I’m sure we all know people who are afflicted with what is often called “The Napolean Syndrome.” This is a condition where a poor soul’s consciousness is regularly occupied with the suspicion that his height is at the front of the minds of his contemporaries. They are not seeing him for his personality or his talents. They only see his height. He, therefore, compensates by being a jack-ass. The cruel irony in this situation is what I would call an axiom in human discourse – insecurity is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Being short is just one example of not measuring up (forgive the pun) to what is generally held to be the standard in human appearance. If we let our shortcomings (there I go again) get to us, we can become desperately insecure. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are three facts that can be particularly useful in these situations.
- We live in a world in which populations routinely express preferences for attractive people. Corporations spend billions of dollars every year hiring individuals to represent their products. They pay more for attractive people than do for unattractive people. This is not because they have some bias against ordinary-looking people. It is simply a reflection of the fact that the consumers of their ads will pay more attention to a beautiful girl than they will to homely one.
- The definition of attractive, at least in a general sense, is something that is inherently agreed upon by the majority. If asked to choose the more attractive of the following, a majority (if chosen randomly from society) will choose the former – tall versus short, lean versus fat, full hair versus a bald head, white teeth versus yellow teeth, and symmetrical features versus asymmetrical features.
- You can’t judge a book by its cover. Appearance does not have anything to do with value as a person. Yes, differing appearances elicit differing reactions from people (see 1 and 2), however this is a reflection on the reactor not the reactee.
So, what to do? The fix is simple. We must all do our best to come to grips with where we stand on the appearance continuum. If I’m a flabby, snaggle-toothed, bald man, I must accept that I’m not likely to get hired to be a spokesmodel. But so what? We must accept that being attractive ostensibly affords individuals a leg up in the game of life. (I say ostensibly because the perks of being a looker don’t always pan out the way one may think they will.) The advantages are no different than the advantages that come from being born smart or rich or musically talented. The fact is that all men (and women) are not created equal. Some emerge from the womb well ahead of others, but far from being something that should be lamented, this is something that must be faced head-on, and the sooner the better.
Appearance-based insecurity is very sad. I suspect that most of us have been there at some time or another. The best of us, however, recognize that our insecurity is irrational and is entirely unproductive. It must be replaced with a new value system, one that is based upon ethics. Being a good person trumps looks every time. On a more practical note, it’s easy to find examples of people who are not particularly attractive but who manage to cast their appearance aside to succeed in life. They focus on their strengths and their talents, knowing that they can easily exceed whatever leg up a pretty face may have provided. Furthermore, they categorically reject people who insist upon placing inappropriate emphasis on appearance. In doing so, these people overcome one of the most deleterious of genetic influences that pervade our society.
This is genetic, you know. The universally agreed upon standards for beauty are easily traced to biological notions of fitness. It isn’t a stretch to suppose that our minds are imbued with genetically-driven tendencies to gravitate toward attractive people. Once again, however, the time has come for humans to recognize when their genes are steering them in the wrong direction. This is a prime example.
So, to the Napoleans of the world, I’d say this – your height is only an issue for you, unless you insist on making it an issue for me. If you continue to doubt your value in my presence, eventually I’ll join you. Your insecurity will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, do us all a favor and figure out what makes you valuable as a person. Then trade on that and leave your height out of it. It’s that simple.