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Selling Myself Short

“You’re so little.  How tall are you?”  Not very.

“So you’re like, legally a midget then?”  First of all, I’m pretty sure “midget” is a derogatory term.  And what does that mean anyway—legally a midget?

Throughout my elementary and middle school days I found myself answering questions of this nature on more than one occasion.  Yes, I am short.  Like, really short.  Like, under five foot.  Four-foot-ten and three-quarters to be more precise.  I suppose I could round up to four-eleven but I feel that would be untruthful.  But there I go selling myself short again.

I’ve always been short.  I’ll always be short.  I’m not in a state of denial, dreaming that I lead the NBA in dunks.  I know that I’m short yet people still feel the need to identify this fact, as if suddenly opening my eyes to something I couldn’t see, not unlike the items on the top shelf.  Certain height-related inquiries have yielded some snarky responses from yours truly:

“No, I didn’t buy my shirt at Gymboree.”

“Yes, I can see over the steering wheel.”

“Yes, the Six Flags staff let me ride Bizarro.”

“The weather is the same down here as it is up there.”

It’s called genetics, people.  If they met my tiny parents and petite grandmothers I think they’d understand that the gene pool I was working with was, well, more like a kiddie pool.  I ate plenty of veggies and drank plenty of milk while I was growing up.  I don’t drink coffee and I don’t smoke cigarettes.  My DNA destined me to be short.  Back in the day, my fellow kindergarten classmates were intrigued by my stature.  They would always try to pick me up and carry me around like I was some sort of doll.  I thought it was creepy, but not really a problem.

My problem in high school was not that my body was small, but that my voice was.  It may have been my own twisted perception of myself and how others viewed me.  Could people really take me seriously?  Whatever it was, I believed that I had nothing worthwhile to contribute.  Class discussions, social gatherings; I was more of an observer and being physically tiny only made it easier to get by unnoticed.  I felt like in order to get a word in, I had to parade in with fanfare.  I couldn’t compete for attention with my outspoken classmates and if I did fight for floor time, I would be a desperate little girl with a serious Napoleon Complex.  By the time I could organize my thoughts, I had missed the opportunity.

I made myself feel small on the inside, like I had nothing to offer.  I would downplay achievements; chalk success up to circumstances rather than my own talents and I was awful at accepting compliments.  But if people were going out of their way to acknowledge me and my achievements, maybe I did have something to offer after all.  I knew that no one was allowed to make me feel small or inferior.  So why did I make myself feel this way?  My toughest critic has always been me, but it’s amazing how certain things can change self-awareness.

Junior year of high school I took an introductory public speaking class where we had to compose and present different types of speeches.  The nature of this class showed me that the initial challenge of gaining attention was not so bad after all.  I learned that once I had the attention of my peers, I had the capability of holding their attention and articulating my ideas.  I could get my peers to laugh, or to think about a topic in a different light.   Most importantly, that class allowed me to take a step back and re-evaluate the way I talk to myself.   After each student presented, the class would offer constructive feedback.  When I heard the way I would speak to my peers, I started to wonder why I didn’t speak to myself with the same level of consideration.

“Self, listen to what you’re saying.  If you said that to any of your friends you’d sound like a total jackass.  You would never tell your classmates that they suck, so why do you say it to yourself?”

Being short is not something I can change, no matter how many glasses of milk I drink.  I’m okay with that.  My height is part of who I am on the outside, but I don’t have to feel small on the inside.  And anyway, there are perks to being petite.  I always have enough legroom no matter if I’m flying, driving, or riding the rails.  I can sleep with ease on an easy chair.  I’ve become quite deft at scaling kitchen cabinets and grocery store shelves.  Do I even need to mention how impressive my hide- and-seek hiding spots are?  Yeah, maybe I have to jump higher to be seen and talk louder to be heard.  But if something is worth the effort to me, then the personal gain is that much sweeter.  There still are moments where I can feel myself shrinking back into my state of self-belittlement, but it’s an ongoing process.   I’m learning to walk a little taller.  Maybe I’ll give myself that extra fourth of an inch.  Maybe I’ll give myself more credit.  I’m learning to live with more confidence and more positivity.  After all, I am always looking up.

By: Nikki Haggan

Posted by on February 8, 2014. Filed under The Week's End. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to Selling Myself Short

  1. Nikki Haggan

    February 8, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Reblogged this on Write On and commented:
    Thanks so much to The Hub, Emmanuel’s student-run newspaper, for sharing my personal essay submission “Selling Myself Short.” I wrote this piece in Dr. Pope’s Prose Writing class a few semesters ago.