Written by my good friend Uche Belinda Nnoka
Question for any tall readers: At the places where you spend the bulk of your day, do you feel the need to dumb down on elements of your personality or character because people have issues with your height?
I'm a 6ft 8ins tall black female and throughout my life I have found that people have issues with my presence. Typically, any disagreements I have with an issue or point of view are angrily rebuffed with 'just because you're tall!' (there was seldom a complete sentence with that statement) or 'I'm not afraid of you!' I also find that people want to argue with me a lot more than with others because in their mind, I'm trying to dominate them with my presence as opposed to my reason. Why should it automatically be assumed that I am trying to be intimidating? Isn't it possible that I was disagreeing because their argument had no sound reason or logic? Rest assured that when ever I am trying to explain my point of view or disagreeing with something, trying to overwhelm people with my height isn't is never the strategy!
To many, tall people represent intimidation, despised authority, domination, oppression and someone to be fought with, which is curious. This can in turn result in a lot of hostility from those with such feelings as they spend their time and energy devising ways to try and put us down without even getting to know us. I wonder why tall people are viewed in the negative, more than in the positive? Well, this has largely been my experience anyway. How can the fact that you are a few inches taller have such a bizarre effect on people?
As this happened so often, I found myself saying little in meetings, or not offering my real point of view when it was asked for, for fear of being misunderstood. I was then looked at as not being a particularly useful member of the team because I wasn't participating in the conversations!! I found myself second guessing everything I was planning to say so as to not come across as 'aggressive' and 'domineering' and so consequently I said very little.
In addition to not saying very much in meetings I found that somehow my sense of style changed too. I was never told to change the way I looked but, somehow I ended up becoming a blander version of myself. I no longer wore my funky earrings or my chunky bracelets; I went from wearing clothing which was vibrant and colourful to having a wardrobe that consisted of largely black and blue colours. When I spoke to people I found myself tongue tied and unable to express myself adequately, much to the exasperation of those I was speaking to as well as myself.
Unless we are very strong mentally this is what happens when we consciously or unconsciously try to change ourselves into a version that people find acceptable. We become less than the people that God intended us to be.
It took me a while to realise all of this but when I did, I made the necessary changes with speed and precision. I left the church that I was attending (yes, this sort of mess happens in churches too), I quit jobs and I walked away from negative people whose strange behaviour was sapping my soul.
I do sometimes lament that I wasn't emotionally strong enough when I was younger to be myself regardless. It is a shame that it has taken me so long to get back to being who I really am, but better late than never. I still have opinions that are typically different to those around me, and it still causes friction at times, but I'm completely unbothered by this. I've decided that if I had no malice or ill intent in my heart when I was putting my point across and people choose to view that as my being intimidating or aggressive, that's on them. I refuse to waste my time and energy trying to placate the insecurities of such individuals. As I type this I'm wearing my red and black dress with my large hoop earrings which are almost the same size as a saucer just like I used to do! Stella has got her groove back!
Did you ever go through anything like this? If so how did you deal with it?