Are You Afraid To Succeed: The Jonah Complex
According to Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, every man is capable of achieving excellence and greatness in his lifetime. He called this phenomenon as self-actualization.
A self-actualized individual is a creative person with several peak experiences and an achievement of great worth. It also signifies the growth of a person to his or her fullest potential.
However, very few people achieve such greatness. The question is why? What holds us back? To that, Abraham reasoned it could be Jonah’s Complex. The Jonah’s Complex is the fear of our own success more than we desire it. It prevents us to achieve self-actualization. It is funny how we dream about the possibilities of our own potential coming true one day. Yet, we simultaneously get scared of those very same possibilities.
Story Behind The Name
Maslow took the inspiration from a passage in the holy bible. In the bible, Jonah was described as a prophet who made several attempts to run away from his fate. Maslow believed humans too, sometimes, walk away from their responsibilities like Jonah.
Many people avoid goal setting in the very first place. If not that, then they keep postponing their set goals till it finally reaches a point where it no longer holds any meaning or value.
Turning down opportunities that would provide the platform for their personal talents to shine.
The Rationale behind the Jonah’s Complex
The pressure to conform to society is huge. Many people, in fact, end up lowering their aspirations and start feeling silly about their own goals. Sometimes the members of the family are unsupportive and teach little kids to be like others, and not to stand out of a crowd. Years go by, and ultimately, the talent dies with the person, without realizing their own potentials.
Some individuals think they are being extra cautious about all this. The end result is that the inner creativity stifles due to their false humility. These people are extremely self-conscious and self-critical. They constantly worry about being looked down upon as self-centered or arrogant.
Success can also be overwhelming for few. For some, intense emotions that accompany perfection and fulfillment are unbearable. Also, there is a fear that fame can bring jealousy, loneliness and a great burden of expectations.
It can be quite intimidating for a successful person to get ahead of friends and close family members. The constant thought that people might treat them differently from how they would have been treated had they not achieved great success brings a great amount of emotional stress.
Personality traits also play a key role in the development of this fear. Shy and introverts generally do not enjoy attention or limelight. In the past, these individuals have known to suppress their talent in order to avoid public success.
The authoritarian style of parenting has proven detrimental to a child’s growth. A child may end up never exploring new paths out of the fear of being disrespectful towards the parents.
Unintentionally, parents can scare their children too. Kids who often listen to discouraging comments end up second-guessing everything they do. These grow up to become adults who are always dependent upon others.
Ways To Overcome
Don’t be afraid of fear. The fear stems out of not wanting to leave one’s comfort zone. The moment one steps out of the safe zone, he or she truly starts to live life. These life experiences have a way to bring personal growth. People are bound to become happier and fulfilled.
Fear is not unnatural. To overcome the fear of success, one must realize is that it is a basic emotion. Accept it. Do not fight it. Ultimately, continue doing your work and never stop taking actions.
Writing a diary can be quite cathartic for some people. The pent-up emotions and frustrations can eat a person internally. Seeing how much negativity has become a part of their daily routine, one can take initiatives themselves to turn around these thoughts. Thoughts can be easily converted from negative to positive if one is willing to do so.
Positive visualizations, meditation, and deep controlled breathing are great measures for those who constantly experience stress or panic attacks because of any fear.
Behavioral therapies given by psychologists or professional therapists have also been successful in the past to deal with anxiety and depression that may occur due to Jonah’s Complex.