Here in New Zealand, and over the ditch in Australia, the concept of the 'tall poppy' is a common point of discussion. If someone is deemed to be over-pretentious and too self-confident, others will often make sure that person is brought down from their self-assured high horse.
Here in Australasia, we can settle back into our natural place as Europe and the USA's modest cousin, humbly (and often smugly) are very pleased we all live on a level playing field over on this side of the world.
No superior airs allowed here in New Zealand. At least if we start to develop them, we know that our contemporaries will be sure to pull us back down to the equal place we deserve to be, next to them.
While it might be perceived as a common thing for others to bring any 'tall poppy' back down to a sense of 'reality', I wonder if it is our own sense of cutting down our own stem just as much as the others might look to do around us.
By making sure we stay modest about ourselves at all times means we can create a ceiling over our creativity and ability. We don't allow ourselves to actively search and seek for more and instead stunt our own expectations of personal growth.
While on many levels, we know we've got it good over here in New Zealand, there is still something lurking that being in New Zealand isn't quite good enough on the world stage, for instance in terms of career (of course, this is only an observation, as a Brit foreigner in New Zealand).
In the Publishing industry in which I work, a term in London or Australia (actually, anywhere overseas) seems to provide the necessary stamp of approval that validates your worth within the industry. It assures your creativity to others and suddenly makes you more employable. The job opportunity you just couldn't seem to get by staying in your country suddenly pops up again after six months abroad. I come across people often keen to share that they have worked in London too – that two year 'OE' suddenly validating their career for the next twenty years.
Totally sucked in too
However, I'm totally sucked in too. Emailing the UK on a daily basis, I often personally feel the urge to share with them that I am indeed a Brit, one of them, I'm not from New Zealand. What is it in me that makes me suddenly feel I have something to prove? Living in New Zealand is something I'm immensely proud of – but as soon as it comes to the creative stage, something I want to ditch straight away.
What is it about New Zealand feeling like the underdog? And that spirit that then touches those who live here? We may think that others around us might cut back our stems if we grow too high, but I'd like to challenge that by saying that sometimes, our own attitudes keep us small – it's the greenhouse we put over ourselves.
A dear friend of mine (from overseas) asked for some creative advice on a future project she's planning. She's an extremely talented individual with incredible dreams. If she'd have asked me five years ago while I was still back in London, I wouldn't have hesitated to come back with my suggestions, completely confident with my creative ideas.
However, after five years in New Zealand, this self-assuredness suddenly didn't seem to be there in me as the conversation continued. Yes, there have been some challenging situations that may have contributed to this over the past year, but ultimately I'm five years more experienced than I was before. However, it was as almost as though I no longer believed I had what it took, and with five years working in New Zealand, I was 'out of the game.'
Although in my heart, I knew the creativity was still bursting to come out, I felt nervous to take a risk, to share my creativity. I'd started to believe that the place I was in and the country I was in simply wasn't enough. But surely the creative call on my life isn't determined by WHERE I am, it is determined by how I step into my God-given calling and travel the path I'm meant to travel, with the gifts I've already been given.
As I was talking on the phone, I could hear that small tiny voice whispering to me, 'you're no good' and 'who are you to share your ideas with her' – but at least the first step was identifying that that small voice was feeding me lies – none of that was truth.
Yet, some small seed had been allowed to be planted. Somewhere in my heart, I'd allowed a space for a tall poppy to grow, that I then continued to cut down daily and keep a shrunken version of the idea of myself. Diminishing the huge dreams that God had planned. I was the one snipping that poppy head away myself.
If I'm squashing my own dreams away, and limiting my own ability, what does that look like for a nation, a church, if all the members are to do the same?
Does it mean we all have to leave New Zealand to be validated in who we are professionally and personally? What if we never leave New Zealand to work? Is our work somehow not really creative enough because we didn't have overseas experience? Will we always play the underdog to Europe and America, not really believing in our hearts that we can easily equal what they create.
Perhaps that's part of the reason we as Kiwis love the All Blacks so much. Lorde even. Sir Peter Jackson. There are certainly some incredibly talented and creative Kiwis with attitude putting it out there, not needing to be falsely humble, because they are stepping into what they excel in, without having to compare themselves. There is no doubting their own creativity.
My response to my friend was rooted in an insecurity that came up and as she emailed me later, 'stamp out where it's from, look at where God wants to work healing, and see the exciting places that God is beckoning you to the next level'.
She finished on, 'You have what it takes!'
If we truly believe we have what it takes, it could be enough to change a nation.
Originally from The Lake District in the UK, Amanda works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries.
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amanda-robinson.html