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Reframing Self Actualization and Self Worth

Humanist view on life

Recently, I’ve been drawn to humanistic psychology. It’s an “approach [that] emphasizes an individual's inherent drive towards self-actualization and creativity.” It wasn’t until today that I realized perhaps I’ve been subconsciously leading my life with this approach already.

But I had framed this approach to self-actualization with a narrow focus on my work life.

At 21, I challenged myself to clear my mind and my calendar to question what it meant to live. For me to live fully then, I wanted to make a commitment for my life and why I am on our little blue planet. I committed to my American Dream to help others achieve their own American Dreams.

So far, I’ve tried to do this by investing in many entrepreneurs’ dreams of building education tech companies. I’ve supported students’ personal development. I’ve been working to simplify and align workforce education systems to make it easier for students to navigate the real world.

All of these attempts center around one common goal.

I want to see the next generation arrive at self-actualization at a younger age than the last generation. I want to make it easier for everyone to live up to their fullest potential. It is the next frontier of human evolution: easily accessible self-actualization. And I continue to be convinced that our inherently human need to create is the simplest step towards self-actualization.

[Whew, I need a break from these hyperlinks. It took awhile to search up and link together my past digital self.]

To take this first step, we must first see the beauty in fostering creativity. How beautiful it would be to share life with others who add their individuality to our society. We would not be simply taking from the world and transacting with others. Each person would create.

Our inherently human need to create is the simplest step towards self-actualization.

Okay, you might say creating something is really hard, Cat. Creating something is way too much work, I’d rather watch Netflix and eat my frozen mac and cheese…

I hear you, I scroll Instagram mindlessly with bedhead at 2:00pm on Saturdays too. And I invite you to look at our temptation to be mindless a different way. Slogging away at highly specialized, execution-oriented jobs make us bored and live life passively. It makes us distracted with social media, and ultimately may even make our mental health suffer.

It makes us suffer when we let high specialization spill over into our sense of self worth.

I often mistakenly narrow my self-actualization journey on my career alone. You might recognize the following examples in your life. Two friends catch up at a cafe and ask “How are you?” and the discussion mindlessly launches into work-related topics. “I have to be the BEST manager, everything else doesn’t matter as much.” becomes a common theme in our self-talk. Some people specialize their sense of self worth to be based on others. “I’m hopelessly single, I’m going to be forever alone.” and “Why won’t anyone love me?” give us the keys to most Top 40 love songs.

It makes us suffer when we let high specialization spill over into our sense of self worth.

Diversify sources of fulfillment

Instead of basing my sense of self worth on one specific job, one specific person, or one specific outcome, I am choosing to diversify my sources of fulfillment. Diversification is a way to de-risk investments, and it’s time I invest in myself as I would with money.

My investment philosophy (aka self-reminders):

  • Creative output isn’t limited to just my job. And it doesn't have to be hard, or large projects. I can choose to focus on simple hobbies -- writing, singing, cooking, and painting.

  • Unconditional love. Know that people will always love you no matter what employment title is at the end of your name. I can choose to foster relationships with my family and friends.

  • Health and body are often taken for granted when we’re young. I can choose to exercise everyday, stay fit and healthy, and maintain a positive self-image.

  • Exploration isn’t limited to careers. I can choose to travel to the local vintage consignment store, to a new city on the East Coast, or to a country where I don’t speak the language.

  • I am enough. I can choose to recognize how much I’ve grown, appreciate how many opportunities have come my way, and practice gratitude for living my life.

This reinforces the idea that we humans aren’t fulfilled unless we apply ourselves in lots of different disciplines. We want to be curious about every detail that is presented to us. And sometimes we’ll pause long enough to study a specific detail that keeps our interest level high.

To be human is to embrace how multifaceted the world is and bring together new connections. New connections make creativity possible.

Continuous reframing

I am still rebuilding my sense of self worth and reframing my self-actualization journey. These self-reminders are the beginning of my investment philosophy. I hope to be a practicing, lifelong polymath who values myself for my curiosity, creativity, and my ability to be my best human self at any given time.

I invite you to be curious about my perspective, challenge me, and explore together.

Thanks to these amazing humans who have inspired me: