Tall Poppy Syndrome seems to be rampant within the Deaf community, but it is not only within the Deaf community that this is seen. It is also widely known in New Zealand.
What is Tall Poppy Syndrome?
Wikipedia (I know it is not the most reliable site to quote from!) states that it is “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”.
Sadly, I have seen examples of Tall Poppy Syndrome within New Zealand and in the Deaf community. I will not name people or examples as I do not want to identify or cause damage to anyone’s reputation. I have seen many people in New Zealand who have made successes of themselves, in their work/setting up a business, achieving great things, winning awards/goals and all of those people have done things to be proud of. Regrettably, there will be individuals who will not recognise the work of the Deaf person and put them down, just to make themselves feel better.
There is a huge difference between offering constructive criticism and attacking people.
Constructive criticism means that a person will not go around spreading malicious gossip or backstabbing the person – it means that one will be talking to the person themselves and telling them how they can improve something or giving them ideas.
Tall Poppy Syndrome means that the person will go around spreading nasty rumours, putting the successful person down, in the hopes that they can drag them down.
How to stop Tall Poppy Syndrome?
First, the simplest thing is not to criticise others or put them down, especially to other people. Praise the fact that they have done well, achieved something that they have always wanted to achieve. We need to be mindful of the image we are projecting of ourselves onto others, especially if we want to be a role model to younger people. A quote by Thomas S. Monson (a Mormon leader) comes to mind: “Youth need less critics and more models.” I have to say that I agree with him – we need to remember before spreading gossip about other people or organisations that others will see us doing that, and then they will start doing the same thing. Be a role model for the young Deaf community and show that they can be high achievers like others in the Deaf community.
We are all human and it is part of human nature to gossip and say things that we shouldn’t be saying. But we can be more human if we stop and reflect before saying something nasty about a person or an organisation.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
― Mother Teresa
It is as simple as that. If we say nice things about other people and organisations, then a ripple effect is created. If you have negative thoughts, yes that is only human, but try and keep them to yourself, especially if they are untrue. As Chuck Palahniuk once said “It's easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It's a lot more difficult to perform one.”
Are you the victim of tall poppy syndrome? You may likely have been. It is the way you react to it that can make a whole world of difference. Mahatma Gandhi once said “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” It is easy to say don’t let the haters get to you. But it is harder to stop it from getting to you personally, especially when you have worked so hard to achieve a goal or to do good things for people. It is important to reflect and think about what you have achieved and how that makes a difference on your own life, as well as others. Being able to take negative comments in your stride and getting on with your life speaks volumes about you.
I have been criticised for the work I have done in the captioning working group – not only for working with another organisation but for ‘not getting enough captions’ or ‘no captions on certain channels’ but I don’t let them get to me – why? I have worked hard to get where we are now, and we all are working hard to continue our work and that in itself is something to be proud of. I give credit to the Deaf community for their involvement and support of this and I continue to do so. I don’t let the negative comments get to me because we all have made an achievement that has been a long time coming.
I close with a quote that I feel shows how we should live our lives:
“To hold our tongues when everyone is gossiping, to smile without hostility at people and institutions, to compensate for the shortage of love in the world with more love in small, private matters; to be more faithful in our work, to show greater patience, to forgo the cheap revenge obtainable from mockery and criticism: all these are things we can do. ”
― Hermann Hesse