February 19, 2019 Rodney Cowled
Fear of Failure

A Nation Afraid to Fail

Fear of Failure: A Nation Shaped by the Tall Poppy Syndrome

We’re Australian’s. We don’t appreciate anyone who is too full of themselves. We’ve got an innate ability to automatically dislike these overly confident, sometimes arrogant, super achievers. 

Many of us have, at some point in their lives, taken it upon themselves to knock these people down a peg or two. 

Subconsciously, or perhaps consciously, we cut these people down to the level of the pack. When delivered in person, the damaging blow is often served non-confrontationally, wrapped in a joke. The metaphorical coward punch is thrown with shrouded in a healthy dose of sarcasm. 

By now, you’ve likely gathered that we’re discussing the Tall Poppy Syndrome. 

The Tall Poppy Syndrome often displays itself publically, but sometimes however, rather than in person, we instead indulge in a little behind-their-back gossiping & storytelling.

Have you ever said, or heard someone say something like:

yeah, but didn’t it all go belly up?” or “I heard that he failed at X?” 

These conversations are surely harmless. After all, the person-in-question isn’t even aware they occurred. Perhaps they are harmless to the person who “failed at X”, but I’d argue that they are harmful to you, the speaker and listener.

The heart of these conversations is beating with celebration. Though it flows with an unconscious joy; a subtle pleasure that this individual is not succeeding. Rather, they are back in the pack with the rest of us.  

Okay, so now I feel a little guilty, but otherwise, how does this harm me? Good question. 

As we embrace of the Tall Poppy Syndrome it shapes our collective psyche.  

Individually, the Tall Poppy Syndrome has planted a seed in our minds. It’s small at first. However, each time we indulge in these conversations it grows. Quietly it whispers “it’s not okay to fail”. Before long “failing = bad”, becomes rooted deep within our minds.  

Autonomously our minds search for a way to avoid this bad thing: failing. What’s the best way to avoid failing? Well, of course it’s to avoid trying in the first place. 

Our tight embrace of this syndrome has created a nation of individuals afraid to fail. 

Australian’s are afraid to fail. You have a fear of failure. I undeniably have a fear of failure. 

This article may just be a way for me to admit it to myself. Though, I heartily believe that it’s much, much more than that. I’m certain that there are others who too need to admit this to themselves. Realising the subconscious pattern, is the first step to dealing with the problem. 

What I’m saying is…

I’m not saying we do away with light-hearted ribbing. This for Australians is a comradery-building activity. It’s sometimes in these moments that we feel the greatest rapport with our peers.

I am suggesting we release our tight embrace of the Tall Poppy Syndrome. I am suggesting that we’re harming ourselves by quietly celebrating others failures. 

Instead we must celebrate others’ victories. Instead we must lean into our failures. Instead of cutting down those who are ahead of us, learn from them. 

I say this to myself, as much as I do to you. 

Be brave. Be yourself. Go try the things you’ve always been afraid to try.