One of our core missions for MTMH is to encourage and empower women to love their height – to understand that it’s not a curse, it’s not something that they have to overcome, but to truly love it. As we all know, one of the hardest elements in getting to that point is learning how to overcome the constant & unsolicited feedback that we receive regarding it. For me personally, I don’t give attention or credibility to the people who awkwardly stare or make a thoughtless comment anymore. There’s a combination of mindsets and thought processes that have helped me reach that point, and one of the big ones was learning that feedback like that comes from people who are lacking confidence with themselves. Sometimes I think that the concept of insecurity is easy to spot, and other times it’s not as obvious which make it harder to understand it’s role in our interactions. So I wanted to dedicate a blog post to understanding how this can look and even why it happens. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a psychologist, but I’ve done a fair amount of reading over the years, and what the research tells us on this topic makes a ton of sense.
Let’s kick this off by spelling out what the exact meaning of insecurity is. A quick Google search will tell you that insecurity is defined as the general ease or discomfort triggered by feeling vulnerable or inferior in some way. Sometimes they are very easy to see, people don’t stand up straight, they don’t look people in the eye, they literally try to disappear into the background like a shrinking violet. So when a look or a comment comes from someone displaying those types of social behaviors, it’s easier to shrug it off because you can blatantly see they aren’t comfortable in their own skin. I can think of situations where someone didn’t carry themselves with great posture and actually looked just uneasy in general, and then would give me the total head to toe stare. It can feel like they are judging everything about you, when in fact, they are making mental notes about how you put yourself together for them to try for themselves later. I have seen this play out before!! I also classify certain comments, such as, “Why do you wear heels, aren’t you tall enough?” as a more obvious form of insecurity. They are literallllllllllly projecting onto you their own feelings of shortcomings (no pun intended) and their desire to have it neutralized, aka take the heels off so I feel less bad about myself please. Their minds are screaming with their inferiority complex, but instead of figuring out how to conquer the feelings of inadequacy for themselves, they put it back on us as a problem that we have caused. Sadly for people who act this way, there will always be something that triggers them until they learn how to come to terms with whatever the root of their own issue is. If it’s not you in heels, it will be someone who drives a fancier car, someone wearing an outfit that they can’t pull off or someone who experiences more success. It will always be something. Therefore as we always say on this platform, you have to live your life for yourself, and understand that these people have their own demons that they are fighting. You also aren’t the only recipient of their projecting comments, anyone who threatens their self-confidence is likely to get a remark. I also believe that for these types of situations, you are better off having a comment prepared and practiced that you can whip out when you need. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say in a situation, but it’s like muscle memory….if you practice it enough, it’ll come out easily when you need it too. Something to the effect of, “Well because I love these shoes and no, I’m never tall enough.”
For other people, they tend to compensate or overcome their own feelings of inferiority by finding “abnormalities” or “differences” in other people and pointing it out to whoever they are with for them to discuss together. At the root of it, it’s the concept of having to blow someone else’s candle out to make their own feel brighter. By pointing out whatever they think is a difference from what they perceive as a stereotypical perfect body, they can feel better about themselves in the moment. It is extremely common behavior with people who suffer from their own body image issues, both men and women. The source of insecurity for that person doesn’t have to match the exact feature that they are focusing in on in another person. So for our sake here, it doesn’t have to be that the guilty party feels bad about their own height, it could be any attribute of themselves (i.e. weight, nose, hairline, etc). What they need is an outlet to spot a “difference” in other people, and they take every opportunity to call out those differences. It’s deflecting and it’s a compensating mechanism. A secure person doesn’t do that because they don’t need the boost in their own morale. You’ve heard the expression before, confidence is quiet.
Let’s think of that in relation to an everyday example that we all encounter as tall girls and tall women. Think of the times that you are walking into a crowded restaurant and an obnoxious table turns to stare and then whisper to each other under their breath. Maybe it’s harder to consider this scenario a byproduct of insecurity, but I absolutely think that it is. What strikes me about this situation is that someone likely had to be the ringleader and make sure everyone in the group is aware that we have entered the room. This individual needs everyone to be aware of the fact that something “different” than what they consider to be normal for female height is there and so by pointing it out to discuss and gawk at, it gives them a false high for a bit. Never mind the fact that if that type of behavior was directed at them, they couldn’t handle it for a second. For many years, I would respond to people treating me like this with a really aggressive look, letting them know I was aware of their pathetic behavior. My rationale at the time was that I was standing up for myself and giving it back to them. But I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve stopped doing that. First of all, I found it mentally taxing and hard to bounce back from because it would rile me up so much. It could completely change the tone of what was supposed to be a fun dinner out. Instead of having a great time, I was agitated and trying to process it in my mind for far too long. Plus, I think sometimes it gives the rude gawkers another thing to say about you. Some people would pick up on the fact that they had upset me, but other people would bite their lip and you could tell they thought it was funny to have been busted, which just added to my state of irritation. Now I think the best medicine is to show them what confidence looks like and not give the whole episode the time of day. So I hold my head high and walk like nothing can bring me down. It’s far more enjoyable mentally and doesn’t put a damper on your day or evening.
There’s another potential reason to why situations like this happen that I think is worthy of putting on the table. I think it’s fair to acknowledge that our own insecurity can lead us to assume the worst of people at times. Basically, if a situation occurs, we automatically assume it’s because people are making fun of our height or treating us like we aren’t normal. But you know what….there is also a scenario where it’s neither of those things. It is also entirely possible that people turn to stare at you because they find you attractive as a person. I’m not condoning people that treat others like a meat market, but what I’m saying is that the behavior is sometimes motivated by a true positive and not a negative. They might think you are a version of Gisele Bundchen in the flesh, and while they are still probably not appropriately conveying their feelings or emotions, it’s not always the horrible reason why you think. Also, I’ve had people who displayed that gawky kind of behavior then come up to me later and say things like, “Our granddaughter is 16 and your height, and it’s so wonderful to see a woman carry her height so well!” Again a situation where I felt like they were judging me when really they were admiring.
It can be extremely hard and frustrating to deal with the unwanted attention that our physiques can generate, there’s no doubt. But I hope this post and examples can start to provide the context for why it happens and help you learn to not let it trigger you or cause you unnecessary insecurity. It’s so mentally freeing when you can truly ignore an uncomfortable stare or rude comment. Keep being proud, keep being confident and keep being fabulous.