I married into a family where everyone is much shorter than me…. my husband included. We’ll circle back to more on marrying someone shorter in a future post, because I think that’s another topic that generates a lot of opinions worth exploring. But with my in-laws, though I tower above them, the interesting thing is we have never really discussed my height or being tall in that much depth over the past 8 years, for which I am grateful. They have always been so kind and complimentary about my build, and that’s as far as the conversation on that topic has ever gone. That is until a few weeks ago when I was telling them about some of our business initiatives for this year. And the conversation and comment that came organically from my mother-in-law was such a perfect reminder of how everyone perceives height differently in this world. That alone has a tremendous impact with how the world speaks to us.
So let me explain what happened during our talk. I had just started bringing her up to speed on our new invested focus on supporting the confidence and empowerment of tall women, when she had such a look of genuine surprise on her face and said, “I’m just so shocked to hear that this is a problem because I look at tall women and think they are so beautiful and can command a room!” And that comment is so interesting and got me really thinking for a few reasons. Here’s what I mean. First off, as tall women, we obviously have heard it all, the good….the bad……the annoying. Height is unique in that it tends to be the one body trait that people feel confident commenting on directly to our faces. But do you ever think about what motivates all the comments that we receive? You may disagree, but I honestly believe that the vast majority of people who say something don’t do so to intentionally ruin our days. Instead, I think that they are much like my mother-in-law and assume that we are proud of our height and comfortable in our skin. To them, it’s like asking someone about their prized possession and wanting to know more.
Even when they ask the dumb questions like, “Are you 7 feet tall?” or “Do you play basketball?” it’s not because they are malicious and trying to bring us down. If you take a step back and think about those specific questions in a different context, they aren’t negative. Nothing about the question “How tall are you” is fundamentally mean. They are just impressed (likely even jealous) of our height and are curious for the details. It’s the feelings that we allow ourselves to have that makes the question negative. People generally don’t ask others what they weigh because our society understands that weight is a sensitive issue. And I really believe that if they knew the insecurities we can have with our height, they wouldn’t ask about it either. It’s simply that they don’t know and also can never relate. For example, most people have probably had times in their lives when they weren’t comfortable with their weight, so it can help them feel more sympathetic towards others who also don’t feel good about this aspect of themselves. But if you aren’t tall, there’s not a way for you to temporarily experience day to day life as a tall woman….I don’t care how high your heels are. When we can’t relate to each other, it’s hard for others to understand our journey and perspective.
When I stop and reflect on how a conversation about my height made me feel, it’s usually because of the mood I am already in that day. If I’m not feeling my best or am super tired, those questions have a much greater affect than another day when I’m more on my game. My point is it’s simply our mindset and how we feel about ourselves that dictates our view of this type of commentary. I understand that it’s annoying to answer the same question 14,000 times a year, BUT I would also argue that everyone has something they have to answer to, as well. If you read our conversation with Katie Willcox, she gave some fabulous advice on managing these questions and your reactions. She encourages everyone to be aware of the questions that you know you will be asked about over and over and over again, practice an answer to it and have it ready to go the next time you find yourself in that conversation. I thought that was such great advice because not only does it ensure that you have a top-notch response, but it also gets your head in a good place for it.
Let’s not forget that some of the commentary is the direct result of that other person’s own insecurities next to you. Trust me, I’ve experienced boatloads of those moments too. Have I ever told you about the time when my fellow 6’0 female colleague and myself had a meeting with a shorter man and he literally stood up on a chair to shake our hands? But again, I would circle back to my mother-in-law’s comment and think about it from her perspective. What is motivating the behavior? Because your presence alone has threatened something about them and their lack of confidence is screaming. I love the quote, “Confidence is silent, insecurities are loud” for this very reason. The man who stood up on a chair wasn’t trying to offend us, but rather he felt so inadequate it was his attempt to make light of the situation and get a laugh. I’ll be honest, at the time it made me feel super uncomfortable temporarily but then I realized that this person, who had much more business experience than we did, was intimidated. And it was a game changer for us in that meeting. As my mother-in-law said, we commanded the room.
It’s wonderful that we feel all warm and fuzzy when people compliment our height, yet we have to learn as a niche how to balance our feelings and reactions when the other comments aren’t as overtly positive. It’s the great disconnect we as tall women have with society, because they don’t understand what it’s like to walk a mile in our larger than the average size shoes. Together we can work on educating them about how to speak to us differently, but the message I’m hoping to convey through this post is that we are alone responsible for our own headspace and are in control of our thoughts and emotions we feel. If this is an area that still is a challenge for you, I would strongly encourage you to step back and think about the comments you receive from my mother-in-law’s perspective. It may not work 100% of the time (that’s just life for everyone), but I can assure you that more often than not it will help you balance your negative feelings. I would challenge you to always remember what my mother-in-law said, “Tall women are beautiful and can command a room.”
I would love to hear your feedback and opinions on this subject. Are there other approaches that have helped you in these types of conversations? Please share with our community! <3