I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent all of my life being asked not to be too loud, too bold and too enterprising. Strange but true, in a society that values praise and recognition, being an achiever – ironically – has its downside, especially if you are a woman.
Standing out, whether it’s because you think and act differently from others (especially in midlife); or simply because you strike people as confident in your own little way, may cause criticism and resentment from family, friends, and colleagues.
The success of any kind can trigger it: achievements in sports, accumulation of wealth, or reaching celebrity status. No matter how much you try to slow down for their sake: you will be always too much to handle.
In other words, if you grow to be too tall of a flower, you are to be cut down.
“Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) is a term commonly used in Australia, referring to the expectation that poppies should grow together,” says Dr Rumeet Billan, who explored the topic extensively in a study with Thomson Reuters and Women of Influence. “If one grows too tall, it is cut down to size.”
So, what can you do if you think you are the victim of Tall Poppy Syndrome?
“First of all, recognize that it is not about you – explain mental health experts at The Newport Institute– You are not responsible for easing someone else’s pain–only they can do that“. Then, you can keep pushing forward, according to your personality, by taking care of yourself in several ways: focusing on your internal reasons for doing your best, exploring options for finding a more supportive environment, establishing and holding good boundaries for yourself.
It took me almost 30 years to realise that most of the time criticism from others comes from their own low esteem or lack of confidence. So, instead of being deflated by the naysayers, I’ve learnt to simply focus on my goals even more.
I especially found solace in the words of the motivational speaker, Lisa Nichols: “You gonna find people that can’t handle your light, but don’t slow down. Turn the lights up, as your light gets brighter, you gonna disrupt some people. Then you just look at them and say: I’m not dimming my light – I’m just gonna hand you some shades.“.
Alternatively, we can always change our tribe and maybe, this time choose one full of tall poppies like us.