How Self-Actualization Can Help Us Transcend Fear, Anxiety & Uncertainty + Why Some Selfishness Can Actually Be Good for Your Mental Health! (with Scott Barry Kaufman)

There are a lot of books, talks, podcasts, movies and articles out there on reaching your full potential, but what does this actually mean? In this podcast (episode #233) and blog, I speak with humanistic psychologist and top podcast host Scott Barry Kaufman about the roadmap for finding purpose and fulfillment, the power of self-actualization, how to realize your full potential, why a little selfishness can be a good thing, and so much more!

As Scott discusses in his new book Transcend, we need to value each person’s unique journey in life—their special path to discover and actualize their potential. We shouldn’t put pressure on people to be happy, achieve certain things or fit in some social box; there is value in being sad at times, failing and dealing with hard stuff in life. We need to bring our whole self to the table!

Unfortunately, in today’s world, psychology and neuroscience have become very reductionistic. They take a slice of who we are and treat that as the whole thing. But we are a lot more than an IQ score, bran scan or biological marker!

This is why Scott created his self-actualization questionnaire, which is based on his own research and his study of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow was a humanistic psychologist who believed that human development is a constant two-step forward, one-step back affair. He argued that we need to choose growthrepeatedly, not fear, even though fear is often easier to give in to; growth requires you to get out of your comfort zone, which is always challenging!

As Scott points out, self-actualization is an important human need. It can be divided into three parts: exploration, love and purpose. These three components work together in concert to help us reach our full potential. They are a base for exploration, driving us forward even when fear tries to hold us back. They help us live the life we want, on our own terms. Security alone is not enough for a full life. You need to be willing to open yourself up to the world and be vulnerable as you sail through life!

Self-actualization can be achieved in many ways, as Scott describes on his website:

    1. Continued freshness of appreciation, or gratitude for everyday things.
    2. Authenticity, which means staying true to your values when you are challenged.
    3. Truth Seeking.
    4. Peak Experiences.
    5. Good Moral Intuition.
    6. Creative Spirit.
    7. Humanitarianism.
    8. Equanimity.
    9. Purpose.
    10. Acceptance. 

There is no one thing that will satisfy all your needs—human life is about integration, not magic bullets!

In fact, as Scott points out, we don’t have to choose between self-development and self-sacrifice. At the highest level of self-actualization, what is good for you is good for others and the world.

At the end of the day, we need to understand that not all selfishness is bad, and not all altruism is good. Life is about balance, and taking care of yourself and your needs is important! Don’t feel the compulsive need to say yes to everyone or live under what Scott calls the “tyranny of shoulds”. Listen to yourself and your intuition—when you feel the drive to help someone, do so. If you don’t, it is okay to say no and set up boundaries! When you do this, you value your own freedom, integrity and worth. This is very different to unhealthy selfishness, which is a kind of narcissism, and is characterized by an excessive self-focus that negatively impacts our wellbeing and sense of purpose. 

For more on human potential, self-actualization and wellbeing, listen to my podcast (episode #233) with Scott and check out his website and podcast. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!)

This podcast was sponsored by:
Ritual (My favorite multivitamin—simple, clean, and backed by science!): To get 10% off your first three months of Ritual multivitamins see: ritual/drleaf
Public Goods (My preferred online goods store, which has everything you need, from natural cleaning products and foods to sustainable house goods). Receive $15 off your first Public Goods order with NO MINIMUM purchase. Just go to or use code DRLEAF at checkout.
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For more on mind management and finding your purpose and drive in life, preorder my new book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess!

You can also check out my app SWITCH, which is a great tool for helping you learn how to manage your mind and go beyond mindfulness by dealing with the roots of your choices and overcoming thought patterns and behaviors that are affecting your sense of purpose and wellbeing through the mental process of reconceptualization. 

To learn more about reaching your full potential, optimizing your mental and physical health, and improving your longevity, register for my Virtual Mental Health Summit this December 3-6! For more info, see CME and CEU credits are available for PAs, NPs, RNs, MDs, DOs, and other medical professionals, and certificates of attendance will be given for physical therapists, occupational therapists and social workers! 

Podcast Highlights

3:58 Why Maslow's hierarchy of needs is incomplete and the science of actualization 

7:09 The failures of modern psychology and neuroscience 

10:00 The characteristics of self-actualization

16:30 Why we need to choose growth, not fear

18:56 Why self-actualization is so important for our health and wellbeing

27:00 How to be happy with what you have

36:50 Why we all need to be a little selfish 

45:36 The biggest struggles Scott has faced and how he overcame them  

Switch On Your Brain LLC. is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact

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