Get to know The Jonah Complex Syndrome
Written by Amanda Ramaningrum, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Have you ever been bitter of yourself for achieving success, such as a promotion or earning more money than your friends or co-workers? Or what if you are accepted into one of the prestigious companies, but somehow feel like you didn’t deserve it?. That condition is called the Jonah Complex syndrome. The Jonah complex syndrome is the fear of success, or the fear of being one’s best.
The fear and sign as the outcome may look similar with the Impostor syndrome, but the Jonah Complex is totally the opposite. When the Impostor syndrome will make you work harder to reach your best potential, the Jonah Complex actually limits you to reach your best potential. Self-actualization, or reaching one’s own potential, is limited by this anxiety.
What is the Jonah Complex?
In the 1950s, psychologist Abraham Maslow (recognized for his Hierarchy of Needs) invented the phrase “Jonah Syndrome” to describe his patients who were afraid of their own greatness and found themselves ‘running away from their best qualities’.
“We fear our highest possibilities. We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under conditions of great 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”, said Maslow in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.
You may have experienced this syndrome once, especially as we grow older, the challenges that we face are getting varied and bigger than before. Let’s say you work for a big project that requires hard work and professional skill, several days have passed and you are close to making a big new achievement from that.
However, because you were never encouraged by your parents, the critical voice becomes a visceral response, and you choose to switch to a smaller project— thus almost achieving a big goal, but coping out. It’s the Jonah Complex that causes us to fall short of our potential and to settle for way less than is available to us.
How to beat this syndrome?
Maslow and his contemporaries proposed a simple yet effective strategy for dealing with The Jonah Complex. Laugh at yourself and express wonder. As you grow more self-actualized as a human, remember yourself that you are not a god, but neither are you a worm. To put it another way, keep modest while aiming for the stars.
We all have fears. The fear of failing. Fear of what others will think of you. Fear of what others will think of you. Fear of being left out… It goes on and on. It makes no difference if you’re scared (since we all are). The good we can do for ourself now is to remember that we can’t control everything, but we can control how we respond to (literally) anything. Good luck!
The Jonah Complex – Our Fear of Greatness. (2020, August 18). Misha Yurchenko. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://mishayurchenko.me/2020/08/18/the-jonah-complex-our-fear-of-greatness/
L. (2020, February 19). The Jonah Complex. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/202002/the-jonah-complex
T. (2021, May 9). The Jonah Complex: How Artists Can Overcome Fear of Greatness. The Charmed Studio Blog. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://thecharmedstudio.com/jonah-complex-artistsfear-of-greatness/
Wikipedia contributors. (2021, October 8). Jonah complex. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah_complex#Etymology