and bullying.
Many psychological theories include the concept of self esteem. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, included self esteem in his ‘hierarchy of human needs’, which will be described in more detail in the following section. According to Maslow, the healthiest expression of self-esteem “is the one that manifests in respect we deserve for others, more than renown, fame and flattery”. Carl Rogers theorized that low self esteem is the origin of many people’s problems.
In psychology, self esteem is assessed in self-report inventories. Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES) is the most commonly used instrument to measure one’s self esteem.
What is Self Actualization?
Self actualization is a person’s desire to use all his or her abilities to achieve and be everything that he or she possibly can. It is the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities. Self actualization is considered as a need or drive present in everyone.
The term self actualization was originally introduced by Kurt Goldstein, but it came into prominence with Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’. In Maslow’s theory, self actualization is the final level of psychological development that can be attained when all basic and mental needs have been fulfilled. He describes this as “What a man can be, he must be”.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs
According to the ‘hierarchy of human needs’ created by Abraham Maslow in 1943, human needs can be put into five levels:
- Physiological Needs – such as breathing, food, water and sleep
- Safety – Need for security and protection, freedom from fear
- Love and Belonging – being part of a group, receiving and giving love
- Esteem – Basic two esteem needs: esteem for oneself and the desire for reputation or respect from others
- Self Actualization – Realizing personal potential, seeking personal growth
Self actualization is the final tier of the hierarchy, and all other needs including self esteem have to be fulfilled in order to reach this final stage.
Maslow also once named personalities who he considered to have reached the stage of self actualization. Some of these personalities include Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Aldous Huxley and Aldous Huxley. A person who has achieved self actualization displays qualities such as morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts.
What is the Difference Between Self Esteem and Self Actualization?
Self Esteem vs Self Actualization
|Self esteem is a reflection of a person’s own evaluation of his or her worth.||Self actualization is the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities.|
|Stages in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs|
|Esteem is included in the fourth tier of the hierarchy.||Self actualization is the final tier of the hierarchy.|
|Order of Needs|
|Basic physiological needs, security, and feeling of love and belonging should be achieved to gain esteem.||Basic physiological needs, security, feeling of love and belonging, and esteem should be achieved to gain self actualization.|
|Self esteem, confidence, respect of others, respect by others, achievement, etc. are included in esteem tier.||Self actualization includes morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts.|
Summary – Self Esteem vs Self Actualization
Self esteem and self actualization are two related concepts in psychology. The difference between self esteem and self actualization is in their basic meaning; self esteem is a reflection of a person’s own evaluation of his or her worth; self actualization is the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities.
1.“Self-Actualization: Definition & Examples.” Positive Psychology Program, 18 Nov. 2017. Available here
2.Mcleod, Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Simply Psychology, Simply Psychology. Available here
3.Maslow, Abraham H., and Robert Frager. Motivation and personality. Pearson Education, 1987.