Let’s get this out of the way: many - if not most - of us will never reach our greatest potential. We will strive for an ideal, and dream of a life and success that we will obsess over for decades, but ultimately, we’ll settle and compromise and leave this world having achieved only a fraction of what we dreamed.
There are a great many reasons for this, but one of the theories is that we fear our greatness more than we desire it.
As a friend said during a chat conversation, for many, the potential of the dream is often more comforting than the realization of the dream.
The philosopher Abraham Maslow - of the famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - postulated that this could be a result of self-sabotage through “The Jonah Complex,” a limiting mindset that prevents us from achieving true self-actualization.
When I first stumbled upon the Jonah Complex a week or so ago from a friend’s tweet
, I was blown away by how this subtle and subconscious self-limitation had affected my perception of and desire for success.
Maslow borrowed the name from the Bible character Jonah who tried many times to run away from the fate/destiny God had set on his life. Maslow extended it to represent the fear of one’s own greatness, and a representation of those who run away from their best talents and fullest selves. He says:
We fear our highest possibilities. We are generally afraid to become that which we glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under the conditions of greatest courage. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities.
So often, we run away from the responsibilities dictated, or rather suggested by nature, by fate, even sometimes by accident, just as Jonah tried in vain to run away from his fate.