Here in New Zealand, there is a widely held belief that anyone finding success beyond the level of their peers is unceremoniously shot down for getting ‘too big for their boots’. The term for this is ‘tall poppy syndrome’.
This syndrome, of course, is not specific to New Zealand. Such behaviour simply reflects human nature. It’s very difficult for us to celebrate when ordinary people we know, especially family members, neighbours or colleagues; have somehow surpassed us.
Envy is the natural response when we see others being rewarded more than we are.
And the natural reaction of the envious is to somehow try and reduce – or even destroy – the object of their envy.
There is an exception to this – it’s really hard to be envious of someone who lives with humility.
And this is what I think makes the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in New Zealand quite unique. For a New Zealander to be consider truly successful, there is an expectation they must also be humble.
When we consider the successful people we do celebrate – men like Sir Edmund Hillary and women like our current Prime Minister, Jacinta Arden – it’s very clear humility is important to New Zealanders. More important than financial status.
It’s arguably one of our cultural strengths.
So, rather than focus on the perceived problem we have with ‘tall poppy syndrome’, maybe we should celebrate our belief in humility here in Aotearoa.
Our humbleness is one of the reasons why people love our country, love doing business with us, and why a holiday here is such a joy for so many international visitors.
So – here’s to all our humble kiwi success stories; long may we continue to celebrate humility.