Have we lost our confidence as a country?

Are we now so tethered to "what the world thinks of us" that we are rising and falling on a global emotional tide?

What I watched happen with Covid-19, was that we became obsessed with what was being said about us.


Headline after headline was about what the world was saying about New Zealand.

What the world was saying about our Prime Minister; what the world was saying about our case numbers; what the world was saying about our testing or tracing or teddy bears in windows.

We became attached to this false reality that the be-all and end-all of our Covid fight, was what the world thinks of us. We relished the positive feedback, chests puffed every time a foreign leader or media outlet talked about New Zealand. We couldn't get enough stories on it.

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PM Jacinda Ardern talks to the media about new coronavirus cases in New Zealand. Video / Jason Walls

We morphed into the equivalent of a Coronation Street character - obsessed with what the neighbours are saying.

But, in a puff, it's gone.

It's turned from hero to zero, in a heartbeat.

Among the many headlines now are "no lockdown success story for NZ", a "fiasco" and "quarantine bungle".

And thus we all fall into a depressed heap, lamenting the fact the neighbours don't think we're cool anymore.

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Take it from someone who works daily in a hotbed of criticism, outrage, trolling and opinions, if you become obsessed with what people think and say about you, you won't survive.

If most of us working in the media read all the various critiques and comments about us, we probably wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.

But it doesn't matter what the neighbours think.

What matters for New Zealand is what we're doing, how confident we are in how we're doing it, what we do next.

And bear in mind, a lot of international press is being written with a home country bias or slant. It's done through a lens of comparison to what may be happening in their own country.

Often the neighbours and the commenters don't have all the facts, they're just chucking in their 50 cents worth.

Kate Hawkesby. Photo / Michael Craig
Kate Hawkesby. Photo / Michael Craig

I'd like to know if all the people who quoted all the good things the world said about us, are happy to now also quote the bad? Because if you're not prepared to accept the bad publicity, then don't trumpet the good either.

As a country, we've done extremely well. Yes, we have an issue with our quarantine procedures, which is concerning given we're a tiny little country, smaller than most large international cities. But by and large, most of us have done our bit on this and we've done well.

It's not to say we now bury our heads and become aloof isolationists, it's just to tone down the reaction to the world's commentary. We have to give it the weight.

Because if we're going to lose sleep over what Sharon thinks, we're going to have no confidence left.