Key Characteristics of a Fully Functioning Person

Fully functioning person
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According to the humanist psychologist Carl Rogers, a fully functioning person is one who is in touch with their deepest and innermost feelings and desires. These individuals understand their own emotions and place deep trust in their own instincts. Unconditional positive regard plays an essential role in becoming a fully functioning person.

This article discusses what it means to be fully functioning and the characteristics of people who are in this state of being. It also explores some of the strategies that people can use to become fully functioning.

What Is a Fully Functioning Person?

Rogers suggested that people have an actualizing tendency, or a need to achieve their full potential—a concept that is often referred to as self-actualization.

What Fully Functioning Means

A fully functioning person is one who is continually working toward becoming self-actualized.

This person has received unconditional positive regard from others and does not place conditions on their own worth. They are also capable of expressing feelings and are fully open to life's many experiences.

Rogers suggested that the fully functioning person is one who has embraced "existential living." In other words, they are able to live fully in the moment. They experience a sense of inner freedom and embrace creativity, excitement, and challenge.

According to Rogers, people who are in this fully functioning state live in the present moment. They are completely aware of their own feelings and reactions but are not overwhelmed or ruled by their emotions. Rogers suggested that these people live "freely, subjectively, in an existential confrontation of this moment in life."

Others have suggested that fully functioning people are also flexible and ever-evolving. Their self-concept is not fixed and they are constantly taking in new information and experiences.

Not only is the fully functioning individual open to new experiences, but they are also capable of changing in response to what they learn from those experiences. These individuals are also in touch with their emotions and make a conscious effort to grow as a person and achieve their fullest potential. 

Being a fully functioning person means having a healthy personality. People who fully function live in the moment and are open to new experiences.

Characteristics of Fully Functioning People

Fully functioning people tend to possess certain traits and characteristics that help them stay in tune with their own emotions and embrace their need to grow as an individual. Some of the key characteristics of a fully functioning person include:

  • Not feeling the need to distort or deny experiences
  • Flexible self-concept and the ability to change through experience
  • Lack of defensiveness
  • Living in harmony with other people
  • Openness to experience
  • Openness to feedback; willing to make realistic changes
  • The ability to interpret experiences accurately
  • The ability to trust one's experiences and form values based on those experiences
  • Unconditional self-regard

Rogers also developed a form of therapy known as client-centered therapy. In this approach, the therapist's goal is to offer unconditional positive regard to the client. The goal is that the individual will be able to grow emotionally and psychologically and eventually become a fully functioning person.

How to Become a Fully Functioning Person

Seeking to become fully functioning can be a goal of therapy or something you work on on your own. You might use strategies like these to develop the characteristics of a fully functioning person.

  • Embrace new experiences: A large part of becoming a fully functioning person involves becoming more open to trying new things. Openness is considered a core personality dimension in one model known as the five-factor theory of personality. People who are open to new things tend to be open-minded and creative. They enjoy learning and thinking about new ideas.
  • Practice mindfulness: Another important aspect of becoming fully functioning is learning to embrace the present moment. One way you can learn to do this is by practicing mindfulness, a technique that is all about focusing on how you are feeling in the here and now.
  • Learn to trust yourself: Being able to trust your own thoughts and intuition is another aspect of being fully functioning. You can foster greater trust in yourself by paying more attention to what you are feeling and visualizing positive outcomes.
  • Accept and love yourself: Unconditional positive self-regard is about accepting yourself for who you are and loving yourself despite your flaws or shortcomings. This doesn't mean that there aren't things you want to change about yourself. Even if you are working to improve as a person, you still accept and appreciate who you are in the present moment.

Becoming fully functioning is a journey, not a destination. It is not about following a prescribed series of steps to achieve a static result. Instead, it is about developing an approach to living that helps you to build contentment, self-awareness, openness, and a desire to keep improving yourself.

It's important to remember that becoming more fully functioning is a journey that continues throughout life. The key is to keep working on embracing living your life to the fullest.

Becoming Your Best Self

How can you determine if you are in this fully functioning state? People who exhibit this tendency have a self-image that is congruent with reality. They understand their strengths, but they also recognize and acknowledge that they have weaknesses. Even as they continue to build upon their personal strengths, they work on taking on challenges and experiences that allow them to grow and gain new understanding.

These individuals realize that they are not perfect, but they are still happy and satisfied with themselves. However, this contentment does not indicate idleness. Instead, they are always striving to achieve their best possible selves.

It's normal to feel like you aren't always your best self. Having an off day or feeling like there are things in your life that you want to change isn't a sign that you aren't a fully functioning person. Being your best self is personal, subjective, and different for each individual.

A Word From Verywell

The concept of the fully functioning person represents an ideal rather than an end product. It is not about achieving a certain status and then being done with your growth as a human being. Instead, the fully functioning person represents a journey that continues throughout life as people continue to strive toward self-actualization. 

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rogers CR. The concept of the fully functioning personPsychol Psychother. 1963;1(1):17–26. doi:10.1037/h0088567

  2. Proctor C, Tweed R, Morris D. The Rogerian fully functioning person: A positive psychology perspectiveJ Humanist Psychol. 2016;56(5):503–529. doi:10.1177/0022167815605936

  3. Rogers CR. Toward becoming a fully functioning person. In: Combs AW, ed. and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Perceiving, behaving, becoming: A new focus for education. National Education Association. doi:10.1037/14325-003

  4. Ismail NAH, Tekke M. Rediscovering Roger's self theory and personality. J Educ Health Community Psychol. 2015;4(3):28-36.

  5. Witty MC. Client-centered therapy. In: Kazantzis N, ĽAbate L, eds., Handbook of Homework Assignments in Psychotherapy. Springer.

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."