Recently, my 10-year-old son was bouncing on a jumping pillow in a park, practising his front flips.
The aim was to land on his feet and my son was focussed on nailing it.
He missed a few, then started landing them.
It was then that a couple of kids of similar age demanded he “stop showing off” in that disdainful way that kids (and many adults) nail so well.
But rather than succumb to the put down that was no doubt intended to make him feel small, my awesome son replied with confidence: “I’m not showing off. I’m trying.”
Tall poppy syndrome has so much to answer for in Australia.
Instead of congratulating people for having a go, achieving success, or seeking to better themselves, too often we cut them down.
Bring them down a peg or two…
Put them back in their box…
Because heaven forbid someone tries hard, celebrates success, or acknowledges they’re good at something.
Tall poppy syndrome and our fear of being subject to it is so prevalent that many of us hold ourselves back.
Even when we’re kids.
We make ourselves smaller and talk ourselves down before someone else can do it for us.
Afterall, there’s almost nothing worse than being perceived as a bit ‘up yourself’.
I’m sharing my son’s response because I think many adults could learn from it too.
I’m not saying be boastful. Humility is a valuable attribute.
But don’t confuse trying with showing off.
Those who criticise, mock and detract you are most likely threatened by your success, or even by the simple fact that you were so bold as to challenge yourself to achieve something.
Often, your success shines a light on their lack of drive and achievement, and that can be confronting for them. They would never admit it, but often they envy you.
Don’t let another person’s insecurities and negativity stop you from aiming high, trying new things, and reaching your dreams.
Surround yourself with people who lift you up, who encourage your ambition and celebrate your successes; and you do the same for others.
Celebrate the achievements of your friends, colleagues and strangers alike. Support their endeavours, and let their success spur you on to pursue your own goals.
To the knockers out there who are so quick to put other people down, know this: Trying to dim someone else’s light doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.
And to my son, Callum: Never stop trying.
Leah Mether is a communication and soft skills trainer obsessed with making the people part of leadership and work life easier.
With more than 15 years’ experience working with thousands of clients, and an acclaimed book to her name, Leah knows what it takes to communicate under pressure. Like you, she knows the challenge of conflict, personality clashes, and difficult conversations.
Leah is renowned for her practical, engaging, straight-shooting style. Utilising her Five Cs® model of communication, she helps leaders and teams shift from knowing to doing, and radically improve their effectiveness.