Humans have many great contradictions. One of them is their difficulty in appreciating the virtues of others, without feeling threatened or embarrassed by them. It’s not exactly envy. This is what is called high poppy syndrome.
High poppy syndrome shows us that when people stand out too much, in a given area, they can generate hatred in others. That hatred cannot be called envy as such. Rather, it has to do with the fact that the success of others makes a person’s own limitations more visible and prominent.
In other languages, they have called this “high exposure syndrome”. In Danish, however, we know it as “high poppy syndrome”. The logic behind this name is to cut the flowers that grow more than others. It is such that people do not lose when they compare.
Where the syndrome comes from
People say that high poppy syndrome has its first references in the books of Herodotus and Aristotle’s reflections. It also appears in a story by Livio about the tyrant “Tarquin the Proud”.
According to Herodotus, the emperor sent a messenger to ask Thrasybulus for advice on the best way to maintain control of the empire. The messenger asked him , but Thrasybulus only began to walk between the wheat fields. Every time he found an ear of wheat that was taller than the others, he would cut it and throw it on the ground. And yet he did not say a word.
When the messenger returned to the emperor, he told him about the strange behavior of the counselor. The emperor understood. The significance of the message was that he should remove anyone who rose above the others. Make an end the best and most promising people . In that way, his power and supremacy would never be questioned.
High poppy syndrome in today’s world
It is clear that tyranny does not allow the emergence of prominent characters. Their superiority can threaten those who hold power . In the policy area, it is very common to seek to discredit those who challenge the status quo or establishment. But high poppy syndrome does not only have to do with political issues.
In our daily lives we can see how we are invited to stand out from others. But at the same time, we must adhere to some very precise boundaries. They tell us that we only need to adhere to certain parameters of what it means to be successful. For example, the “employee of the month” is not necessarily the one who grew the most or contributed the most relevant effort. It is usually simply the one who met all the right goals.
If this happens, there is no problem. The plant, which has grown more than the others, will not be cut at the root. It has complied with what the gardener wanted! On the other hand , if someone becomes very prominent for reasons other than those considered valid, he is likely to trigger suspicions and eventually be excluded.
The syndrome works in two ways
High poppy syndrome creates consequences in two different dimensions. The first is what we have already mentioned. There is an almost natural tendency not to allow anyone to stand out too much because it creates insecurity or threat in others. Therefore, those who stand out are often criticized with excessive intensity. Either that or so too much is expected of them. Another option is to downplay their talent or results.
The second consequence of high poppy syndrome is that it teaches people to be afraid to stand out. Precisely because of everything we have mentioned, people learn more implicitly than explicitly that standing out from others can put them at risk. In fate for what? Rejection, questioning, criticism and even exclusion.
Therefore, many assume that the correct thing to do is to stand out under any circumstances. They keep a “low profile” and hate the idea of being noticed by others. Somehow they are trained not to challenge the norms. This is of course a real shame, because through it, the actual skills are lost, real talents are left behind, and success is dismissed.