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Keeping Up Appearances

One of my most memorable moments as a doctoral student in the 1960s occurred during a seminar in an advanced course on counseling psychology, taught by the most prestigious professor at the university. I, along with 11 others, studied the research and conclusions on self-actualization, including the specific characteristics of highly functioning people. These exceptional people, some of them historical figures, were called self-actualizers. The purpose of this advanced seminar was to teach us how to identify these traits and to help others embrace them to live fuller and more deeply passionate lives.

The traits of these self-actualizers included appreciation for beauty, sense of purpose, resistance to enculturation, welcoming the unknown, high enthusiasm, inner-directedness, detachment from outcome, independence of the good opinion of others, and absence of a compelling need to exert control over others. Each week we discussed the strategies we could employ as therapists to encourage clients to become self-actualized. At the halfway point of the semester, our distinguished professor gave the midterm examination, which consisted of only the following question:

“A self-actualized person arrives at a dinner party at which everyone is dressed in formal attire. He is wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt, sneakers, and a baseball cap. What does he do? You have thirty minutes to write your answer.”

All twelve of us wrote furiously for the next half-hour, and then we were each asked to read our responses aloud. Some of the responses I remember were: He wouldn’t pay attention to those appearances; he wouldn’t leave or make excuses; he would just act as if nothing were amiss; he would just go on and enjoy the gathering and not worry about how others perceived him. I remember feeling particularly proud of my answer, which dealt with his feeling of purpose and a higher mission.

When all of us had finished reading our answers, our profession said, “I’m sorry, you have all failed the midterm exam.  You only needed to write three words. And he proceeded to put the three words on the chalkboard. “He wouldn’t notice.”

The highest level of awareness is one in which the self-actualized person does not notice appearances and sees only the unfolding of God in each person encountered.

Comments (20)

  • 1.

    August 14, 2013
    5:14 pm

    Thank you for another beautiful post. Also, by seeing the beauty in everyone (regardless of their physical appearance) we help ourselves see the unfolding of God in him or her. As John Keats said, beauty is love. And love is God. Blessings.

    – Cloris Kylie
  • 2.

    August 14, 2013
    6:07 pm

    Excellent story which I can really relate. It's good to keep in mind during everyday life. Thank!

    – Jack
  • 3.

    August 14, 2013
    7:10 pm

    Interesting how there were 12 of you taking this exam on self actualization. Jesus had 12 apostles and He was truly a self actualized individual. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely story.

    – michelle
  • 4.

    August 17, 2013
    5:07 pm

    We all have purpose and dreams ad wishes! One day when I will have conversation-chat -meet up I could say - One of the dreams is fulfilled till then we all do what we are here for or we are trying to find what that is!!!! Thank you , thank you, thank you ,thank you! Greta

    – Greta
  • 5.

    August 17, 2013
    5:08 pm

    I just missed to say when I will have conversation with You!

    – Greta
  • 6.

    August 17, 2013
    5:36 pm

    We are like M & M's- different colors on the outside but the same on the inside. Namaste!

    – Joseph Wadas
  • 7.

    August 20, 2013
    10:28 am

    We are love! We are perfected by the love that we are! If I showed up at this event my ego would recognize this difference. However where I am now I would realize that what I was wearing was perfect because it waspart of my lesson, my journey. I love when things like that happen. I smile & know the universe has a perfect plan. Be the love we are!

    – Your beloved, Amy
  • 8.

    August 21, 2013
    3:21 am

    Iam so excited to write here, to you, that tears falls from my eyes!... Nowadays, reading your book Real Magic that i found accidentaly on the pavement, i found myself and i awe it to you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking place in my life with your words! I wish i could meet you one day... Greetings from Greece! God bless you!

    – Eva
  • 9.

    August 22, 2013
    5:43 am

    At my stage of growth, I believe our appearances are somewhat important, especially if we include personal hygeine in the definintion of "appearance". Keep growing!

    – Ron
  • 10.

    August 23, 2013
    11:53 am

    I am absolutely inspired by Dr. Wayne Dyer, when I am aged only 15! His book "Your Erroneous Zones", is my bible,nothing makes me better than reading a few pages from this book. I am going through education - with a positive attitude which highly differs from others at school.I would love to gain an opportunity to meet him and learn from him.

    – Rose
  • 11.

    August 25, 2013
    7:00 pm

    This message was beautiful. :-) I was inspired to the fullest once again Dr. Dyer. Your work has recently enlightened and inspired my life. Thank you. O:-)

    – Marie
  • 12.

    August 25, 2013
    7:02 pm

    Dr. Dyer, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a large part of my recent enlightenment. O:-) I now view the world in a brand new way.

    – Marie
  • 13.

    August 27, 2013
    12:34 pm

    I am just beginning my journey to becoming a 'self-actualized person'. I greatly look forward to the lessons and the evolution within me ~

    – Dorothy
  • 14.

    August 28, 2013
    4:25 am

    Thanks for your inspiration, a psychologist suggested reading an earlier work. I just kept going and regularly listen to Wishes Fulfilled audio. Also reading Uell S. Andersen, Neville Goddard, etc. in a word, transformational. My attitude has turned around, not without effort, everyday. I am very thankful, and always will be.

    – Carollee
  • 15.

    August 28, 2013
    8:22 am

    I NEED to know how I can maintain this space of living in my life and apply it honestly and KNOW I am living in that " He/she wouldn't notice" !! I think I may have just answered it myself..... because I would not notice anything else BUT that! What a place to strive to :) Ann

    – Ann
  • 16.

    September 1, 2013
    10:01 am

    I want to thank you once again as I feel blessed to have your teaching in my life. I now live daily with something you taught me which is never Judge, criticise or condemn. I long to meet you one day and dream about having the opportunity to chat but mostly listen to you. Alison (Sas)

    – Alison
  • 17.

    September 2, 2013
    9:59 am

    Up until I heard this quote of Dr. Dyer I thought I had a clearer understanding. It is on " how God tells you its time for a change" Dr. Dyer uses the example of a radio station that changed formats and the whole staff was laid off. This is confusing. How is that a direct message? I thought the creator is not involved in layoffs...

    – Roger
  • 18.

    September 4, 2013
    7:03 am

    Dr. Dyer - I have enjoyed your work, since finding you this past year. Some of my "blog posts" reinforce, in a similar way - the fact, we humans must add "value" to this world, in order to get the most, from our existence. Visit "" & "" Enjoy!

    – David
  • 19.

    September 7, 2013
    10:40 am

    Dr. Dyer, Last week, I watched Wishes Fulfilled on Public TV. I purchased the book, and I've only read 53 pages, and I feel the clarity within that I have not felt in years. Thank you.

    – Robbin
  • 20.

    September 24, 2013
    1:53 pm

    I would have failed the test to!

    – Don

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