I’ve always been petite. Right now, I stand a whopping 4’10”. Growing up, I was always the shortest one in my class. One year, I stood on my tippy toes during our class photo so I could be moved to the second row, but I got a cramp right as the shutter clicked. Needless to say, I’m not in the picture.
Looking so young was frustrating to me because my mind was always older than I looked, and I wanted to scream when people treated me like a child! I also wear a size 2 children’s shoe, and finding shoes that have a heel can be a challenge. Finding a shoe that didn’t light up when I walked or have a Smurf logo on the side was difficult too. When I found a store called Cinderella Shoes, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Racks and racks of heels in my size! I was so thrilled that I thought my prince would pop out of one of the doors in the store!
The one problem is that the height of the heel has to be proportional to the length of your foot. So, the shorter the foot, the shorter the heel should be if you want to walk with any grace at all. At first, I got heels that were too high, and people were beginning to think I was drunk! That wasn’t the image I wanted to convey; I had no desire to be Snooki from “The Jersey Shore.”
By my early twenties, it was apparent that I wasn’t going to get any taller. My mom is only 5 feet tall, so kidney failure at a young age coupled with her genes meant that I really didn’t have a chance. I decided that it was time to work with what I had.
Here are a few tips to help you look taller: manage your weight, stand up straight, get the right hairstyle, see that your clothes are coordinated, and, of course, wear a heel that’s comfortable to walk in. Remember, too, that being petite can work for you as well as against you. When I was 21, I went skiing and the guy at the counter handed me a child’s lift ticket, so I saved a few bucks. However, it’s not so helpful when you’re on a date and they hand you the children’s menu.
In my late twenties, I learned that being petite helped me stand out in business. Often, people had low expectations because I was short and female, so it was easy to surprise them. I could fly under the radar, and they never saw me coming! I remember one meeting with a top executive. He was laying out what he thought I should be doing. I just replied, “This is the way I see it,” and went on to share my vision. He realized that he’d underestimated me, and I gained his respect by standing up for myself.
Studies have shown that shorter people are less likely to break a bone when they fall. I guess it’s because we don’t have very far to go. So I encourage all of you who are vertically challenged to embrace who you are, and that includes your height. Dolly Parton (4’11”), Prince (5’2”), Danny DeVito (4’10”), Gandhi (5’3”), and Salma Hayek (5’2”) did. I tell people that I’m taller than I look!
Although you might be small in stature, you can still be large in your achievements, your friendships, and your goodwill.
Lori Hartwell, Founder & President of the Renal Support Network (RSN), was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of two. In 1993 she founded RSN to instill “health, happiness, and hope” into the lives of those affected by chronic kidney disease. Lori is also the author of the book “Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness” and is a four-time kidney transplant recipient.
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