Key Characteristics of a Fully Functioning Person

Fully functioning person
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According to 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 and urge. Unconditional positive regard plays an essential role in becoming 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.

Rogers believed that a fully-functioning person is an individual who is continually working toward becoming self-actualized.

This individual has received unconditional positive regard from others, does not place conditions on his or her own worth, is capable of expressing feelings, and is fully open to life's many experiences.


So what exactly constitutes a fully functioning person? What are some of their key characteristics?

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 challenges.

"Such a person experiences in the present, with immediacy. He is able to live in his feelings and reactions of the moment. He is not bound by the structure of his past learnings, but these are a present resource for him insofar as they relate to the experience of the moment. He lives freely, subjectively, in an existential confrontation of this moment in life," Rogers wrote in a 1962 article.

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, they is 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. 


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:

  • Openness to experience
  • Lack of defensiveness
  • The ability to interpret experiences accurately
  • A flexible self-concept and the ability to change through experience
  • The ability to trust one's experiences and form values based on those experiences
  • Unconditional self-regard
  • Does not feel the need to distort or deny experiences
  • Open to feedback and willing to make realistic changes
  • Lives in harmony with other people

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.

Best Self

So what are fully functioning people really like? What characteristics might these individuals express?

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. This contentment does not indicate idleness, however, these individuals are always striving to achieve their best possible selves.

A Word From Verywell

One important thing to note is that 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. 

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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., Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Perceiving, behaving, becoming: A new focus for education. Washington, D.C.: National Education Association; 1962. 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, LĽAbate L, eds., Handbook of Homework Assignments in Psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Springer; 2007.

Additional Reading
  • Freeth, R. Humanizing Psychiatry and Mental Health Care: The challenge of the Person-Centered Approach. United Kingdom: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd; 2007.
  • Hockenbury, D. H. & Hockenbury, S. E. Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers; 2006.
  • Jones-Smith, E. Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: An Integrative Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications; 2012.