Monday, April 11, 2011

In Regards to Height

Everyone always talks about weight when it comes to body image issues. Most of the time, we hear about Fat Talk, but sometimes people will speak up about their self esteem issues with being skinny. But no one talks about body image issues in regards to height.

There are several reasons for that. The biggest one, perhaps, is that it's not really something we can control. We are what we are, and we just have to make the most of it, one way or another. But I know that tall women (and men) can often feel self-conscious about their height, and it's something that shorter people struggle with, too.

I've long since come to terms with my height of 5'1". In fact, it's become something of a symbol of pride for me. I use the term "ninja-ing" when I tell people about how my height allows me to push through crowds without notice. I can curl up nearly anywhere and fall asleep comfortably, a huge benefit back in college when I was stuck in the engineering center past the last bus because of homework or a lab. Clothes are also cheaper; if there is child's XL version of a shirt I like, I can save quite a bit of money by buying that instead of the adult's small. Hello, Pirates of the Caribbean hoodie from Disneyland!

(Another credit for being short: while in school, as an aerospace engineering student, many people have often pointed out that I'm the perfect size to be an astronaut. Traveling into space may or may not be in my future--I haven't quite decided yet if that's the route I want to take with my career--but being short certainly has professional advantages!)

I have found the humor in my guy friends using the top of my head as an armrest. I've grown accustomed to keeping a step stool in the kitchen to reach the higher shelves. If someone taller than me runs faster than me, I take solace that it's because of their longer legs. The only thing that really still bothers me about being short is when taller people stand or sit right in front of me during a show or a spectacle, but even that, I've found my way around (see: "ninja-ing", or just getting used to straining my neck and/or standing on my tiptoes to see around them).

The average height for a woman in the U.S. is about 5'4", and for a man it is about 6'0". I'm constantly surrounded by people who are taller than me. But I have family in Japan who I visit once every couple of years or so; the average height for women there is--wait for it--5'2". Which means whenever I visit Tokyo, I experience what it's like to be average height.

This past May, I discovered that being average height really isn't for me. I have adapted to my 5'1" so effectively that I was annoyed when I couldn't push through the crowds and when I could fit in places as a normal person should. Don't even get me started on clothes shopping out there! Shirt size M for adults? Sometimes size L? (Though that might be more because of my weight, as well.)

Being out of my element like that was another blow to my self-esteem, and for the first time ever, I could not wait to return to the States where, while everyone might tower over me, at least I can wear a child's XL or an adult's small! I can endure my friends using me as an arm's rest in return for slipping through crowds with considerable ease!

But now I wonder: I've lived through the perils of being short, and I've heard my friends gripe about being "too tall," but perhaps even those who are average height have issues to deal with as well.

I don't know if bringing attention to height in regards to body image issues is as heavily needed as weight. Maybe it is. But for me, personally? It's something that I've had to overcome, and I'm happy to say that I did, at least here in the United States. In Japan, it is initially refreshing to be average height, and hopefully next time I go, it'll stay refreshing my entire visit instead of being a blow to my self-esteem. Perhaps my weight loss with help with that, too?

No comments:

Post a Comment