Are you a tall poppy?

Dr. Tony NSA 6 Comments

I first heard about Tall Poppy Syndrome from a colleague and friend who lives in Australia. It’s a term that draws people towards mediocrity and conformity. “Don’t get too tall, you might get your head cut off.”

Tall Poppy Syndrome exists in other cultures with varying degrees of persecution. You might have heard of the saying: ‘you don’t want to get too big for your britches’. Growing up Roman Catholic I learned that it was better to be small and humble rather than extending beyond my reach. Tall Poppy syndrome is a form of cultural conditioning.

Though, rather than looking at how others might be keeping us down, I’d like to focus on how we think people perceive us, because that’s what the physiology of the body responds to. And this is also why our perception plays such an important role in the quality of our lives. It’s not how others see us, it’s how we think they see us that matters.

Additionally, it’s our response to how we think they see us that creates a state of growth or defense in our bodies. Secretion of hormones, blood pressure, nervous system activity all depends on how we think others see us, whether it’s true or not.

One example of defense physiology is that our bodies contract centrally around the diaphragm or what’s called the solar plexus. This happens to be an important neurological centre that controls our digestion. This drawing in also affects our head position and it’s one of the many reasons why we see so many people with Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS).

If you are feeling defensive, your head will drop forward, your shoulders will draw in and your chest will tighten. It’s a natural protective response. However you don’t want to be protecting yourself from how you think others see you. That would take too much energy to constantly be on guard. And ultimately your immune system suffers, your overall health suffers and you end up looking like one of those posters In the office:).

And some of us don’t need others to tell us that “we’re no good” or “just keep your head down”. We can often do a really good job of it ourselves. In fact it might be such an old habit that we don’t even see ourselves doing it anymore.

So the next time you notice your head drooping forward, consider the possibility that you’re keeping yourself down, being self-critical and more worried about how others see you. Our bodies often reflect our subconscious.

As I get older I feel more emboldened to say f&#k anyone that doesn’t like it, I’m not going to keep myself down anymore. I’m going to extend my neck, stand tall, shoulders back and breathe deep into my chest and be the best that I can be for the world.

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Comments 6

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  1. Hello Dr . Tony
    I don’t think that I ever told you this but my company name was Tall Poppies and I even had a license plate ( years ago before I lost vanity ) of the same.
    I’ve taught , or at least tried , to get my girls to believe in themselves and hold their heads high.
    (Self) Awareness is key.
    Thank you for all your help. I hope shortly to figure things out re my move.
    P

  2. “As I get older I feel more emboldened to say f&#k anyone that doesn’t like it, I’m not going to keep myself down anymore. I’m going to extend my neck, stand tall, shoulders back and breathe deep into my chest and be the best that I can be for the world.” Love this, and yes to that!

  3. I am grateful to have been raised to stand up tall – I always was tall-5’8′ at age 12 and taller than that now. I was also taught to be accountable to my parents first, not the herd. I early learned that the herd would diss me no matter what, so to carve my own way, accountable to my parents and my own conscience (and in my faith, the church does not own your conscience, so. That learning personal agency is a work in progress. I became a leader early on as a result of this upbringing. Only in adult hood did it again become hard sometimes. Assertiveness training helped. In middle age, when physical ability became a big factor, practices at various times, like meditation, Tai Chi and SRI, have helped bring me back to my body. It takes more practice and intentionality to get there than it did when I was young. But we have this precious life given to us. Our job is to enjoy it and help others enjoy it too.

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