Tall Poppy Syndrome

tall poppy1

“Haters are people who will broadcast your failures and whisper your successes” (Actor, Will Smith)

Tall Poppy Syndrome: A term used primarily in Australia to describe the social phenomenon whereby people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, criticized or cut down because their talents or achievements elevate them above others or distinguish them from their peers.

In Japan, they say “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” And Russians declare: “What a joy, a neighbor’s cow just died!”

Tall poppies. One of those terms us Aussies use to describe people who have been extremely successful in some way.

Tall poppies. People who are outstanding in their field, whether that is fame, fortune or however success might be measured at any particular moment.

Tall poppies. People who seem to “come out of the woodwork”, out of “nowhere”; people who come from humble beginnings or from a troubled or difficult background.

Tall poppies. People who face the odds and win.

We hear their stories and we cheer them on. Because everyone knows Aussies love a good underdog.

That is…until they succeed.

And then we declare: “that’s enough.” and “you’re getting too big for your boots now.”

And we think: “Who do they think they are?

What is it about our culture that makes us cut others “down to size?”

Why don’t we like to see others succeed or achieve their personal goals and ambitions?

Why do we cut down the tall poppies?

This week, one of my coaches at Geelong CrossFit (“Tinnaz“) competed in the Crossfit games. He came 25th overall. I’m not sure how many people competed in the games but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about what happened next. What happened when the video of him lifting some monstrously heavy weight went viral on YouTube. What happened when all the “haters” came out of the woodwork claiming “he must be on steroids” and making disparaging (anonymous) comments implying that he must have used illegal drugs to achieve his personal best rather than the truth that he had put in lots of hard work (very hard work), changed his whole diet, and in his own words endured “an entire year of snail-like progression to get this far.” Not only was his integrity as a coach and his character as an individual questioned, worse, people tried to “cut him down to size.” And if you ever get to meet Tinnaz, you will see that that would be no easy job to do!!

At the end of the day, those who cut tall poppies down, do it simply out of jealousy. Ouch.

How many times have I (either deliberately or subconsciously) cut others down to size? How many times have I resented someone’s success or achievements? How many times have I refused to congratulate someone on their efforts?

Too many times.

Yes, I’m guilty of criticizing people behind their backs because of their talents. And yes, I’m also guilty of resenting people when they are elevated to a position that I perceive is ‘higher’ than me.

I have been filled with jealousy on many occasions. And it’s not right.

Being jealous of others simply indicates that I am not satisfied with what God has given me. And He has given me so much.

The Bible says that “a calm, peaceful heart and an undisturbed mind are the life and health of the body; but jealousy is like cancer and it rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).

Thinking about what Tinnaz experienced this week reminds me that I need to take a good hard look at the tall poppies that surround me and rather than pull out my scissors and cut them down, I need to support them, cheer them on and encourage them to be their best. And I probably also need to whip out my chainsaw and cut out that “cancer of jealousy” that is threatening to rot my bones.

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8 thoughts on “Tall Poppy Syndrome

  1. Nicki,

    So glad you’re still blogging. I love how you pull so many things together.
    I’ll catch you on the flip side next month.

    Blessings and tons of love,
    Catherine

  2. Love this Nicki!!! Thanks for sharing your heart. And yep, it’s no fun being on the receiving end and have others cut you down in order that they may look good or they are afraid of your success and view you as a threat. No fun at all. And unfortunately I think we’ve all done it to make ourselves look better. Love your honesty here! And love you!

  3. Aw, Nicki, you are such a blessing! Your perception blows my mind every time. And this blog really touches my heart. I love the image of people rising to achieve their best being Tall Poppies! It does make me wonder, why do people want to destroy them instead of standing back to savor their beauty? Thank you for always challenging me to view life from a deeper perspective. Love you!

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