Q: Dear Susie, I’m 6 feet 4 in my stocking feet. Most people have never seen such a tall woman, especially in F-M, and they stare at me. I hate it! What can I do?
-Zoe P.S. I adore your column.
A: I will admit up front that this will be my best column ever, and I’m totally excited about writing it.
Why, you might ask? Because I’m 6’1”, and this subject is near and dear to my heart (that, and waiting for the day that “What Not to Wear” has a tall woman on it).
There are several things I’d like to say to you, for inspiration and support.
I come from a family of tall people, all the way from 6’7” (Dad), down to a shrimpy 5’10” (one of my sisters).
I grew up thinking we were normal, and everybody else in the world just didn’t grow. I’ve even been known to tell that to rude people who comment on my height. “I’m not tall, you just didn’t grow enough.”
When I was younger, we went out to California for a convention where there were movie stars. My older sister got to meet Fess Parker (Daniel Boone). He told her how beautiful she was, and encouraged her always to stand up tall and be proud.
That story was passed down to all of us. So we were raised to be proud of our height and ourselves, to think ourselves beautiful and fabulous.
Why am I telling you that? Because I’m getting the feeling that you weren’t given that same encouragement as a little girl—that there were some feelings there like, “really beautiful women are small and dainty and petite and quiet and feminine and don’t take up too much room.”
Seriously, could you ever have fit that bill? I was 6 feet tall when I was 12, and wore size 12 clothes and size 12 shoes!
I remember one incident in particular that was strange. I was attending a national all-star basketball game in Kansas in 1979 (yes, I played basketball—sheesh), and my parents and I were at a restaurant.
We walked in, and a whole table of people just sat there and stared at me (why not at Dad? He’s taller than me). I asked Mom and Dad why I’d never encountered that before in my life.
They suggested it was because I was so striking, so I stood up, walked over to their table, smiled at them, twirled around a few times slowly, held out my arms so they could get a good long look at me, then sat down again. They just sat there with their mouths hanging open.
Did I feel badly about myself? No, I felt pretty great about my boldness, even at age 19.
Here’s the deal, Zoe: ask yourself if there’s anything you can do about being tall. Uhm, no.
Your option? To love and accept yourself exactly as you are.
Is it a fault to be tall? Heck, no. What do you have to do with it?
If you can’t change something, and it’s making your life miserable, maybe it’s a sign that there’s something in that that you can heal. Unconditional love and acceptance of yourself, maybe?
So that’s your first task. To write up some statements that you can plaster everywhere and say continuously to yourself—let’s rewire those previous messages.
Try, “I’m fabulous just as I am. Tall is beautiful. I’m amazing and powerful and strong. I’m beautiful.” Get creative. Go for it. Pretty soon you may start believing it.
I personally have not encountered any rudeness or stares from anyone (well, maybe I have, but I just haven’t noticed) in the area, and in fact you can usually find me wearing 3 or even 4 inch heels! Do the math—that would make me 6’4” or 6’5”.
Do I care? Not on your life. I strut my stuff and hold my head high. I get a kick out of being ginormous (as my kids say). There aren’t any other options.
I always believed that people actually respected tall people more, thought they were more powerful (point in fact: the majority of US presidents have all been taller than average, and taller people make more money on average than shorter people).
When I was 12, and gigantic, people did stare at me.
I didn’t know if they were staring at me because I was so tall, or because they thought I was fat, or because they thought I was ugly, so I did something about the two things I could control. I made sure I was slim, and gussied myself up as best I could.
Now I know that if people stare, it’s just because I’m tall, not because of anything else.
Here’s the deal: it’s all a matter of perspective. To somebody 7 feet tall, you’re a shrimp. To somebody 5 feet tall, you’re an Amazon. If somebody has dark skin and you have light skin, they’ll think you’re pale, and you’ll think they’re dark. People only base judgments against who and how they are.
Do you get it? So it’s not that you’re tall; you’re just taller than those other people.
Tall is a judgmental term, which insinuates that there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just who you are.
Accept that! It’s a beautiful thing, really it is! You can reach things high on shelves, you can see great at parades and concerts, you don’t get claustrophic in crowds, you look stunning in most clothes.
Downsides to being tall? Hard to find clothes and shoes, probably (I have gorilla arms and impossibly long legs and huge feet), difficulty fitting into some seats and beds, chairs and couches, back problems from lower counters and looking down at people a lot (I call it the giraffe syndrome).
But overall, what I want to say to you is that there is no way that anyone out there can (or should be able to) make you feel badly about who you are.
It is totally up to you to have the presence that says to the world, “I love myself, and think I’m fabulous.”
It’s amazing, but how you feel about yourself is reflected back to you by others. If you think there’s something wrong with your height, others will affirm that.
Okay, some people will just stare, but heck, when you first saw the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon, you probably stared too, didn’t you? Tall people are beyond the norm, but you can understand and forgive others for being shocked and awed, and not assume they’re criticizing you.
If they are(and some do), then that’s about insecurities, and it’s not about you. Heck, they probably wish they were taller (I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that from people).
When people come up to me and say something about my height (and they do), they usually say, “Gee, you’re tall,” and I answer back, “Yes, yes, I am. I really am.”
Where’s the fight in that? Where’s the sting? Where’s the criticism? Where’s the bad feeling? I agree with them—end of story.
Why do people feel the need to comment? I don’t know. We’re sort of raised to think there’s this standard of normalcy, and if anybody goes outside of that (too short, too tall, too thin, too fat, too loud, too quiet, too light, too dark, too smart, too rich, too poor, too independent, in a wheelchair, lost limbs on and on and on) our tendency is to look at them. They’re “different.”
Yeah, so what? Everybody’s different from everybody else - no big news flash, guys. Get over it.
Zoe, you’re fabulous. I shouldn’t really need to tell you this, but I will. You’re absolutely perfect just the way you are.
If you don’t like your hair, cut it or color it or let it grow. If you don’t like your weight, lose some or gain some. If you don’t like your life, take up meditation or knitting or traveling. Take a class. Keep a journal.
Find out what makes you you, then revel in it. It’s stunning, it’s radiant. There’s nothing you have to do besides just be you.
When you accept yourself and love yourself unconditionally, you may find other people’s attitudes toward you changing. If not, well, then, just keep on being fabulous, and pity those people who will never get to know you. It’s their loss!
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