Self-Actualization, according to Merriam Webster, means to “realize fully one’s potential”.  

The order of these words is important. 

To “realize fully” means that you can still realize some of your potential along the lines of a continuum on the path to Self-Actualization.  The reverse, to ‘fully realize one’s potential’ makes potential sound like an all-or-nothing proposition. Thank you, Merriam Webster, for that kind and careful definition. Because Self-Actualization in the best of times is hard. 

During stressful times? To get any of that potent-you realized requires an acceptance of where you are emotionally, physically, and psychologically. There are different degrees of stress, of course, and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly. For instance, you keeping the lights on while caring for a sick kid and building a career takes a radical,

anything-right-now-is-good-enough level of self-acceptance.

In fact, self-actualization is impossible without self-acceptance. There are times others may not think the world of you. You may have stepped on someone’s toes. You regret it. But the ability to rebound from that is directly linked to how quickly you can separate who you know you are from what others think, including what you think of yourself.

Who you really are, meaning who you came into this life as never changes.  And it is fabulous. Pure potency. An alchemical wonder. Edgy and unique. How do I know this? Because I’ve weathered displeasure in eyes of others, or via someone’s written words and actions and it has all but destroyed me at times. That is until I realize that my “persecutor”, like me, cannot be fully defined by their judgment, cruelty, or careless behavior under our present shared circumstances. 

‘What an asshole’ is one of my favorite phrases, and I’m pretty sure I’ve provoked that epithet from others many a time. Hate to tell ya, but there’s a good chance you have too if you’re half-alive. Because, as the elderly lady whose foot I once stepped on coming off a bus years ago graciously told me: ‘only the dead don’t make mistakes.’ 

It is so hard to be kind to ourselves in the face of our undeniable imperfections. And yet self-empathy even in light of the aching regret of chances lost, or time perceived as wasted, is the only way to stay on the path to Self-Actualization.  

By ‘being kind to yourself’ I don’t mean treating yourself to ice cream, although there’s nothing wrong with that. By being kind to yourself, I mean honoring your exhaustion with rest, your tears with the company of a friend, your decision that the next right thing to do, whether that’s writing a blog or making a cup of tea, is enough. 

Letting the next right thing be enough is self-actualization during stressful times.