“Do what you feel in your heart to be right for you’ll be criticized anyway.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
In Scandinavia there’s this phenomena called “Law of Jante”. It originates from a book “A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks” by Aksel Sandemose.
The ten rules of Jante are as follows:
- You’re not to think you are anything special.
- You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
- You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
- You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
- You’re not to think you know more than we do.
- You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
- You’re not to think you are good at anything.
- You’re not to laugh at us.
- You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
- You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
Growing up in Sweden I could see this kind of mentality around me quite a bit. I even thought that it was a specifically Scandinavian trait.
Working with people outside of Scandinavia I haven’t experienced it at all. People have only been helpful and grateful. It wasn’t until I had an encounter with Australia’s “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. I remarked that it sounded oddly similar to the “Law of Jante” and was kind of surprised. Then again, Australians and Scandinavians do share a passion for the Eurovision Song Contest so might be some kindred there.
Later on I got to work with people in and from various places and cultures like U.S.A, South Africa, Argentina, Jamaica, India etc. I kept hearing about this same thing. Though it shouldn’t have surprised me, people are people regardless of geography, I really was surprised.
Why did people act like this? Shouldn’t we be helping each other out? Why were people outside of Sweden more open and friendly towards us? And why were we more open and friendly towards people outside of Sweden?
This really bugged me. I started to talk to people in various fields about it. People in business, psychologists, teachers and so on. Nobody had an entirely satisfying answer.
Then it hit me. Why did I look in fields outside my own for help? Well, because they probably have varied views and experiences.
Don’t musicians, artists and producers have varied views and experiences too? “Yeah, but we’re kinda exposed to the same stuff you know and… Damn it…”
And there it was. Why people travel to places where the natives barely notice the local attractions. We take for granted that our neighbour’s garden can’t be entirely different from our own while the allure of a japanese garden is hard to resist. So what garden would we rather visit on Sunday? Seriously. Now I can’t decide.
What it boils down to is probably the “Crabs in a bucket”-mentality.
If you put one crab in a bucket it’ll claw itself out and scurry back into the sea. Put another in there and two things will happen.
- Just as one of them is about to get out the other one will grab it and pull it back in.
- Crab salad for dinner.
So it’s a case of “if I can’t have it, neither can you”. Check out this post for more.
When we try to grow, improve or do something great with ourselves we often either get cut down to size “you can’t do it”, get asked “so you’re too good for us now?” or the worrisome “are you sure about this, you know it could be hard, why don’t you stay here with us for a little longer?”.
Just keep believing in yourself and what you want to do. It doesn’t help anybody if you just stay in the bucket. Once you’re out, help pull the other guys out. It’ll go swimmingly!
How well it can go when we help each other out! =D
Under the Sea