The Height Of Happiness: How I Grew To Accept Being Tall
Regular Bird’s Eye Viewers will know that I’ve been involved in Project Teen and the #YoudNeverBelieve campaign, organised by the fabulous Ella Stearn from The Lucky Truth blog, in which women and girls share the struggles they experienced in adolescence in order to help younger girls facing the same issues today. You can also read my post Project Teen: Six Things I’d Say To My Teenage Self to find out more.
Ella is writing a book entitled Yeah, Right: A Girls Guide to Surviving Teens and asked me to contribute to the Image And Appearance section, explaining how my negative body image, specifically around my height (I’m almost six feet tall), affected me then and now. Here’s my story:
The Height Of Happiness: How I Grew To Accept Being Tall
I’ve always been a tall girl; as a child I was the very embodiment of “growing up.”
I grew up. And up. And up.
Like many young girls I attended ballet classes – mostly because I loved the idea of wearing frilly tutus, prancing about looking dainty and elegant. Unfortunately though, it quickly became apparent that being the tallest in the class meant I’d always be sidelined for the female roles; instead I was chosen to play the male partner in the dance shows. While the other girls shimmied and swirled in their frothy pink outfits, I’d tug at my boyish shirt and pedal-pushers crossly.
In photos I always had to stand at the back, a body-less head floating above the crowd. When my nan made me jumpers she’d have to click-clack away with her knitting needles, adding extra row upon row to the arms, like she was kitting out an octopus.
In my early teens, my average-height girlfriends could borrow each other’s clothes, chatting away at school about which items to swop with one another for the party at the weekend…but their stuff would never fit me – the arms and legs would be miles too short. At that age, we all wanted to look the same – or at least very similar – to one another. Matchy-matchy, like a girl band.
When it came to boys, they seemed to prefer the shorter girls – cutesy curvy ones they could tuck neatly into their arms, dropping the occasional kiss on the top of their head. Which guy wants to have to reach up to kiss his girlfriend? I was about as curvy as an ironing board; my family nicknamed me Olive Oyl after Popeye’s gangly girlfriend (if you’re too young to know who she is – google it and weep). My mood swings were vicious: I’d shout and slam doors, or lash out at my mum for making me such an unlovable shape. It was a design flaw, a genetic defect – and therefore all my parents’ fault.
But then, something quite remarkable happened. I grew into my lanky body. People starting complimenting my stature, suggesting I become a model. I was stopped in Oxford Street by scouts when out shopping. I did a modelling campaign for a bridalwear company, where I was actually being PAID for my height.
Suddenly, my height was my USP (Unique Selling Point). We all have one – several actually – I just hadn’t figured out that my height was one of mine. By now I was almost six feet tall. People noticed me. When I spoke, people listened (I also have a very loud voice, but that’s another matter entirely). In shops I went straight to the bottom of the folded pile for the 34 inch leg jeans without complaining. At concerts I could see everything, whilst my shorter friends craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the show. I could reach tall shelves without a ladder. Boys asked me out. People looked up to me (they had no choice, but hey, it felt good).
These days, I love my height. It turns out that being tall is an advantage, not the disability I saw it as as an awkward teenager. I used to think my legs looked like golf clubs – huge feet on the end of stilts. I stooped; hunching my shoulders to try and look shorter, yanking my sleeves down over long arms. Now I know that my feet are perfectly in proportion, as is the rest of me. This is how I was meant to look. And I look pretty good (…well maybe not when I first wake up, but after breakfast, certainly). I’m 41 years old (which I know sounds ANCIENT to you) and this body has given me a wonderful life so far: I’ve travelled the world, got married, worked hard, danced and partied and laughed and cried. My body is strong and healthy and has served me well.
So if you’re feeling down about your appearance remember this: your uniqueness is what makes you you. If we all looked the same the world would be a boring place. Whilst you’re worrying about your looks, you’re wasting valuable energy that could be spent having FUN.
That other girl, the one you wish you looked like? She’s worrying about her looks too. Be kind. You’re so much more than a big nose, or frizzy hair. Your personality is what makes you shine; it’s what people remember the most. When you talk to yourself in your head, your body listens. So tell it you’re amazing. Tell it you’re thankful for everything it’s doing to keep you alive: pumping your blood, beating your heart, inflating your lungs. If you tell yourself good things, you’ll feel good. Try to look outside of yourself, rather than always looking inwards. There’s a big world out there, a whole life waiting to be lived. The things that matters to you now probably won’t matter to you later. When I think of all the hours I wasted fretting about my looks, I wish I hadn’t. My height, that thing I hated most? It turned out to be one of my best assets. I’d never have believed it if someone told me that when I was your age. Love yourself. Embrace your individuality. Be kind to your body. It’s the only one you’ll ever have. I wish you happiness and joy and a wonderful life. Now get out there and live it and stop worrying about your hair.
To support Project Teen and get Ella’s book Yeah Right! A Girl’s Guide To Surviving Teens to the girls that need it most, click here. Please share this post to raise awareness of the campaign, the issues facing teenage girls and to let them know that we love them, we support them and we have their backs.