Australians and the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’

I was born and grew up in Australia and can say that as a culture and race of people, we have pretty much mastered the art of avoiding appreciation. This is kind of funny really because there is so much to appreciate about Australia, our culture and landscape. There are so many awesome and amazing people that I have met and been privileged to know in Australia!

However, it appears to me that many habitual aspects of our language and ways of interacting with each other can block truly appreciating one another.

We have the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ – an agreement in society that no one should big-note themselves or talk themselves up too much for fear of being bigger or better than anyone else. It is definitely frowned upon to talk yourself up and many times as I was growing up, I often heard criticism, indicating that it was not the done thing to love yourself in any way, shape or form.

Now I understand that being arrogant or superior towards others is not a good thing, but have we actually thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater here? In our fear of seeming superior or arrogant, have we gone too far the other way? Have we actually made it more difficult for us all to actually feel good about ourselves?

What is wrong with sensing that you are amazing, awesome, beautiful, graceful and even talented or useful to have around? It is almost like we have some kind of unwritten contract that says that nobody can shine too brightly. So if anyone breaks this contract and starts to truly appreciate themselves, they get noticed and brought back down to size. Humility is a good thing but lack of appreciation is not.

I am also not talking about big noting yourself in some kind of delusional self-grandeur, false confidence or bravado. This is not true appreciation; it is just showing off and attention seeking behaviour. Craving for and continually seeking attention or recognition has nothing to do with appreciation and in fact stems from a lack of it.

Another enemy of appreciation we have is the ‘pay-out culture.’ In our conversations with each other we are continually putting each other down with comments that are disguised as humour, but are actually thinly veiled attacks and the opposite of appreciation. Many times in my life I have prided myself on being quick with a witty, funny or scathing response or ‘come-back’ that I knew had hit the mark with someone else.

We have made it a national pastime to pick up on other people’s faults, imperfections or mistakes and undermine them, rather than appreciating the beauty in someone and building them up.

It is great to not take ourselves too seriously and to be light-hearted about our imperfections, however this feels different from ‘putting down’ someone based on their faults. ‘Pay-out’ banter can be a form of combat that avoids being open with others.

Often if we ever mention that we have felt hurt by something someone has said, we are accused of being a ‘wimp,’ a ‘wuss’ or a ‘wet blanket’ who is spoiling the fun; or the other excuse that is often used is that “it was just a joke, so get over it.”

There is a belief that you give as good as you get and that it is all ‘friendly banter,’ but the reality is these taunts and teases hurt and actually bring us down as individuals and as a society. They keep us separate from one another and do not bring us any closer together.

Also I have noticed that if we genuinely appreciate someone else and tell them how much we truly value them, it is often considered a bit weird and awkward in our society. We feel awkward for expressing our appreciation and also uncomfortable when receiving a genuine compliment. Why are we so hesitant and uneasy about appreciation?

Have we fully realised how much these patterns and contracts of behaviour are affecting our society? If we consider that low self-worth and self-esteem, lack of confidence, social isolation, feeling lonely, anxiety and feelings of rejection contribute to many of our self-destructive and self-abusive behaviours in our world, including over-eating, suicide, obesity, drinking, drug use, domestic violence, rape, murder, road rage, then why are we not considering the deeper reasons as to why these things exist?

Could valuing appreciation in our society once more be part of addressing these issues?

So maybe it is time to put down our ‘sharp-tongued weapons’ and ‘jovial’ wars? Maybe it is time to value each other more and see the beautiful qualities in all of us; encourage each other to bring more of this beauty in our interactions and appreciate the fact that we may seem different on the outside, but underneath the surface we are all yearning for a world where jealousy, hurts and insults are not part of our everyday.

We have all sensed that our societies fall short of the quality of life we all really want and that in many ways we are in a mess. Surely if we all support each other to shine more brightly there will be less darkness?

Is it possible that we can stop the insults, the putdowns and the ‘paybacks’ once and for all and be inspired by each other? Why would we choose to all stay in the mess together when we could be supporting each other to get out?

By Andrew Mooney BPthy (Hons) MCSP, Cornwall, UK, Physiotherapist, Complementary health practitioner

Related Reading:
What is the Science of Appreciation and how does it evolve all of our relationships?
Washing my Car: a Lesson in Appreciation and Self-Care
Life is Truly Magical

434 thoughts on “Australians and the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’

  1. Starting as a convict settlement was not a great foundation for Australia, but we can transform this – there is all the support to evolve offered by a beautiful natural environment and from the human heart. We do not have to join in the agreed consensus and circulation package put around, as you say Andrew: ‘It is almost like we have some kind of unwritten contract that says that nobody can shine too brightly. So if anyone breaks this contract and starts to truly appreciate themselves, they get noticed and brought back down to size.’ The message of this is loud and clear ‘Don’t shine, don’t stand in your beauty, love and authority – but we can now, because we have seen it.

