self actualization and the changing role of women

Women have faced numerous hurdles since discovering their ability to work and entering the labor force. This article will examine individuality and conformity in gender roles, self-realization depending on gender, the function of women in society, the obstacles they confront, and women's attitudes toward their role. We'll find out if they're grateful or just take the responsibilities they've been handed for granted. Various studies have produced diverse outcomes. The most recent are still contradicting; some are saying that men have more motivation to manage women while others are saying the opposite. In this paper, self actualization will be measured by having a sample of women do several psychological tests which will be able to measure their attitudes towards their roles in the society. I had two groups from different parts of the country. 10 were civilized and the other 10 still believed in some past myths. The results indicated that due to exposure; the civilized women were more self-actualized as compared to the other group (Moskowitz, 2001). 


According to American psychologist and philosopher Abraham H. human needs are not only controlled by mechanical forces. By this he meant that their stimuli and behavior or instinctual impulse was not only controlled by mechanical forces but rather by other natural forces. Humans tend to exploit their potential fully to have a happy life. According to the philosopher Maslow, self actualizing individuals aimed to get to their edge and strived to higher levels. This is evidently shown through hierarchical theory. This theory explains how basic survival needs are usually a first priority followed by needs connected to achieving man’s highest potential.

In the past, women roles were caring for the children and doing all the house chores. This went on for quite a while till they realized they could do something more and that they had more potential. Though some still believe that home chores are their destiny, some have gone to greater heights in exercising their full potential. In today’s era, women’s interests and works are recognized in cultural entities and literary convections. Women have started demanding their rightful position in the community. This would have been unheard-of in the past, but now they are exercising their rights openly. Women in the past were known to be a source of emotional fulfillment, however, now there is a significant number of women holding high placed in the society.

Mid nineteenth century towards the twentieth century, there was strife between men and women and corresponding rightful places in the society. The society was mainly crafted by men and women had to struggle to attain social equality. Brave women like Charlotte Perkins, Marge Piercy and Adrenaline Rich wrote materials that reflected the urge for women to overcome the gender roles inflicted in them by the society (Pamela, 2012). Throughout history, women have been known to be victims of demeaning among other society ideals. Women are known to be the weaker sex and always expected to subordinate themselves to the male figures. In the past women were expected to follow certain rules and standards. They were expected to follow the ideals of the society, hence had limited opportunities and their importance in the society was very minimal. In today’s world all these ideologies are changing. According to Kathryn Hughes, an associate professor in the University of East Angalia she said and I quote” the ideology of Separate Spheres rested on a definition of the “natural” characteristic of men and women”. By this she meant that domestic chores were meant for women while men were morally superior.

Women were limited in terms of roles in the society (Pamela, 2012). They were even expected not to question decisions made by the husband and excluded in any public environment. Politics, legal and economic sectors were considered ideal for the male figure. Women had the potential, just that there were very many limitations. When women started speaking for themselves and denying their boring role, the men became afraid and put even more limiting factors. A woman attending college was a major issue. This was a threatening fact to the male gender. A woman legal entity was a man and nothing else. She had to bear children and get engaged in all the domestic furnishings.

Women were also entitled to look after the servants employed in a household setting. Men could chase upon their careers opportunities while the women run the home. In some societies, the woman was not allowed to get out of the house unless allowed by the husband. This means they were denied to have a social life (Moskowitz, 2001).  In late twentieth century, women leaders started rising. One of the top prominent female writers led to the top uprising against female gender roles. She called women to gain more knowledge and economic independence. She was a fierce feminist who in return received a lot of rebellion especially from the male gender. I think women needed the wake up call. Many women supported her though still in fear. Gilman underwent through various bad experiences due to her loyalty towards the liberation of the female gender.

The Awakening is about the social constraints women faced in the Victorian era. Edna seems to be unhappy in her marriage and understands herself. He feels as if her husband is dictating her too much. She cries a lot, meaning she feels like she is in the wrong commitment. Her husband feels that Edna is not affectionate enough to the children. (Chopin, 2003). This brings disconnect between Edna and Leonce. Leonce regards his wife as a possession and not as a valuable person in his life. For instance, when Edna comes from swimming and has got sunburns on her face, Leonce look at her as if he is some personal property who has just suffered damage. In the Victorian era, women were supposed to ‘mother-women” as the novel puts it. The author of th book referred to the “mother-women” to have wings but apparently they were expected to use the wings to protect their families alone. Leonce criticized Edna as a negligent mother. Edna felt as if she was in a trap. Edna has several crying escapades to weigh down her distress.

