Tall Poppy Syndrome? How You Disabled Your Greatest Talents

by Bob Walsh

be a proud tall poppy

I’m still reading  How to stop being your own worst enemy, Mark Tyrell’s free ebook on overcoming negativity and self-sabotage. There’s a part where Mark writes about the Tall Poppy Syndrome. If you’re not from an English speaking country, you might not know what that is, so here a quick explanation:

a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.

My guess is you can remember many situations in your own life where you avoided trying or doing awesome things because you were afraid of “standing out”. I can.

My Tall Poppy Seed Story

When I was in school I never raised my hand, even when I knew the answer. Why? Because I didn’t want to be the teacher’s pet, I was afraid my friends would mock me for being an eager beaver.

I felt comfortable being an underdog because it made me one of the cool kids. I belonged to that crew. I craved the respect and feared the ridicule.

And I kind of created a negative attitude around the paradigm that it’s better to keep my mouth shut. For many years of my life I was extremely uncomfortable and even anxious about speaking in front of a group of people.

You can probably find examples in your own life where you held back on your potential, and made yourself smaller than you really are.

Don’t Be Afraid To Stand Out

It’s a sad thing. Because we’re not made to be small. We’re not made to fit in.

We’re made to express ourselves, to find our calling and follow our passion. And that often means standing out – that often means swimming against the tide.

That often means breaking out of the herd. But that can require a lot of confidence.

Because we really are social animals. To be emotionally healthy, we require human interaction, we need to bond with other people, we thrive on satisfying relationships with our peers. And when you stand out – when you’re the tall poppy – you put that at risk.

So for today, I leave you with this question:

Is there something in your life – a dream, an ambition, a goal, learning a new skill, improving yourself in some area of your life – that you’ve smothered into non-existence, because you were afraid other people would resent or attack or criticize you for it?