  2. I can so relate to what you have shared here Andrew
    “It is definitely frowned upon to talk yourself up and many times as I was growing up, I often heard criticism, indicating that it was not the done thing to love yourself in any way, shape or form.”
    From a religious point of view in our family this was something that was frowned upon by God. Being a girl life was geared around looking after other people’s needs first. And to be honest the word Love was hardly ever mentioned in the family it just wasn’t part of our vocabulary with each other.

  3. I find it so interesting how many suffer from not feeling enough or feeling like they need to be more, do more – striving for success and wishing that they were more popular, famous etc. And yet, when people begin to stand out and shine we want to tear them down – potentially because it might expose where we are choosing not to shine?

  4. Appreciation grows us. The moment we truly value all that is on offer, we are able to embody more of that which is constantly pouring through us (God’s wisdom). If all the ‘poppies are short’ then it shows us the degree to which we are in collusion with each other to not live the magnitude of who we are and what we are here to do as we each begin the journey back to our true and genuine selves – our Soul.

    1. Great turn around here Liane on the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ – rather than trying to keep all the poppies short we actually need ‘tall poppies’ to support and pull us all up to be the glorious human beings we all equally have the potential to be.

  5. Andrew this is a brilliant sharing, and one conversation that needs talking about in our society, it has become a social and acceptable ‘norm’ to cut another down and to bag them out especially if they are doing well. We all need to become responsible and to see how we can be allowing this type of behaviour to exist, by not being a part of these conversations is one way but to also call out this behaviour in another allows them an opportunity to feel how harming this is, they may not choose to get it but least you have put a stop to an energy that is hurting them and others.

  6. ‘It is almost like we have some kind of unwritten contract that says that nobody can shine too brightly. So if anyone breaks this contract and starts to truly appreciate themselves, they get noticed and brought back down to size. Humility is a good thing but lack of appreciation is not.’ Humility is a very powerful and graceful attribute – I feel it reflects a knowing and appreciation of who you are without any need to prove this or any need for recognition.

  7. And we can bring ourselves down in the vey same way… but this is an excuse not to shine and bring the fullness of who we are to the world.

  8. There is a false bravado that goes with our ‘sharp-tongued weapons’ and ‘jovial’ wars?’ It s a super form of protection and oneupmanship which keeps us safe in our own little worlds, or so we think, but as you say are we not, if we get deeply honest, ‘all yearning for a world where jealousy, hurts and insults are not part of our everyday.’

    1. I observe the expressions of people when they play this game. The sting of hurt that comes in through harsh words dressed in playfulness is forceful and the hurt is concealed and spitted back immediately with a more forceful attack and observing these attacks, it is I can’t but find it funny that we go through such hurting of each other to not express or receive love, we really try so hard.

      1. Yes it is part of this crazy game to conceal or hide the fact that we have been hurt or disturbed by the force that can come through others when they use words to degrade or diminish us. Although in truth we can never truly hide our hurts in the world of energy. Despite our facial expressions and physical postures or body language we all know when someone has felt hurt by something because it is an energy we can feel. If we are honest we also know when we have expressed something hurtful or not loving towards others because again it has a certain feel or quality in our bodies.

  9. In the Chinese culture very similar behavior is observed. We put ourselves down to be accepted and put each other down to get ahead. If you appreciate yourself, you are strange and we don’t like you. So to appreciate ourselves and to be a part of this culture is an every day fun exploration—lightness is a prerequisite.

    1. I am very glad that you,’diningwithoneandwithlove’ have exposed that the tall poppy syndrome is also rampant in your country. And someone else from Britain also exposed the same about what is happening there. This syndrome does not belong to anyone country – it has invaded many cultures and countries – and we have allowed it it to possess us, instead of living by the culture of God.

    2. Love that you are appreciating the fun and exploration of reflecting your lightness of being. A reflection of light allows us to see the truth of ourselves and this is something to appreciate.

  10. Something I can feel with your sharing Andrew is that there is little to no understanding that how we are affects the whole. Such as someone’s negativity in the workplace as an example can really affect the whole team. Whilst this example may be widely acknowledged some of what you have shared such as the pay out banter may not be. The other thing with this is how we tolerate these action or behaviours and not say anything when these things are raised. You can see how these behaviours are fed over time ensuring they have a solid footing in society.