The lady in black is also pacing with her rosary beads. He depicts a different form of isolation. A patient despaired solitude of a widow. The solitude is not a sign of independence but rather a sign of withdrawal from life in respect of her husband’s death. She seems to never talk at all and the silence is loud in her life. She lacks individuality and self idealization as a social widow. Edna is an introvert and does not discuss her private feelings with anybody else. Even when Adele, her friend, asks her to open up, she prefers to lie. (Chopin, 2003). 

Edna starts undergoing a rebirth. She starts self discovery by facing her fears. She starts off by swimming. She goes out swimming even if she fears water. She demonstrates her new found wisdom and courage, though is defying societal expectations. Her sense of independence is tested when Leonce demands that she comes in. Leonce wants to finish up his cigar hence can dictate the sleeping time for his wife and children. Edna stands up for herself for once in their six years of marriage. She also reproaches for her husband speaking in a raised tone. She is still fearful of what the society will say, now that she realizes she has feelings for Robert but she is married. Robert is fearful towards what the society will say about him and Edna. The attitude they have and the fear is limiting them from exercising their full potential.

From the novel we get to realize that the road to self actualization is not easy. Edna has so many issues to solve as she gets to discover herself, her feelings and her passion. She wants to become more acquitted to herself, but the social convections are hindering her. Edna puts up her own rules and refuses to be subject to stereotype. She declares never to let someone treat her as a possession. She separates from Leonce and frees herself from any financial connection she has with him to go look for her own type of freedom. Edna has had to sacrifice and overcome what is believed to be the norm.

The gender roles allocated to the female gender. It takes a lot of courage to succeed and I think as Edna indulges into self actualization, she gets stronger and is able to handle any challenge on her way. It dawns to Edna on the awakening she is going through. Robert is still in fear hence is not comfortable being together with Edna, even though she has been separated from her husband. Edna realizes she is still trapped even though she is striving to get herself realization. Edna refuses to be tied down for she takes her own life. She sacrifices her life to save her children from a bad reputation and not to bow down to societal expectation by returning to Leonce. Extreme circumstances make Edna want to strive for more. It is when we are at edge that we get to self actualization (Chopin, 2003). 

Gilman led women to the phase of self actualization. According to the hierarchical theory, basic needs are a priority followed by other needs. The basic needs also referred to as physiological needs are food, water, oxygen and constant body temperature. Next on the ladder is the safety needs which cater for our security. Next on the theory is the social needs, esteem needs and finally the self actualization needs. This theory first explains the road to self actualization. Self actualization is at times referred to as self fulfillment. It takes place at different levels in our lives. Self actualization is a must in a person life, the only difference is, is it to the full fulfillment or just partial. For instance, women role in the past was partial self actualization. This is because, in today’s world, women have attained very high positions and are doing positive things while there. Being kept to domestic chores was really limiting their potential.

Self actualization requires one to develop their potential skills-this includes individual assets as well as the human potential inside. Personality needs to be built in order to release a person’s full potential. This means that a dormant potential is awakened that obstructs true fulfillment. Self actualization brings much development and contributes a substantially important thing in life. Using our inner abilities in relating with other people brings their fruitful side into light. In self development, there is always fear of the unknown, fear of others, fear of oneself in connection to the true connection. Self actualization is specific (Sahlin & Lexell, 2015). Men and women have to accept their full potential and be able to understand it before reaching self fulfillment. If they do not attain their full potential, then one does not attain self actualization. Attitude is important in self fulfillment. Self fulfillment can and is challenging. When a barrier exists, the important aspects of self fulfillment are not attained.

Men and women are all in tragic conflict yearning to get their fulfillment as they try and flee their unreasonable fears. Humans need to discriminate to what is constructive and destructive in their lives. Unnecessary conflict and fear obstructs self-realization. We are always in quest of the truth, and when we get it a channel opens up in us. This creates a strong drive in us. The forces push us and it knows no barriers and no fears. In this paper, I will try analyze the different degrees of self-actualization in relation to attitude toward women’s rights and roles in the society.


