The Jonah Complex: Fear Of Your Own Greatness

The Jonah Complex: Fear of Your Own Greatness

As humans, we have a weird habit of limiting ourselves and our potential, and we often expose ourselves to internal obstacles that refuse to allow us to grow. Yes, we do this ourselves. Crazy, huh?

There is only one person in this world who can keep you from reaching your ultimate height. This person looks at you every day, through the mirror.

Why do we limit ourselves when we are born with great potential?

Some years ago this was called the Jonah complex by Abraham Maslow, a reference to the passage from the Bible in which God commands Jonah to take his message to Nineveh. However, fearing that he would not be able to complete this task, Jonah goes on the run. Sometimes we embark on a journey that really goes in the opposite direction of success, even when we actually know it’s not the right way. This is because we fear our own greatness and it is a very nasty way to sabotage yourself.

The demons that cause the Jonah complex are fear and nervousness, and these demons limit our chance of being successful. You know that you are valuable, that you can do it, you envision yourself as someone who is successful, yet you act in a way that you know will not help you achieve your goal. You cross the river into the valley of mediocrity, fearing that you will not be able to handle the task, that you are not really valuable, and that you do not know what you will find at the top of the mountain.

Maslow argued that when we fear the worst will happen, we also fear the best will happen. In other words, something in the sense of:  ‘I do not want to have everything, nor do I want to have nothing, I prefer to stay where I am now’.

This nervousness is responsible for the fear of achieving something beyond what others before you have already achieved, of taking on the responsibilities that come with greatness, of not knowing how to open yourself to the path that leads you directly to leads the horizon, to be arrogant, to fail…

In other words, it is a dark way of creating our own pain and suffering. It’s not that we counteract success or sadness with this, but rather that we get in the way of our own happiness. The way we make ourselves suffer, sabotage ourselves, is a form of completely unnecessary and very damaging pain.


It takes a demanding step to overcome this. The only way to get rid of this kind of self-sabotage is to confront the fear of not being able to achieve your own goals.

The prison that each of us creates for ourselves has individual bars and other tormentors next door, watching our every move and even the way we breathe. What does become clear from this is that our prison will eventually become our grave with a memorial stone on it that will tell the whole world that we have lived neither in shame nor in glory. We will die with the garb of mediocrity and emotional comfort around our bodies.

It is important that we keep our aspirations in balance while keeping our feet firmly on the ground. The majority of people sin excessively in one way or another. That is, they over-rank their own views or appear to be trying to hide their views. If we really tried to observe successful people, we would see that these people have managed to balance this equation; which means that their aim is great while remaining realistic at the same time.

Fear of our success stems from our own inability to tolerate uncertainty. We don’t believe in our ability to handle anything that comes our way. We have the need to record everything and examine it thousands of times.

Our need to reassure ourselves is truly enormous. It’s our way of letting obsessive thoughts guide every step we take toward success. We don’t realize that looking up means we think we’re sitting low. We give ourselves the luxury of feeling inferior, something that will really punish us for the rest of our lives.

–Images courtesy of nuvolanevicata and Africa Studio–

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