I strongly disagree with the idea that the complex concept of self-actualization can just be defined as “helping others”. The buck of self-actualization does not merely start nor end with the simple courteous act of helping other people as many would imagine but it goes a long way into the realization of an individual’s full potential in the wider sphere of personality development. Self-actualization could be defined as the highest level of human desire for an inherent self-fulfillment to become everything he or she is capable of becoming. For instance, if one desires to become a perfect parent then s/he can be said to be self-actualized only if s/he becomes one (a loving parent). Helping others therefore is not self-actualization in itself.
As explained by Abraham Maslow, self-actualization can only be realized on condition that the physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging and esteem have all been attained. In the absence of any of these, self-actualization is just but a pipe dream whose actualization is not a possibility but stupor. In other words, physiological needs, safety, love and belonging and self esteem are the true recipes of the much desired self-actualization.
The attainment of the goal that is self-actualization demands the presence of some personality traits in a person. These traits include morality, creativity, problem solving techniques, and absolute acceptance of facts because they altogether guarantee an individual wielding them independence of mind and critical thinking that are necessary for the much desired accomplishment of self-actualization. The hierarchy of needs more so the ranking of human needs to a greater extent holds in the sense that higher needs such as esteem cannot be satisfied unless the preliminary physiological needs are first met. Secondly, the ranking of human needs is based on their priority. The most fundamental physiological needs come before the offshoot emotional and psychological needs.
Definitely very few people achieve self-actualization in any society. If at all more members of the society have to achieve self-actualization then the society must lower its moral standards, values and expectations of the constituent members. This will make it much easier for all to meet the preliminary needs (physiological needs, safety, love and belonging and self esteem) and finally self-actualization without much struggle.