Don't shine, you're Australian. Don't shine, you're Australian.

Don't shine, you're Australian.

By Isabella Gillespie

Don't shine, you're Australian. Don't shine, you're Australian.

Take friends with similar interests, but different minds; so that you can see things you love through a billion eyes.

I was floating, like a dandelion seed, in and out of dreaming and conversation; where I landed somewhat estranged in a discussion about The Tall Poppy Syndrome. I listened, with my ears curiously attentive as I found my little fingers ‘ecoisa-ing’ (doesn’t quite ring the same way as googling) the details of this mysterious disease.

I quickly realised, I was well acquainted with The Tall Poppy Syndrome which speaks of shunning those who shine...

But who would have known that this was a testified, Australian thing?

A “well attested Australinism” as Psychology Today termed it, that seeks to “cut down people who are considered to be too successful… Australians generally don’t like others to do too well”.  

The idea was first printed in 1979 Elites in Australia, they observed that “Australians preferred to embrace an ethos of equality (to some an ethos of mediocrity) rather than celebrating success….In a culture where egalitarianism is seen as central to Australian values, it is hard to know how to deal with the tall poppies among us.”

“Being geographically isolated, you get insular."

Australia is a kaleidoscopic culture, whose roots are deep in the soils of rebellion. As a former penal colony, our generational story is of the archetypal outcast, a history of “inherent contempt for authority”. We are ‘the other’. Yet our beliefs have been ingrained so deeply with disdain, disgust and distrust of what is ‘other’ to us, that as we reject ourselves and we reject one another; based upon an inherited sociological identity construct.

“In many ways, success and power reek of domination, which turns natives off.”


As Bernard Salt has perfectly termed the “cultural cringe” is that Australia’s isolation has lead us to reject “national achievements and lionizing success from abroad... because, we have an inferiority complex".

I recall a moment of year 11 schooling, having transitioned from one stiff education to a more liberal one. I began late, after returning from my first 3 months of living overseas, learning language in a foreign land, transitioning schools and processing my parents divorce. Called into the principal's office on my first day to be told one of my teachers had called me “an arrogant princess”. Shocked, to say the least, and sensitively overwhelmed; I confronted my teacher and burst into tears. Now delving into this cultural cringe, I recall many circumstances in my life where others insecurities have ricocheted like a bullet to any sense of success or power I have developed over the years. As a byproduct, I have been desperately digging for authentic emotional support from community in many of my transitioning moments of life, only to find an empty cultural well. Differences are not celebrated in our culture.  

“An ethos of mediocrity”  is speaking of the shadow side of equality. In its darkest hours, equality has turned billions of people against each other. We have seen the idea poisoned for the holocaust and communist regimes; acting as a ideological weapon or lawn mower to threatening independent growth. In the light, equality speaks of a world without poverty… yet conformity is not something that need be forced upon us, it is a psychological pressure that bleeds into our psyche and speaks to our deepest nature. It compels us…

Recent research has shown that “social disapproval provokes the brain’s danger circuits. Conformity soothes.”

Is this the Achilles heel of being human? Our submission, our tendency to shy away from discomfort, to go quietly time and time again, as we are lead into crisis of environment, culture, country and self? This is because “human beings are herd animals. We are designed to survive... to pick up social cues, coordinate and align our behaviour with those around us.”

We have been questioning the human condition since time immemorial, are we inherently good or inherently evil? Our very existence is a paradox; we all love and desire to be loved and yet we suffer and co-create the suffering around us.  Perhaps, it is not a question of right or wrong, but simply that we are designed only, to co-exist. To exist...

Nature conforms to what is harmonious and we, as nature, follow suit. That is how billions of species interrelate and coexist. That is how we have survived for so long. Domination of nature is our downfall but our ability to hope, to carry on, to choose compassion where we meet suffering is our essential nature. We are are built to live alongside one another. Somewhere in our evolution we began to abuse our intelligence in the pursuit of power, arguably, when all we were really seeking was love. We are built upon the DNA of Inter-generational trauma.

And yet, we have evolved since Eve fated our world with free will; we have expanded our consciousness. We are faced with a choice, to wade in the waters of our past or dive into the unknown, our future with a bit of 'umph'.

This means, standing up as our own authority and on our own terms, co-creating a culture that celebrates our differences.

The idea of ‘otherness’ is central to understanding how, the way in which we see ourselves, is always in context to the way in which we see what is other than ourselves. Many sociologists emphasize that our social identities are the bones of our individual identities and because the Face of Difference is controlled and so poorly represented by the media, we spend our lives trying to fit into moulds that are both ridiculously unnatural and unachievable.

“Identities are often thought as being natural or innate – something that we are born with – but sociologists highlight that this taken-for-granted view is not true.” Social identities are the way we internalise the social constructs around us, shaping our ideas about “who we think we are, how we want to be seen by others, and the groups to which we belong.”

It is high time our social standards caught up with the diversity of existence. We have spent millennia chasing the tales of an old story; the hierarchy of dependence, teaching from old books and old structures of governmental, financial, religious or familial habits reinforcing a separation worldview. We live in a paradox of fear and longing, we fear being seen and loved  and yet it is all we truly desire.

Within each of us is a seed of pure potential, and it contains the whole tree. Not a single one of us was born the same. Not one fingerprint, not one eye, not one dream, not one heart. We are the snowflakes of the new story. It takes courage and radical acceptance to basque in the glory of our differences.

If we are too big for our boots, then lets take our shoes off.


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