According to Maslow’s theory of self-actualization, peak experience is given central attention. A person going through self actualization enjoys more at peak experiences. A peak experience is when he or she is functioning well, strong and so sure of what he is doing. That is, he is complete control of himself. Maslow (1970) wrote that

“Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of great ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placing in time and place with, finally, the conviction that the subject is to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life but such experiences.”

The research time was very limited so I decided to go for secondary data. I chose one research article. One of the articles was by Gerard Forgarty, “Using Personal Orientation Inventory to measure change in student self-actualization” (Fogarty, 1994). The research study was done to depict when actually self actualization occurred. Developmental aspects of self actualization would also be examined so as to know if self actualization started at an early age or started at any stage. Garard study was about measuring factors to self actualization on the disadvantage students who got access to higher education in the absence of the normal education criteria. Apart from their academic background being known, he also wanted to know if more skills could be discovered along the way. This is because it believes some factors of self concept could be discovered amidst their low self esteem and confidence due to their backgrounds.

Gerard study took about ten weeks from the time they were accepted into the special entry scheme to when they completed their preparatory programme. He focused mainly on personal well-being by the use of a psychometric instrument called the Personal Orientation Inventory. The inventory contained of 120 pairs of two choice items that made up the two major scales and ten sub-scales. The instrument was designed to take in personal values of an individual.

The POI was selected because

It was developed specifically for measuring personal values.

It recorded the positive values of an individual rather than the negative.

POI instrument takes around 30 min but is not limited. It also does not require supervision. This means that the respondents could use it at their own time of convenience.

POI is known for its good therapeutic uses.

POI is resistant to bias

POI has been used in many academic settings.

An initial sample of 106 students was taken for this study. The students were accepted in the Access and Equity programme at UCSQ in 1989. 74 students responded to the first survey, which consisted of 20 males and 54 females. The POI was administered to the sample. Every student got a mail with all the requirements of the survey. The pretest was done by all 74 students however; the post test after the preparatory programme was completed by only 37 students, many of whom were females.


74 students returned the pretest forms. Tests analyses on the data helped the author know the profile of the students who were admitted under the special entry. The author decided to draw comparisons of the three norm groups since the students were between 25 to 35 years.

POI scales

USQ- Access and Equity N=74

U.S. Norms

Self Actualizing N=29

Normal N=158

Non-self actualizing N=34





















































































































From the above table, 74 students have almost similar profiles. Their profiles are what Shostron calls non-actualizing adults.

From the above graph, the author argued that the profile of a normal U.S student. We are able to see that the students from the special entry program had lower scores in the POI scale. This means that their situation reflected a real sense of dissatisfaction with their situation. On the post test analysis where there were 37 responses out of the 74 students, there was a significant shift to the scores. The scores on the students were higher as compared to the beginning of the test.


The preparatory programme seems to be the trigger for the positive results recorded on the POI. Shostrom would describe this as a positive shift towards self actualization. The most significant change from the POI was Self Acceptance (SA). The participants came out of the programme having great knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. The participants were exposed to an environment where their strength and weaknesses were exposed. Maybe they thought they were inferior not being able to join in through the normal entry schedule. Their perspective changed and they were convinced they could achieve more.

The same case applies to women and their role in the society. Edna was exposed to where she saw her full potential. That is where her journey started. She wanted to explore more for she accepted herself the way she was and believed she could achieve more instead of holding on to the societal norms (Chopin, 2003). Society will always have expectations for the female gender. The only thing is what we are able to sacrifice through our self determination. Edna through the process of her awakening encountered a lot of setbacks. However, they did not hold her back. She kept pressing on for she had developed a different attitude towards her role in the society. Through women’s liberation movement, much will be achieved and the societal ideas on the woman’s role will be changed. The society will become more liberal minded, to allow women to achieve their dreams either in politics, professional or just in the society.


Chopin, K. (2003). The awakening. Bantam Classics.

Fogarty, G. J. (1994). Using the Personal Orientation Inventory to measure change in student self-actualization. Personality and individual differences, 17(3), 435-439.

Moskowitz, E. S. (2001). In therapy we trust: America's obsession with self-fulfillment. JHU Press.

Pamela B.,(2012). The role of women in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sahlin, K. B., & Lexell, J. (2015). Impact of organized sports on activity, participation, and quality of life in people with neurologic disabilities. PM&R, 7(10), 1081-1088.

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