Short and Self-Conscious

All my life, I have loved being ‘short.’ My height was never a point of contention, until very recently when I attended an important gathering. When I walked in, I couldn't help but notice that I was the shortest one there. I couldn't understand at first why something as arbitrary as my height seemed to have an impact on the way I saw myself. I realized that I felt self-conscious in my own skin, and it wasn't due to the fact that I actually disliked my height. I was allowing my impression of what ‘being short’ means as a way to critique myself. I thought that because of my height, people would not be able to take me seriously. In my head, one’s height denotes an air of sophistication and maturity, while being shorter equates to youth. The act of literally being looked down on didn’t seem to help my situation.


A few years ago, I entered into a department-like store with a friend, who is about a year and a half my senior (and much taller than I am). While waiting in the fitting room, the saleslady told me how beautiful my mother is. Interestingly enough, I thought, “We look nothing alike, with fully different ethnicities.” It is these types of assumptions that led me to feel uncomfortable in the present. This seed that was planted in my head has led to a wound that I can either choose to ignore or to make you all aware of.


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Why does all this matter, you ask? Well, I noticed that my perception of self was fluid. What is most interesting is our need to conform to the majority. Due to the fact that I was the only short one in the crowd, I felt that I lacked something. I had never realized this fact so blatantly before because my friend groups tend to be diverse and I had always thought that my height was ‘average’. However, it is so interesting how our definitions of things change situationally and over time. It seems that we do this with almost everything in our lives. Whether it is the size of our lips and hips or the length of our hair versus our legs, what we desire is based on what we see around us: our friend groups, online communities, etc. In the perfect example of my height, I found fault with something that was never my concern before. This is not to say short people have it the hardest, I can't imagine being ‘the tall one’ is any easier. The point is that we will always have something to dislike. If we are constantly evolving, our standards and preferences will as well.


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In these instances, observancy and self-awareness disadvantaged me to the point of being self-conscious. Why is it that my whole conception of self changed? It occurred to me that if my entire self-perception is so fluid, relying on exterior qualities can be quite unhealthy. What I needed to grasp was that others will see me as mature if I conduct myself in that way, not by looking the part. The same goes for someone who wears glasses; while our norms tell us that they denote intelligence, you will be intelligent through embodying wisdom. My height is in no way a commentary of my age or maturity, but there are always some people who innocently make this mistake.


Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos

Learning how these assumptions shifted something in me was very important. First, I understood how valuable diversity is in reflecting different standards and forms of beauty. Second, I understood my own prejudices and how I shouldn’t be quick to assume traits onto others. And third, I understood that my own preferences shift and change with a variety of factors, some good and others bad. Applied to myself, these can put me in danger of developing a potentially negative self-image.

I don’t want the way I value and love myself to be susceptible to change. I don't want to have to manage my preferences to fit in. I want to value myself 24/7. I want to understand that I have gifts, that I am unique, I am beautiful and no one else can give to others in the exact ways I can. What I finally understand is that I need to value myself as a whole person, comprised of more than just a set of isolated components. I am more than my height, just as you are bigger than your biggest insecurity. These are just the details, but realize you are the bigger picture. When people see you, they see you in your full glory and full beauty. You have value as well as purpose, no one messed up creating you. If you are finding yourself very concerned with the microscopic parts of yourself, maybe it's time to trade in that microscope for a more comprehensive, wholesome view. It is time to change your perspective on things.