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Tall Poppy Syndrome

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So the Australian Open tennis tournament is on in Melbourne at the moment, and watching the Australians play and compete got me thinking…

We have this thing in Australia called the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’.  Mind you, I think it’s in other places around the globe, but this is my experience of it here. It’s a rather ugly scenario where Australians like to chop down those around them who stand taller or achieve more than they do,  Everyone appears to be on the same level, average.

So, back to tennis, we have a young chap by the name of Bernard Tomic, who is a brash, confident, young individual ready to take on the world. Now because he is confident, Australians, who should support him, call him arrogant, self-obsessed and are happy to cut him down before he even starts. But then, he started to win the lead up games to the Australian Open. Surprised Aussies murmured and rallied for support. He got through to the 3rd round, and with his next competitor, Roger Federer, money was put on Tomic to win. But, really, Australians knew he wasn’t going to win, our attitude made sure of it.

The reason I am talking about this is because I think it’s a tragedy that our overall ‘Tall Poppy’ attitude holds Australians down, but more importantly, it holds Australian women down. Goodness, if men suffer under this syndrome, then how the hell can women even start to get their necks out in front?

It not only manifests itself in sport but in business and networking too. You can’t be an over achiever.  You only have to be at the school drop offs to see the women cut each other down, without even knowing one another. And, hey, if you go in confident, want to make some changes, or speak out about something you believe in, don’t expect a pat on the back.

Another TV show starting this week on Australian boxes that resonates with this topic is American Idol. Now, to Australians,this show is so crazy over the top!  The entrants are full of themselves and the judges are insanely arrogant! The confidence in the room is overwhelming! And why shouldn’t it be?

I would love to see Australians love confidence, love being outstanding, love being the centre of attention; regardless of what others think. One of my favorite sayings is this:  “It’s none of your business what other people think of you!”  However, being an Aussie, it’s hard to really subscribe to this.

On Australia’s latest installment of the Masterchef franchise, Masterchef Professionals, one of the chefs was ‘blowing his own trumpet’, but you could see the cracks forming. They scrapped the  film, as though his confidence was his downfall. You know what, he crashed and burned! Australians need to settle down and love achievement, let those who achieve love it.  And maybe, just maybe, it might start to spread!

I’m guilty of being completely under its spell at times as well.  I certainly don’t remember  being taught to be marvelous simply because I can be… but I sure as hell tell my little people to be

So, I propose we all say goodbye to ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ and celebrate everybody’s awesomeness! Why not have a race to see who can reach the highest, stand the tallest, and when we get there, we can lift up those who have trouble achieving the highest of highs… Come on Aussie, Come on!

How do you feel your country’s views and ways compare to Australia’s on women’s confidence and success?

If you liked this article, you’ll love this one: Confidence Or Vanity?


About Sandy Dingwall

Sandy lives on the sunny Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, is a mum to 3 little people (9, 7 and 5) and is married to a creative type like her. She has worked and owned businesses in a number of industries – children’s publishing, franchising, bakeries, cafes, a local newspaper and most recently ran her own handbag business. Currently Sandy is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and Publishing.

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  1. Excellent article! I see this in the USA too. If someone is too good at something, they are arrogant. I always know what I want and what I go after, and many have thought I was self-absorbed but I would love to help others go for the gusto too!

  2. I loved reading about what Aussie women deal with in the culture concerning success and confidence. It sounds like we Americans suffer from the opposite issue, over development of confidence and rising to the top. Here, we want to be successful, want our children to win and rise above, and even continually develop businesses to help others to get there. That said, there are still those people (many) who cut down others to level the playing field. I believe those cases are more envy driven than cultural mediocrity though. It’s a competitive world in general. I’m sorry that you have to deal with that, but you are doing the right thing by talking about it. Now, go and share this article with all of your Aussie friends.

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