  11. One thing that is very common in Australia is the culture of mocking. It’s seen as having fun and being playful. But it never is for the person at the end of the mocking and it’s just a big fat lie that it’s playful and fun. It can be very sneaky and sly, but it is always felt.

  12. It is incredibly beautiful when we are genuinely appreciated and it also feels incredibly beautiful when another accepts the appreciation offered. Recently I was appreciated by another woman for my cooking! When the gorgeous woman expressed her appreciation it stopped me in my tracks. She was confirming me. I knew and had a very subtle feeling that while I was staying with her my cooking was great but I hadn’t allowed myself to feel it in full. I kept wanting to override it. How many other moments in our day do we squash our natural qualities and talents because we don’t want to be seen?

  13. Just lately I get glimpses of my own awesomeness that I haven’t allowed myself to feel very often for all the reasons Andrew gives here of only seeing myself to a certain level – in doing so I can see the awesomeness much more in others as well.

  14. This ‘friendly banter’ thing impacts on most of us everyday, there is an underlying attack, sarcasm and competition that many of us choose to deal with people we have issues with, be them seemingly small or even huge, this choice to talk in this way is harming and it does not just impact on those that receive it. We all are belittled if we do not be honest about when we choose a reductionist way of speaking to one another.

  15. That is really messed up how such a beautiful thing as loving yourself can be so twisted around so it means you have a big head and is known to be such a bad thing or an insult even to say that ,”oh him yeh he really loves himself” such an insidious setup!

  16. I love all that you share here Andrew, thank you. And this is a great question – “Surely if we all support each other to shine more brightly there will be less darkness?” – appreciation doesn’t need to be saved just for special occasions but is a very needed and natural part of our everyday expression.

  17. A true appreciation of who we are and the importance of reminding ourselves of this and not getting caught up in self doubt and belittlement when we are glorious and the appreciation of this a true reality of claiming and a real inspiration to us all to see.

  18. I so agree with what you are saying about the “pay out” culture in Australia being a form of combat. The battle is about making sure the other person does not feel their own glory because then it would give the rest of us a reflection that we are that glorious too. It is all designed to ensure that we do not know our own splendour.

  19. One of the greatest teachings I have learned has been presented by Serge Benhayon amongst other true teachers throughout history: ‘that what you do to another you do to yourself first’.

  20. This can be a great way to hold at bay someone you in truth love deeply – rather than letting go and allowing vulnerability in expressing love, we become joking and brusque and mocking of another

  21. Fascinating read Andrew.. the more we don’t self-appreciate the more we denigrate and war with each other as a result. True appreciation brings the love in so that there is harmonious interplay and living. Everything to ‘big-up” to my mind.

  22. I have played the pull down game on myself and others for many years in my life and am inspired to consider, on this first day of 2018, that changes in me are evident and that I can now walk alongside people honouring and appreciating their strengths and all they offer the world.

  23. To truly appreciate each other it is needed to appreciate ourselves deeply within. Otherwise it looks as if we appreciate the other and satisfy the mind but do not really support the other. It has to be lived by ourselves first.

  24. Yes, we have a hard time accepting our own beauty and glory, yet it should not stop us from adoring and expressing the beauty we see in another, as this supports us all to realise and accept our own exquisiteness.

  25. It’s great to make a stock take now and again and ask ourselves what do we appreciate about ourselves and really feel this to the bone,

  26. I think there’s a great humbleness in truly knowing you’re amazing, because you know that what makes you amazing is simply being connected and knowing your part of something magnificent.

  27. These are all strategies to avoid real conversations. I am refusing to get involved in nothingness talk any more. There are so many conversations that need to happen. It starts with speaking our Truth, not holding back!

  28. There is much to consider here Andrew! So much of what you share here would be considered a normal experience for most of us (the subtle put downs in the form of humour ) and lack of appreciation of ourselves and others. Through the access to the Presentations of Serge Benhayon on the Ancient Wisdom I know has helped me, and many more of us to change the ways we have of relating that have a detrimental affect on us all.

  29. This really does expose many aspects of the Australian culture and how choosing to behave a certain way as an entire group of people can be so damaging to an individual’s mental health and well-being. It actually saddens me that the behaviors mentioned in this article are actually accepted as our every day way of being.

  30. Andrew, I love this; ‘So maybe it is time to put down our ‘sharp-tongued weapons’ and ‘jovial’ wars? Maybe it is time to value each other more and see the beautiful qualities in all of us’. Reading this I can feel how supportive we can be with each other, how we can confirm each other’s qualities and inspire each other, this would make a huge difference to how we feel about ourselves and each other and make for a much more loving, caring, expressive and supportive community.

