One of the greatest contradictions of men concerns the difficulty of honestly appreciating the virtues of others without feeling discomfort. This is not real envy, but the so-called tall poppy syndrome.
Tall poppy syndrome describes the hatred generated by people who manage to emerge in a certain area . This hatred is not really a form of envy, but is linked to the fact that the success of others highlights one’s limits.
This is why this syndrome takes the name of the “tall poppy”: according to logic, the flowers that grow more than the others are cut so as not to disfigure the lower ones.
The legend of the tall poppy syndrome
It seems that the first references to this syndrome go back to the books of Herodotus and to the reflections of Aristotle. A story by Livio about the tyrant “Tarquinio the proud” also speaks of it.
According to Herodotus, the emperor sent a messenger to Trasibulo to ask him for advice on how to maintain good control over the empire. Trasibulo began to walk in the fields and, every time he found an ear higher than the others, he cut it and placed it on the ground, never saying a word.
When the messenger returned to the emperor, he reported the counselor’s strange behavior. The emperor understood the message: he had to eliminate all that was above the others, that is all those who for some reason were better than others, to avoid that his power and his supremacy were questioned.
Tall poppy syndrome today
Clearly, tyrants do not allow superior figures to exist who can override those in power. In politics it is common to discredit those who challenge the status quo or the system, for example. However, the tall poppy syndrome also extends to other areas, not just the political one.
Today’s society invites us to emerge from the crowd, but at the same time it imposes very precise limits on us. The idea is to adhere to certain success parameters. For example, the employee of the month is not necessarily the one who has grown from a business point of view or has acquired new customers, but who has managed to complete the set goals within set deadlines.
In this case, no problem, the root of that flower that has grown more than the others will not be cut, because it has satisfied the gardener’s requests. If, on the other hand, someone manages to emerge for various reasons considered valid, it will probably arouse suspicion and will be excluded.
Tall poppy syndrome and its consequences
Tall poppy syndrome has consequences in two dimensions. The first concerns what we have already highlighted: there is an almost natural tendency not to allow others to emerge too much because this generates insecurity or threat. Those who emerge are subject to strong criticism, subject to high expectations or discredited in terms of talent and successes achieved.
The second consequence of this syndrome is the fear in the people in question who, therefore, do not want to emerge or stand out. They learn, more implicitly than explicitly, that being above others is a source of danger. Danger of what? To be rejected, questioned, criticized or even ostracized.
For this reason many people are convinced that it is good not to emerge under any circumstances. They adopt a low profile as a rule of life and are terrified of the opinion of others. One way or another, they end up learning not to defy established norms, but this is really a shame, as they risk losing skills, genuine talents, and even success.