“Fear success. You don’t deserve to be happy. You shouldn’t have any of the stuff that you earned.”
These sentiments seem to be pervasive in the minds of many. Despite whole industries rising and profiting off encouraging others to achieve their dreams, doubt still remains in many people’s minds. There are lots of facets that relate to why people doubt themselves, but for today, I would like to focus on the rewards that come after successfully completing a project. The rewards that people deserve don’t always come, but what may be worse still is when the spoils are voluntarily turned down.
There is a concept in psychology called “fear of success.” Essentially, this states that people can actively push success away rather than embrace it. Sometimes this is due to the pressure that accomplishment can bring, but more often than not, it is likely from a belief that one is not worthy or deserving of such rewards. It seems counterintuitive considering the pervasive idea in American culture that encourages people to seek more things and grow personal wealth. However, wealth can be scary for some, symbolizing greed, elitism, or even that others will start to attack them because of their money.
Dispelling these ideas are fairly easy to do. Granted, there will always be people who act like jerkfaces because they think money entitles them to do so. For the remaining amount of “well off” people, I find these stereotypes to be nothing more than that. Wanting to better oneself shouldn’t be equated with greed. Who among us hasn’t dreamed of one day owning a mansion, yacht, penthouse, or even small island? That drive to achieve goals and obtain rewards, no matter how extravagant, doesn’t necessarily indicate greed.
For me, greed occurs when the pursuit of wealth far outweighs any practical or ethical reasoning. For example, if I invented a new type of wheel that functioned even better than the wheels we all know and love, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to receive compensation for that. In fact, a cheaper and more efficient wheel would probably make me an overnight billionaire. Still, this instance doesn’t necessarily show greed. On the other hand, if I were to then take my billions and buy up other wheel companies to create a monopoly and then increase the price of wheels by 500%, that would probably be sufficient enough evidence to label me a douchebag who is a greedy prick, to put it mildly. Wealth doesn’t cause greed, though the two can correlate.
There is also the notion that wealth creates elitists. I certainly can’t deny that there are people out there that feel entitled to be jerks because of their money, but in my experience, I have found that to be true no matter what social class one is a part of. Personalities and individual choices affect whether or not one turns out to be a jerkface. For instance, there are definitely examples of wealthy individuals claiming that they are better than those who don’t have as much money. And yet, for every one of those, there is at least one other who does great work. Bill Gates has always been an example of this in my mind. He could support thousands of individuals on just the interest he earns alone. And yet, despite his wealth, he continues to push for social change to help those who are less fortunate. Mark Zuckerberg is another philanthropist that comes to mind. He continues to donate his money to charity. And while the cynics amongst us may believe all of that is just for good PR, there are still beneficial things that come out of these actions regardless of intent. For me, I choose to believe that absolute power doesn’t absolutely corrupt ALL people.
Lastly, the idea of people coming after you because you are rich is a little trickier to talk about. There are those who will come after you no matter what you are doing in your life. A mean Twitter comment, a glare on the street, or a middle finger in the rear view mirror while you’re driving: all of these things happen despite most of us not having copious amounts of money. It is true that more money can attract more problems, causing “long lost cousins” to pop out of the woodworks and beg for support. Despite that, I have found that most people are genuinely happy with their friends’ and families’ successes. They may not express that happiness all the time. In fact, they may show a jealous side every now and then. They may even ask you to stop talking about your accomplishments. But, as long as you aren’t rubbing it in their faces, most people realize that their personal issues may be negatively affecting how they are treating your achievements. They may not, but that’s why my profession exists.
Wealth and money never struck me as tools that harmed society. I believe that they can help if given to the right people. It is always a shame when someone becomes corrupted by wealth, but I’m not sure how often that actually happens. I would prefer to encourage the people in my life to continue to strive for their dreams and ultimately accept the fruits of their hard labor. You earned your reward, and I hope you can believe that you are worth it. Because while people can change the world in small, individual instances, imagine the good one can do with $50 million or more.
Gregory T. Obert
Author of The Man on the Bench