    1. Oooo… Yes I get that, the sharp tongued weapons and jovial wars are things I was very good at once in my life, I realise how much I must have changed in this regard to those who knew me 15 years ago, and very gladly so. Ouch.

  31. True humility is knowing the grandness that we are and how actually ‘normal’ that is. It is our natural state, and to live it is …normal.

  32. “Have we fully realised how much these patterns and contracts of behaviour are affecting our society? If we consider that low self-worth and self-esteem, lack of confidence, social isolation, feeling lonely, anxiety and feelings of rejection contribute to many of our self-destructive and self-abusive behaviours in our world, including over-eating, suicide, obesity, drinking, drug use, domestic violence, rape, murder, road rage, then why are we not considering the deeper reasons as to why these things exist?”

    It is not often that I quote blogs but this observation of Australian culture really is over looked too often. There are many other cultures that spring to mind that have more dramatic and obvious issues but this subtle down playing of ourselves and one another does affect us all more than I think we are willing to admit.

  33. There is so much to appreciate about Australia that is funny! Every country has lots to appreciate the UK countryside is really beautiful but everyone here wants to ‘escape’ to the sun. I understand lack of sun is no fun, but it’s so often our perspective stops us from seeing what is there to confirm and appreciate.

  34. It can be challenging enough to deal with our own hurts and ‘demons’ without having to cope with other people putting us down as well. We could be supporting each other to overcome our weaknesses rather than using those weaknesses as advantages over each other.

  35. Appreciation is gold. Even when it is expressed and there is an awkwardness it is still gold. We all love to be appreciated and the more deeply you appreciate someone the more deeply they feel it. This is great to practice on oneself as we all want to be able to be all that we know ourselves to be and appreciation will help this greatly.

  36. When we don’t value ourselves and do not believe we are enough let along everything that we will ever need to be and then some, it makes complete and utter sense that we strive to get that from somewhere else. By relying on our skills and assets that we bring and making them the focus.

  37. How often do we put ourselves down before anyone else even gets the chance to do so? Showing that we anticipate any comparison and jealousy in advance knowing that shining more than another is clocked instantly.

  38. True appreciation is great and essential medicine for us all. There is much to appreciate about ourselves, others and life if we allow ourselves to open up to it, and it doesn’t mean that we have to live with ‘rose tinted glasses’ or be blind to all the rot in our world but be open to seeing the divinity in us too and not negating it.

  39. ‘Why are we so hesitant and uneasy about appreciation?’ – there are for sure several reasons, but there is one I like to mention particularly: After one´s having made the choice to fit in, belonging to and being part of a group, signing the contract/agreement to be less like everyone else, to not shine one´s light more than anyone else how can we dare to break that belonging, this socially agreed on leveling? It is a betrayal in 2 ways – first, we expose ourselves and admit that once we betrayed ourselves, second, we betray those who we collaborated with in keeping the first betrayal a ‘secret’ from ourselves and each other by confirming that it is okay, normal, good, the best or only way.

  40. I know the tall poppy syndrome, it was presented to me as a child by the words “don’t get too big for your boots or don’t stick your neck out you might get your head chopped off ” all to keep us down, keeping us capped, to stop us from shinning. Appreciation is the key that unlocks and celebrates the true potential that we each one hold.

  41. “Have we actually made it more difficult for us all to actually feel good about ourselves?” A god point to which I unhesitatingly respond yes. In the UK we seem content to support ‘stars’ on their way up – always one to boost the underdog. Yet after a while we shoot them down again. Jealousy and comparison seem to know no bounds.

    1. Yes today’s stars are tomorrow’s has-beens… our throw away disposable society seems to include how we treat people – as commodities or forms of entertainment rather than real people.

  42. There is also curious phenomenon whereby we seem to worship some people and artificially elevate them based on one aspect or task that they have done or performed well at, and we either totally ignore the obvious parts of their lives which are often much less successful or overly focus on them to bring them down.

  43. It is only by denying our true greatness that we can even begin to see ourselves as either ‘better’ or ‘less’ than another. These are simply self-created measures on the scales of evil – a source of energy that contains not an ounce of the love that we are and are from – that stop us offering the full ‘volume of us’ to the world.

  44. When we can let go of our defence, we cannot else than see the essence of all people we meet and have conversations with and find that we are actually all one and the same and in that we remove the sting of comparison and competition between one another.

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