When I was a kid, I used to get bullied a lot for my size. And being young, you just naturally assume that this was the natural order of things. The big kids preyed on the smaller kids, and that was just how it was always supposed to be. Books get knocked out of hands, you get extorted for lunch money, and then everyone points and laughs as you fight back frustrated tears.
As you get older though, you realize that the bullies are getting smarter. You can do so much more damage to a person if you hurt them where it can’t be seen. What was once just a matter of showing your bruises, suddenly becomes a case of He said, She said due to a lack of evidence. How do you show a teacher a sprained ego, or a broken spirit? The answer is: you don’t. You adapt
It isn’t easy though, is it? Short men are told from an early age that the key is to be confident. We’re told that we have to be comfortable in our own skin, and to be better than those that harass us and make light of us when we want to be taken seriously. To use self-depreciating humor to ward off the hurt, and never respond to bullies with anger because it just perpetuates the stereotype of the angry little man. Somehow with everyone laughing in our faces, mocking our pain, insulting what little pride were given we were supposed to be confident. (Insert eye roll here)
I don’t deny that it took me a long time to break out of my own personal black hole of self-confidence. Along the way, I repressed a lot of those emotions that people equivocate with a healthy young mind. And along the way, we all got similar advice. But none of the things that society, my teachers, my psychologist, or my parents were making a dent in the world. No matter what I did, it didn’t change the way that everyone looked at me. The world was still the same, and so I thought I was failing at what I was doing because there were no visible results. It’s not until later in my life that I realized that the reason it wasn’t working was because there was a fundamental flaw in my logic. You couldn’t change the world right away. You had to start with yourself.
That being said, let me tell you how I coped. Physical intimidation was a common tactic when I was younger. We didn’t really have anti-bullying rallies or It Gets Better campaigns. The reality we were given was the reality that we got. It wasn’t that teachers looked the other way, or that people didn’t care. It was just that the system hadn’t really caught up with the changing times. Mind you, not that this made a lick of difference to a kid who kept getting shaken down for his milk money. So faced with the reality that I was getting my ass handed to me every day, I started to learn how to fight. Secretly at first, of course. Nobody takes a single karate class and then start using kata against the biggest boy in the schoolyard. But over the course of a couple of years, I started gaining confidence, that if push came to shove, Id at least be able to deal out as good as I was given.
An unexpected side effect was that the more I learned to fight, the more I felt like I didn’t have to take any crap. That indignity tended to lend itself very well to anger. By that time, the bully’s methods became much more subtle: psychological warfare. They’d treat me as less of a man, using words like little or child to make sure that I knew exactly where I stood in the pecking order. They’d never let me forget if I didn’t do as well as the big boys, and if I allowed myself to get angry suddenly I was childish. And in becoming a more emotional battle, I was suddenly forced to deal with the idea of proportional response. I couldn't very well punch a guy in the head for calling me a "manlet." So that led me to doing exactly what I espoused that we as short men should never do: to repress our anger, and deflect it using self-depreciating humor.
No matter what, if you hold in emotions that should naturally be coming out, those feelings will manifest in some other ways. You get lonely, you lash out randomly, you isolate yourself, you get depressed, or desperate. It became increasingly difficult knowing that I was hurting and yet unable to fight back. So I started to make fun of myself. I figured that if I mocked myself before they did, then it would hurt less coming from myself. Let me tell you something. If you get tired of being sliced by someone else’s knife, the solution ISNT to do the cutting yourself. We forget that sometimes. If you don’t have the strength to back it up, it doesn’t matter who is hurting you. You’re still in pain.
So what changed for me that I’m in such a better place now? I learned to look back on my own accomplishments. I understand now that not a single thing I’ve done, or any relationship I’ve been in has ever been defined by my height. If something angered me or upset me, I let people know. If they consider that childish, so be it. It isn’t up to others to determine where my boundaries are. I stopped making self-depreciating jokes until I fully realized how stupid and petty something as arbitrary as height actually was. I gained skills, I found love (lost it too), had adventures basically, I’ve lived my life. Realize that no matter how tall your partner is, when you're snuggling on the couch or having fun times in the bed, height is irrelevant. And when someone steps up to you to try and mock your existence, know that the only way they can justify their own is by belittling yours. Sure, we could probably demolish that guy. But, fact is...were all given such a short amount of time on this planet. It’d be a shame to waste it worrying about other people’s insecurities.