Self-actualization is the highest tier in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Self-actualization entails people doing what fulfills them, what allows them to make use of their talents, skills, and interests. In today’s world, it can be easy to focus so much on more basic needs, such as paying the rent, maintaining physical health, and keeping a job that there isn’t time or energy to foster creative pursuits. But there is more to life than simply doing what needs to be done to survive and to align one’s self with societal expectations. We all have passions that don’t necessarily involve making money or contributing anything to society. Especially in a society that is hyper-focused on productivity and profit, it is important to understand that creativity can be an end in itself. Do you feel you are just going through the motions day-to-day? That there must be more to life than the predictable daily grind? That you never let yourself do anything just for the love of it? You might already have hobbies and interests you’ve set aside that you could pick back up again or maybe you are on the pursuit of a new one — something that excites you, something you do because it’s fun, something that makes you feel like a child again. Some of those things for me are painting canvases, writing poetry, photography, and blogging.
Some people may feel anxious about engaging in creative activities because of not being “good” at them. Allow yourself to relax and indulge. Unlike work, school, or other competitive pursuits, hobbies are done in one’s free time and often at home. Skill isn’t required — just time and attention. Spending time doing something just for yourself helps promote rest and relaxation and has been shown to help with anxiety. Perfectionists learn to let go of self-imposed standards and to “go with the flow”. Self-expression also has brain-boosting benefits, teaching you to improvise, think outside the box, leading you to make revelations about what does and doesn’t work, and realizing your own capabilities. Poet Mary Oliver once said, “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” I challenge you to give your creative side an outlet. You might just learn a lot about yourself and have lots of fun in the process.