Australian "Poppy Dogs"

- August 8, 2012 2 MIN READ

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,

talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?”

 —Marianne Williamson

Australians have always resonated with the tale of the underdog.

Ned Kelly in the average Australian’s mind was a hero who fought against the odds and who was persecuted by the police and forced to become an outlaw.  As a figure in Australian history he has transcended myth status and has become a legend.   He represents courage, tin helmets and rebels with a cause.  We fail to remember he committed atrocious crimes including murder.  That would ruin the story.

Our televisions are splashed with tales of gangs and criminals. The ‘Underbelly’ series was a critical and ratings success and was described as one of “Australia’s best ever crime dramas” by the Daily Telegraph at the time of its launch in January 2008.  The series has continued to celebrate the Australia criminal underworld with its various incarnations and will be releasing its latest installment ‘Underbelly Badness’ in a month.  ‘Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms’ was another series built on the reputation of badass badboys.  This formula can and does make for good television.  However, so too do stories of success, tales of highly talented individuals who have achieved great things.

Does Australia align itself too much with the underdog and not enough with the high achiever?  With the very clear exception of sport,(the Olympics and football being excellent examples of how Australians rally for their athletes), there is a strong tendency to down play success, especially within the business and academic sector.

Enter the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’.  This is a social phenomenon which pervades Australian culture.  Talented individuals who enjoy a certain level of success are resented or criticised because their achievements and talents raise them above their peers.  They are considered poppies that have grown too tall and need to be ‘cut down to size’.  This is turned on its head in the US, which enjoys a culture of applauding the achievement of the successful, almost to the point of nauseum.

Combine Australia’s celebration of the underdog with the cutting down of ‘poppies’ and you get a population of individuals who underplay their success, aim for the clouds rather than the stars and are intimidated and threatened by anyone who tries to do any different.  This results in disempowering risk takers and entrepreneurs.  It is time that changed and young Australians take innovation and financial independence by the reins.  Gen Y are the future of this country and its economy, and according to some reports, have been labelled the most entrepreneurial generation in history.  If they can be bold enough to follow their dreams, with a solid financial plan behind them, they can reach the stars and hopefully set a new paradigm of growth and achievement for the country.

“Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.”

—Marianne Williamson

Alison Gallagher is a ‘creative communicator’ and Program Coordinator for Regret Nothing, a financial engagement program for young people aimed at making finance fun! She is also an actor and mediation teacher and enjoys inspiring others to help make the world a better place.