You may be able to relate to these thoughts. You are at your exercise class and you can’t help but zero in on the one person present that doesn’t seem to sweat. Her moves are effortless, completely graceful and actually beautiful to observe. I on the other hand grab a sweat rag because I drip rather than glow as soon as I exert any effort! For a few seconds I think I hate that seemingly tight bodied perfect woman!
A few more seconds go by and I stop hating her as my thoughts lighten and move toward gratitude. I feel a sense of awe at her dedication and while I know nothing of her personal story, she works hard at staying healthy. I applaud her. I am inspired by her. I want to be more like her! I’m in love with the perfect girl!
But what if I didn’t let my hateful feelings evaporate? My stinging annoyance would build into burning resentment and soon all of my thinking would be TOXIFIED. Unknowingly, the woman becomes the target of my rage – the dartboard for my dart.
This is an example of Tall Poppy Syndrome. According to the illustrious Wikipedia, it is defined as a pejorative term primarily used in Anglosphere nations to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticized because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.
I can relate to being the Tall Poppy. Being a former beauty queen, you would think I would be comfortable about my appearance but I still have trouble accepting a compliment! I feel far more comfortable hiding in a group – wanting to be average. Please know me as smart, not pretty! I wanted to be beige as to not attract too much attention. I was fighting against my need to shine because somehow shining was and is too dangerous.
I wanted to known by you but not seen by you. I’m complicated that way.
Over the years I have become comfortable in my own skin. I could really appreciate how Selma Hayek said in an interview with Oprah, “You simply have to be who you are. Yes, I am beautiful. I have thighs and a butt. I have cellulite. I fight with it every day. I don’t exercise. I eat pork and I love red wine. But yes, I am beautiful and famous—and yet the things I like about myself have nothing to do with that…..” YES! She is more than her looks or her fame.
Last week a friend asked me how I managed to remain so positive despite years of struggle. She said, “You make life look so easy and sometimes I just have to hate you.” We laughed and I deeply appreciate her honesty. I told her that I still have days when I can’t get off the couch because my emotions overwhelm me but in general I have developed some pretty good coping skills. I not only talk the talk but walk the walk.
I am just like the lady in the gym in that I was the target of my friend’s envy. The gym lady and I are both working hard but the work is internal and can’t always be seen let alone be appreciated by the rest of the world. It is easy to be hated but those that don’t understand. We are the Tall Poppies.
I am OK with being a Tall Poppy because I have earned it, so if someone decides that I am just too much for them, I will “try” to find my compassion. (Hey, I am honest—it isn’t easy to love a hater!) It is likely that my critic is in a place where they can’t move from hate to inspiration. Instead of loving the tall poppy in the garden, they mow her down so that everything appears fair; the same. Average.
If my attitude and choices are too much for you then I sincerely wish you well in your journey. I am not going to apologize, mask or minimize who I am to make you comfortable. And for those instances when you (and I) are the hater, remember people are much more than their attitude; their appearance; their title. They are a vulnerable human beings – just like you!
Let’s put away the scissors!
She danced elegantly in the sunlight, heads above those in her company yet her blossoms didn’t cast any shadow. She didn’t take any more than she gave because she was a “WE” and not an “I”. The wind often tested her strength but she gracefully surrendered to its force. She was the Tall Red Poppy.
Have you been a Tall Poppy? A Tall Poppy hater? Please share your story in the comment section below. I want to hear from you!
From the heart,