I think both can be true. People are afraid of the unknown, and what they don't understand, especially when it comes to our own potential, out of fear of "losing the familiar". The volatility of human nature is the reason leaders of large population groups "fear the mob", which is why society must be tamed by "authoritative rule". So long as it is a "healthy fear", society does well and prospers. If not, the societal elitists' fear turns to contempt and disdain, and justifies putting down the rest of society, which is how we get, the "ignorant masses".
If the common person were made aware of their 'full potential' and taught how to fulfill it, what happens to the value and significance of the "ruling elite"? So, some believe it is in their interest to keep this from happening, and divert our attention away from 'within', towards outside of ourselves, to chase unattainable standards and endless desires, which keeps people feeling bad about themselves and the world. When you're made to believe that happiness is outside of one's self, you're placing you own inner 'worth and value', externally on worldly and material things.