A few years ago, I stumbled across a manuscript written by Mother Teresa, whose humanitarian work for some of the poorest populations in India earned her canonization in the Catholic Church and an iconic status in the world’s consciousness. At the time, I was entrenched in the weeds of a research project where I was tasked with identifying key motivational drivers of influential people.
Mother Teresa was among the hundreds of “case studies” I was examining, but the feelings she expressed in her writing stood out to me— they were shocking. Despite being adorned with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, among other accolades, Mother Teresa’s private manuscripts reflected the deep fear, doubt and identity struggles she held throughout her career. In essence, the public successes of a woman who seemingly could do no wrong were not enough to guarantee a deeper, personal fulfillment.