As we have shared before, a lot of the inspiration and motivation for starting More Than My Height came from feedback and comments we received through Amalli Talli asking us to do more content focused on how to protect and build self-confidence with younger daughters and grand daughters who are destined to be tall. Many women shared with us their own struggles and challenges they experienced, and how they are understandably wanting to avoid many of those negative experiences for the loved ones in their lives. And as a new mom myself, I would be absolutely lying if I didn’t acknowledge that I have thought about this a lot in regard to my own daughter.
Not that long ago, we asked for some input from our followers on social media regarding the age that they remember first feeling uncomfortable or insecure with respect to their height. I think for us as a community to begin to tackle the problem of low self-esteem effectively, it’s important to address when and how the problem even begins. Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we posed the question – I think in my head I thought I would read a lot of comments saying middle school, when the joy of adolescence begins for a lot of women. And for a lot of women that’s exactly when the problems started. But I was somewhat surprised to start reading more and more comments saying it was well before that. Multiple women left comments stating memories and experiences starting as young as two and three years old.
Those were particularly interesting comments to me because of a moment I just experienced with my own tall toddler daughter, Perry. About a month ago, we went in for her 18 month visit and after the nurse took all the appropriate measurements, the doctor came in and actually made her do it all again because she didn’t believe her height could be accurate. Perry had grown a full three inches since we had last been in, only three months prior. And truthfully because none of her shoes or clothes again no longer fit, I wasn’t that shocked, LOL. The doctor, however, was mystified. I believe her exact words were, “This is just very atypical at this point in her development.” I commented back reminding her I was very tall myself, and also shared that within the past week she had literally outgrown everything in her closet. And unless I had realllllllly messed up a load of laundry and shrunk everything she owns, I was not surprised AT ALL that she was so much taller again. The doctor then informed me that my darling 18-month-old was the size of an average 3-year-old. And I have to tell you, our doctor is not wrong! Perry has been around a few kids who are three and she’s definitely all of their size, if not taller!
Our experience at the doctor’s office could not have been more perfectly timed. It happened literally days before we made that post, so the experience was still fresh in my mind. Then as I read every comment that was made (thank you all so much for your feedback), many of them who referenced beginning to feel self-doubt early on struck a big chord with me. In fact, one comment really made me start to think and that particular comment said “I was 5/6 and everyone used to comment on how I was a ‘big’ girl as I was always really tall for my age. I honestly thought I was some super tall broadbacked freak.” Even as a tall girl myself who has been tall most all of my life, this comment & a few others changed everything for me in terms of where the problem can begin. I walked this very same path, and yet it didn’t even occur to me that the commentary we hear as young kids starts to tell us how the world views us. But you are all absolutely right! Whether you have kids or not, we all know that kids pick up on everything they see and hear, so why would we think that commenting on their build would be any different? Kids are smart, they know exactly what is being conveyed when we call out their physical differences.
I have a lot of very strong feelings about certain words like big, huge, giant to begin with (read more here), but when I think about them being used to describe kids it brings me to even another level of frustration. I had this very conversation with my husband not that long ago. He made a very innocent comment about how she’s about to smack her head on the countertop of our kitchen island that she loves to run below, and while there was nothing wrong with the context of what he said, I felt like it was a good time to discuss how we have to start being VERY aware of how we talk about her and her height. She’s at the age now where she understands everything and within the walls of our house, it’s super important to me that she never feels uncomfortable or abnormal. This was actually a topic that came up during our conversation with Katie Willcox a few months ago, and we talked about how as parents and caregivers, it’s our job to protect the spirits of our children. Kids are born with self-love ….. if Perry sees a picture of herself or encounters a mirror, her instinct is to give herself a kiss. That’s how we all started out. It’s the experiences with our environments that start to negatively impact how we see ourselves. And it doesn’t just start with the “Do you play basketball” or “How tall are you?” comments. If a five-year-old overhears a conversation that adults are having about how “big” she is, it certainly makes sense to me that it could start to send the message that she’s outside of the norm. Kids, especially young kids, thrive on love and positive self-talk to build the foundation of their confidence.
We talk so frequently about the dumb things people say to us as teenagers and adults (and rightly so because…c’mon!), but we need to be very focused on the way we talk or allow others to talk about our young children. It’s a huge goal of ours through this platform to educate the outside world, and I have faith we are going to make huge strides. Even that said, I know I can’t control or change what people say to my own daughter 24/7, but I promise you that I will have responses ready to anyone who comments on Perry’s size in my presence to let her know we think her height is beautiful and a blessing. If someone comes up and says, ‘Wow, she’s big for her age!’”, then rest assured my response will be, “She’s lucky to be so tall, we really love it.” Through those types of responses and appropriate conversations with our kids afterwards, we can start to demonstrate resilience. By teaching them early in life that the uncomfortable comments made are usually a result of either A.) appreciation of our height B.) jealousy of our height or C.) a complete lack of awareness, it gives them the understanding and mindset to appropriately handle those conversations on their own as they grow older.
As I’ve reflected on this topic the past few weeks, I would even argue that it can be worth a conversation with teachers and other caregivers that influence our kids. The more I become involved in this mission, the more I am aware of how much we all suffer from the outside world’s lack of awareness. So while conversations with a teacher might seem like overkill, I can make a pretty big argument about how they probably don’t know the impacts of little comments and gestures that point out a child’s difference in height. Until our society learns to treat height sensitively like someone’s weight, I absolutely think it’s all of our jobs to reinforce that message. If we don’t teach them, how else will we learn that lesson?
I’ll end this by saying that I also truly believe in the power of modeling self-love and appreciation. So even if we are careful with our words and help correct the misguided comments from others, if we don’t show what self-love and acceptance looks like to ourselves, it’s a moot point. We need to be living examples of how we want our own daughters and granddaughters to think and live. If we aren’t confident standing up tall or wearing heels, how can we expect them to be any different? If they see us being confident in our skin day in and day out, it’s far more likely they will learn how to be the same. And that’s really what we all want for everyone in this community – for girls and women to know they can come here and interact with others who can help with any struggles or challenges.
From the beginning, we’ve said that this can be a platform where we all come together, learn from each other and make each other better and this was already a situation where all of that happened for me personally. Thank you to everyone who weighed in because it already taught me something I didn’t even realize with respect to height and “the journey.” I hope there’s pieces in here that resonates with all of you, and if you have even more ideas or comments on this topic, please share them below.
Thanks for reading,