Sunday, 17 July 2016

Growing Up Tall

For my whole life, I’ve always been taller than average. In all my school pictures I am in the middle at the top row, beaming away that I still held the status of being the tallest in my class, even taller than the boys. My height was inevitable, given my 5’11 dad and 5’10 mum. As a child I was proud of it – I could reach things other kids couldn’t, adults treated me with more respect than my peers because they thought I was older and I could wear clothes meant for the older kids. And then, the inevitable years of insecurities started.

I would say I only started becoming self-conscious about my height once I got to Secondary School and puberty hit. Being tall and lanky had never really been an issue for me, until all my friends stopped growing at 5’4 and getting curves. I on the other hand, continued to grow until I was about 16 and hit the dreaded height I had never wanted to hit: 6 foot. Those five years when all I wanted to be was ‘normal’ and ‘fit in’ were not helped when I literally stood out from the crowd just by existing. All of the guys at school who I thought I was interested in would show so much interest in my shorter friends and basically ignore me until they needed advice. As a teenager, this lack of male attention really affected me and made me think I wasn’t wanted because I was so tall.

It came to a point where I started to hate my body – it felt so out of proportion and I always felt so unfeminine. Yes, I’m aware in order to be a model you have to be tall, but unless you fit into a specific body type (which I do not), and it had never appealed to me anyway. I think another reason why I disliked my body so much was that I just never saw tall girls in the media I was consuming. All the girls I was reading about in YA novels and falling in love and kicking butt were so often described as ‘small’ or ‘petite’ or their height just wasn’t specified so I assumed them to be average. Over the past few years I’ve seen a couple – Taylor Swift rocks being a tall girl and I recently read Holly Bourne’s How Hard Can Love Be? Which features a 5’11 female protagonist, and she put into words all the issues I had with my body as a teen.

It really saddens me now to think how much my insecurities affected me. I started slouching a lot at school so I didn’t seem so tall when I was surrounded by my shorter friends. I’ve never been much into fashion, but I looked up all the ways in which to make myself look shorter and bought my clothes accordingly in order to somewhat disguise my height. I would refuse to wear heels for fear of looking like a giant (now I just don’t wear heels because I value my comfort above everything else). Even right now, I’m still slouching because I’ve been doing it for so many years, and it’s a habit I’m trying to break desperately.
As I’ve gotten older and left school, I’ve really tried to embrace my height. A combination of learning to love my body and myself, discovering feminism and not letting what men think affect my self-confidence has led to this. I’ve come to appreciate so many of the awesome things about being tall – being able to reach things others can’t and actually being able to see at concerts. My legs, which I used to hate for being so long and not thin enough, are awesome and strong and allow me to stand up or 10+ hours at work and hardly feel any aches or pain.

I know that being tall for most people seems like a pretty awesome thing, but I’ve always had these insecurities about it that not many people other than the few other tall girls I’ve met understand. Learning to love my height and my body is an ongoing process I’m still working on. There are some days I just want to slouch and curl up to be as small as I possibly can be. But most of the time I try to step out of my door standing as straight and tall as I possibly can, and embrace who I am.


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No judgment, no hate, because it is already tough enough being a girl.