Self-actualization is described as the fullest development of the self. It is the maximum realization and fulfillment of one's talents and potential. Although, the need for self-actualization is innate, only less than 1% of the population has reached this stage.
One reason why people haven't reached this stage is because it is a weak need. In other words, Maslow proposed that, the higher needs were less important for survival compared to the lower needs. For example, those who live in poverty will find it difficult to satisfy their physiological (food, water, shelter) and safety needs, therefore, the need for self-actualization will not emerge.
One condition for achieving self-actualization is the ability to be free from constraints imposed by ourselves and others. Maslow mentioned that sex- role training for boys and girls, may discourage them from fulfilling their full potential. For example, boys are taught to inhibit powerless emotions such as sadness and tenderness, thus, not allowing them to express themselves freely. Poor education and growing up in a chaotic family can also inhibit the self-actualization need in adulthood.
Children brought up by overprotective parents who don't allow them to try new experiences, behaviors and skills, may grow up to be dependent and inhibited adults. On the other hand, permissive parents who allow too much freedom in childhood can lead to anxiety and insecurity. Therefore, an ideal childhood situation is a balance between regulation and autonomy.
Another reason why most people fail to satisfy the need for self-actualization is due to the Jonah Complex. The idea of this concept was taken from a biblical tale, where Jonah was afraid of a task given by God and tried to run away from his fate. According to Maslow, the Jonah complex refers to doubting our own abilities. It is the fear of our own success and greatness, that prevents us from achieving our maximum potential. Although we are thrilled of the new situations and possibilities, we fear that our potential will lead us to a situation which we may be unable to cope.
Self-actualization need requires courage, patience and effort. Those who have satisfied their lower needs may find it safer to accept life just the way it is, rather than abandoning their secure routines and attitudes and seeking new challenges.