F**K I’m Good, Just Ask Me

Be that tall poppy

Tall Poppy Syndrome is an icky, insidious and thoroughly embedded component of Australian culture. The tall poppy eradication program commences in primary school, continues in secondary education and is maintained right through adulthood. It’s a cradle to grave kinda gift that keeps on giving.

I still recall how embarrassing it was to be bright as a young person and to make it worse a certain level of brightness was celebrated in the school environment with a certificate at a public assembly — Horror !!

School teaches young Aussie kids to duck and weave excellence, unless it’s on the sporting field of course — that’s OK.

As a teen I moved schools enabling me to shed my academic reputation and choose the beach over roll call. I thought I was cool and in my mind that worked well for me until I was tempted into the dirty world of fundraising.

When my fundraising led to a State title, Miss RSL Youth (yes, that’s the first time I’ve actually put that title in a post), and I returned from the supportive non-school world to the schoolyard humiliated by my ‘achievement’.

When my ‘win’ was announced in the whole school assembly it wasn’t my fellow students that cut me down — oh no ! It was my Business Services teacher;

“What’s that make you then, the queen of the poker machines?” he asked in his smug teacher voice.

We Aussies are taught to work hard, but not to openly share our success. Build wealth but don’t display it in a crass nor ‘flashy’ manner. Keep up with the neighbours but do not get ahead of them. Above all, we are taught to distrust and wherever possible openly criticise anyone that has the gall to break the rules.

We say ‘good onya’ to people who step out of line in the full realisation that the statement is a very back-handed version of ‘good on you’.

We aspire to be the ‘quiet achiever’. And while we are encouraged to be a ‘clever country’ the price of tertiary education, even at a TAFE level and despite a range of education loans is in many cases simply unreachable.

Speaking well of yourself is the stuff you save for job interviews and even then feel revolting as the words about WHAT YOU DO WELL seep out of your mouth.

I bet that you find it difficult to even THINK the things you’re amazing at for fear of what? The thought police? Fear of your own head exploding?

This cultural attitude we nurture can stifle business, squash self-esteem, embed poverty and disadvantage and generally cripple the economy.

Don’t believe me?

Well get out into the community and witness a young school leaver who cannot hold down a job not because they aren’t great at the job but because they came from a family that has been unemployed for four generations and has no context to support this new ‘upstart’ in a positive way.

Or, just for a moment try being that tall poppy. Be openly successful and see what comments that brings you — be prepared, the trolls are waiting.

I’m so, so tired of our inability as a people to enable and celebrate those who work hard and rise as a result.

I think it’s time we talk about it. And, I think it’s time for us all to be tall poppies starting right now.

I often start speaking engagements with a provocative question, I call it the FIGJAM strategy.

I ask the audience”

“What are you really good at?”

Then, I ask them to turn to the person next to them and tell them what that thing is. Instantly the room will erupt in nervous, high pitched banter. People don’t want to talk about themselves, they ask their partner to go first.

But then they see I’m serious and they continue. The sound in the room changes and they don’t want to stop talking. The floodgates have opened and finally, finally they have permission to be seen for the things they are most proud of.

So, it’s time to build some muscles around unleashing your inner awesomeness (yes, the words are chosen for effect, you can fist pump the air if you like*). You secretly KNOW that there’s something you’re spectacular at, that thing that people love you for, that thing you can do with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back.

Go on, you can do it

Let it out

Say it

Tell the world

Copyright Evolve Network Australia 2018

FIGJAM — (censored version)







Now I dare you to share that thing you’re great at. Start with a whisper, tell a friend, put it on your Facebook page, attach it to a carrier pigeon — Just get it out of your own head and into the public domain. Make it real. You ARE amazing

Do it, Do it, Do it<p>

You’ll be amazed…

  • self-deprecating humour and thinly disguised sarcasm are also ways the tall poppy syndrome is nurtured. I decided to use the word ‘awesome’ a while ago simply because it often makes people sneer in its’ presence. Awesome observation huh !

Kerry Grace is a mum of three school aged children, a CEO and company director. Kerry’s work focuses on leading a life that really matters and further writing can be found via www.kerrygrace.com.au and www.evolvenetwork.com.au

Originally published at evolvenetwork.com.au on September 16, 2014.