Difference Between Self Actualization and Self Realization

The term ‘psychology’ refers to the scientific discipline of studying various psychological states, behaviour, and processes in humans and various animals. It is of two types: psychology as a profession practised by a variety of people all over the world and a gradually growing science dealing with social behaviour, mind and brain.

Self Actualization and Self Realization

The main difference between Self Actualization and Self Realization is that self actualization is a concept evolved from the West. It originated from theorist Kurt Goldstein and was followed by Carl Rogers. On the other hand, self realization is an Indian concept that originated in the Vedic times.

Self Actualization vs Self Relisation

Self actualization is concerned with fulfilling the soul’s true potential.  It is the process in which a person has realised his true potential and expresses true desire to help others and grow towards fulfilling goals that extend beyond basic survival needs. Ego becomes selfless in the process and one uses his potential for the greater good of the society.

Self realization is the process of discovering our true worth beyond ego’s usual habits and patterns. The individual lets go of his emotional attachments with the world and frees himself of his old unfruitful cycles. It involves developing clear perception and equanimity. It holds different connotations and importance in a variety of religions.

Comparison Table Between Self Actualization and Self Realization

Parameters of ComparisonSelf ActualizationSelf Realization
DefinitionFull realization of one’s true potentialFulfilling the possibilities of one’s personality or character
OriginOriginated in the West by Kurt Goldstein and popularized by Abraham MaslowOriginated in India during the Vedic period
Kind of conceptPsychologicalSpiritual
Relation of self with the worldSelf relates only to the outside physical worldSelf relates to the inner metaphysical world
A person’s behaviourCreativeDeep interpersonal relationshipsPeace of selfStrong fulfillment of spirit
Self and its partsIncludes only consciousness and identityIncludes unconsciousness
Common usageIn humanistic psychology; usually outside spiritual contextPsychodynamic personality perspective; used in spiritual context

What is Self Actualization?

Self actualization is a Western psychological concept that was first introduced by Kurt Goldstein but the full concept was explained by Abraham Maslow. He brought to light the need of hierarchy following which a person can achieve his soul’s true potential. In the article on ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, self actualization is defined by him as ‘the desire for self-fulfilment’.

It was popularized by Malow through his Hierarchy of Needs that puts survival needs on the bottom, above which there is growth needs, like fulfilment of creativity and potential. In this hierarchy, Maslow associates self actualization with:

  • Fulfilling of mission which may be call, destiny, fate or vocation
  • Ongoing process of fulfilment of potentials, talents and capacities
  • Fuller understanding of oneself
  • A never-ending cycle of unity, synergy or integration within the person

According to him, it is not a goal but a process for which a person has to go through various levels. After fulfilling the lower ladder can one climb up and achieve the same. The ladders comprise physiological needs, followed by safety factors, then fulfilment of social and esteem needs in order to become self actualized. The person has the desire to grow bigger and continuously climb up the ladder to achieve the same.

What is Self Realization?     

The concept of self realization evolved in India during the Vedic period. The Upanishads talk about self realization in detail. Its gist, relevance and importance are mentioned there. It is broadly used in various religions where it is associated with divinity and holds the same value as awakening, enlightenment, illumination and various others. The person having self realization feels spiritual fulfilment and has inner peace.

As an eastern concept, rishis, men and women having achieved self realization are successful in separating their physical self from their soul (Atman) and combine their atman with Brahman (the ultimate reality). Self realized people have all the answers concerning who they are and look beyond the traditional concept of life and death.

Combination of Atman with Brahman is known as Atman Jnana wherein the person is fully self aware and thinks beyond the worldly needs. He is humble, not dream oriented and unconditional.

In terms of a western concept, it is used in psychodynamic perspectives of personality. In this, some of the mystical aspects of self realization has been replaced. In western culture, individuation is used synonymously with self realization.

Main Differences Between Self Actualization and Self Realization

  1. Self actualization is a western concept explained in entirety by Maslow whereas self realization is an eastern concept that originated in India during the Vedic period.
  2. Self actualization refers to achieving one’s true potential whereas self realization is the fulfilment of the various possibilities of one’s personality.
  3. Self actualization was adapted into humanistic psychology by Abraham Maslow and self realization was adopted into western culture by psychodynamic theorists like Carl Jung.
  4. A person who has achieved self actualization is creative and has deep interpersonal relationships whereas in case of self realization, a person has inner peace and experiences strong spiritual fulfilment.
  5. Self Actualization does not include the unconscious whereas self realization does.


Thus, self actualization can be differentiated from self realization in terms of origin, relation of oneself with the world and many others. Self realization deals with fulfilment of personality at higher levels while self actualization is the achievement of one’s true potential used in humanistic thought. Self actualization is a western concept wherein the self is conscious with relation to the outside world. On the other hand, self realization is an eastern concept that is used as a psychological concept in the western world retaining many of its spiritual aspects. According to Maslow, only 2% of the people have achieved self actualization.


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