Try not to cut down the tall poppies

Most people would conclude that I am quite a successful person. I have written and contributed to a number of books, I do a lot of public speaking, I have been on national television talking about Autism and I have something of a profile in the Autism world. The funny thing is that I don’t feel particularly different to how I felt before I was apparently successful. I am insecure, I have mental health issues and I get just as anxious about change or new situations as anyone does. People are still rude to me and now I have an extra issue to contend with – the insecurity of others.

There is a lot of poor behaviour which centres around people feeling threatened and intimidated by others’ success. Some people are competitive and become jealous. This can lead to them not quite seeing successful people as human. They become the butt of jokes, the target for cruel and thoughtless comments. How do I know this? Because I used to be insecure and jealous.  I said cruel things about notable people and really didn’t see them as being people at all.  I saw the success of another person as a personal affront. It was as if I believed that there was a limited pool of success to draw from and if somebody else had some, it made it impossible for me to be successful.

If I enjoyed any success I would denigrate it by thinking ‘well, I’m not as successful as X person, so mine is insignificant’. I even had a university lecturer comment on how good I was at downplaying my achievements – ‘Oh, but it’s only a coursework Masters degree’ etc. Sadly I did not outgrow my tall poppy syndrome until i had written two books and given a talk for TEDx Canberra.  I was not hit with some epiphany of wisdom and realisation, I just started to view myself as successful and as such others were no longer a threat.

Here’s some thoughts on insecurity and tall poppy syndrome

  • There is not a limited pool of success. Others are not detracting from your achievements by achieving things themselves.
  • Competition is an artificial construct which if anything will make you more frustrated and stressed. See others in your field as colleagues rather than competitors.
  • In the Autism world, we should really all be working for a similar outcome. If another person writes a good book that helps people, be happy for them because they have helped people.
  • Working cooperatively with other people benefits you and them. You can develop relationships of mutual assistance where you support them to achieve things and they do likewise.
  • Successful people often have similar struggles and challenges to everyone else. success is not a guarantee of happiness and can in fact cause issues and stress.
  • Remind yourself that successful people are human too and have feelings. Lots of them read their press, so they may see hurtful or cruel comments people make about them on social media etc.
  • If you mentor someone and they succeed that is a great thing – not a challenge to you but a compliment to your work as a mentor.


Me signing something…


2 thoughts on “Try not to cut down the tall poppies

  1. This piece was writte. Perfectly. Not too wordy, and described everything for what it is. This happens to people who find success, whatever their field may be. It’s a shame that people are being torn down out of jealousy when the very object of their success is about helping others. Jeanette, just keep doing your own thing! You will always have haters, but that’s a sign that you’re doing something right. Keep up the good work!


  2. Really thought provoking article. Im a newly diagnosed adult with aspergers and still in the early days of exploring the implication of this. Being interested in psycology for a while I am realising that some advice and self-help books are very unsuitable for us aspies yet we have similar issues and problems but the solution or strategies to cope with common issues are very different.
    I have struggled with ‘tall poppy issues’ and I can see how this was exacerbated by feeling out of the loop and mystified by how people network and get on. Much clearer now to me what is aspergers issues and what is old fashioned envy!…there is a real need for aspies to share these alternative strategies for lifes common problems.


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