My height is not something I tend to sit around and think about all that often. As someone who's just shy of 5'2" and not a huge fan of heels, I'm often one of the shortest people in the room. Most of the time, I couldn't care less. But there are other times that I'll walk into a room and immediately become aware of my height, particularly if I'm somewhere I don't know anyone or in a work-related space (basically, any situation where I feel like I need to make a good first impression). Suddenly, my lack of stature directly corresponds to my sense of confidence.
In many instances, women's height is understandably linked to their body image and confidence levels. Take taller women, for instance. Women who are taller than average are often deemed freakish and potentially undateable because men often don't want to date someone taller than them (this is what we call toxic masculinity, folks). On the flip side, shorter women are regularly infantilised and demeaned. I can't tell you the number of times someone has placed their arm on my head like an armrest or literally spoken over me in an attempt to be funny (it's not, by the way).
According to psychologist and Headspace App’s Mental Health Expert, Carly Dober, our height (or lack thereof) can have real ramifications on our confidence. "Height is something none of us can control, but we may be treated differently by people due to it," says Dober. "Short women report being infantilised, fetishised, being spoken down to or ignored, or passed over in specific jobs. This can impact a woman’s self-confidence, especially if people around her revere taller people, and make jokes or cracks about her height. They will internalise this and feel small emotionally."
There's been a lot of attention on "short kings" the past couple of years, where short men have been celebrated for their attractiveness despite their height, as well as applauded for dating people who are taller than them, seemingly without feeling emasculated. But the rhetoric around short women hasn't been subject to this same branding refresh — we're still perceived as cute. But we're never powerful.
But why does height matter so much? Dober says that because our height is out of our control, we can feel even more frustrated by it. "There aren't many characteristics we cannot work on to change in some way if we are dissatisfied with them," she says. "We like to feel in control of our lives, and to not have control over something many passers-by or strangers may comment on can feel disempowering."
When it comes to short women, it's understandable. Often, there seems to be an ideology that bigger is better, which can make us feel insecure, especially in social settings. But while we might not be able to grow or shrink at will, there are a few things we can do to help feel confident in our height and repair our body image.
Attitude is everything
Dober suggests looking inwards first, assessing the reasons why we might hold certain beliefs about shorter people. "Explore where your messages came from that infer shorter people are 'lesser than' and look to other short women whom you admire for inspiration," she suggests. "Practice untangling your self-worth from how tall you are, and ask yourself what other characteristics and traits you have that are helpful to the world around you, and that you do like."
Dober also suggests practising a 'loving-kindness meditation practice', where you can start unhooking from your thoughts about your height and self-worth.
You could even take a more digital approach. With plenty of TikTok trends with people discussing how much they actually love their insecurities, it's easier than ever to hop online and see someone love their 5'2" frame. Plus, if you're ever upset about being short, just remember that Jenna Ortega is 5'1" and Zoë Kravitz is 5'2". When in doubt, your FYP can be great for a little confidence boost.
What about power posing?
We've heard a lot about power poses and power dressing, which are meant to help us assert confidence. But how effective are they? According to Dober, specific stances might not be the holy grail, but holding your body or presenting yourself in a certain way that makes you feel confident is everything.
"Power posing can be somewhat of a placebo effect, however simply taking expansive body positions does not influence hormones or other physiological indicators as previously believed," she explains. "But if you feel powerful doing specific poses, go for it."
Personally, I'm constantly surprised how adjusting my posture to stand up just that little bit straighter helps. It might not solve everything, but it certainly helps to carry myself with a little more pride.
Don't be afraid to be bold
Prepare for a lesson in dopamine dressing. Dober highlights that for some people, wearing big bold colours, bright lipstick, or bold eye makeup can help shorter people feel like they're taking up more space. "For others, it might be practicing saying something to people who comment on your height, such as, 'that’s actually kind of offensive, and I’d appreciate you not mocking my height in future'."
Whilst heels might also be an obvious answer to the height issue, it's important to remember that confidence is 99% about how comfortable you feel. If wearing sky-high stilettos isn't right for you and will only serve to make you feel more self-conscious, you're probably better off embracing the flats and letting your comfort speak for itself. And of course, a chunky, stable platform shoe is also often our best friend in this scenario.
For what we lack in stature, we short women often make up for in personality. It's important to remember that even in situations where we feel shy and insignificant compared to everyone around us, we're capable of loudness, greatness, and boldness, irrespective of our height.