Why Am I So Short? (Explained)
If you are questioning 'why am I so short', then it is important for you to know that as a fact, genetics are a major influence in determining height. If you have tall parents, then you will most probably be tall; equally, if your parents are on the short side, you are likely to be short.
However, it should not automatically be assumed that you would follow your parents. Sometimes a tall person can have short parents and vice versa.
Genetics factor for around 80% of our adult height. The other 20% can be attributed to environmental factors which play their part and contribute to a person’s height. These can include nutrition, sleep, hormones, and in rare cases, or a congenital disorder.
This article takes a look at how all these things can affect growth.
What Age Do We Stop Growing?
Growth plates are areas of cartilage at the end of our long bones, and whilst active they are responsible for the lengthening of these bones, resulting in height increase.
The growth plates remain open, or active up until the end of puberty; this is also the period when the human growth hormone is boosted and when we will often experience a growth spurt. After puberty, our optimum height has been reached; hormonal changes take place and the growth plates close.
Puberty ends around 16-17 years of age, at which point we have usually stopped growing, although in some cases growth can continue up to 20, this is not common.
What Makes a Person Shorter Than Average?
This is mainly down to genetics, roughly 80%, but early pre-pubescent lifestyle and diet play a role in determining our optimum height.
To grow we need the release of human growth hormone (HGH), and there are factors that influence the amount we produce in our bodies, such as levels of exercise and quality of sleep, which will also determine the adult height.
What Heights Are Considered Average?
Different countries and cultures will have varying average heights. This is due to many factors such as diet and lifestyle but again, is mainly genetic. Europeans and North Americans tend, on the whole, to be taller than their Asian counterparts.
According to a study completed in 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average height for men in the USA is 5’9” (175.4 cm) (1).
A further study from the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration tells us that The Netherlands tops the chart for the tallest average height at 5’11. 9” (182.5 cm), followed by Germany 5’10 .8” (179.9 cm), Australia 5’10. 6” (179.2 cm), Canada 5’10.1” (178.1 cm) and the UK 5’9. 9” (177.5 cm) (2).
At the other end of the scale, the shortest averages include China 5’7. 6” (171.8 cm), Japan 5’7. 2” (170.8 cm), Mexico 5’6. 5” (169 cm), India 5’4. 9” (164.9 cm) and The Philippines 5’4. 25” (163.2 cm).
Tallest and Shortest People in The World
Guiness World Records record the following facts. The world’s tallest man ever was an American called Robert Wadlow, who stood 8’11. 1” (272 cm). The tallest man still living is Turkish Sultan Kosen 8’2. 8” (251 cm). The world’s shortest man still alive is Columbian Edward Hernandez, who stands at 2’3. 46” (72.10 cm) (3).
The tallest female recorded was Chinese Yao Defen, who stood 7’7” (233.3 cm). The world’s shortest female ever was Dutch Pauline Musters, who measured 24” (61 cm). The shortest female still alive is Indian Jyoti Amge, standing at 24.7” (62.8 cm).
Averages are just what they say they are – ‘averages’ and are a general guide. As individuals, we are all different and we know that in our formative year's genetics, nutrition, sleep, and general lifestyle all play an important role in helping our bodies reach their optimum height.
Can I Do Anything To Increase My Height?
Although our given height is mainly down to genetics, if you’re at an age where you are still growing, there are things you can do to help ensure your maximum adult height will be achieved. Good nutrition is important, as key vitamins and minerals have a major role in building healthy bones. A poor-quality diet will lack essential nutrients such as Vitamin D and Calcium, which are necessary for building strong bone density.
A well-balanced diet is packed with these and other vital nutrients such as protein. You can also try high-intensity exercises, as this releases growth hormone. Sleep is another essential thing, and an important part of growing, as good quality sleep can increase growth hormone secretion.
Does Posture Affect Height?
Good posture is essential for ensuring you are standing at your tallest. If you stoop, or slump, are overweight or wear ill-fitting shoes, you could be decreasing your standing height by as much as a few inches.
Perhaps you lean over a desk all day or walk with your shoulders hunched. Maybe you carry heavy shopping or use a weighty backpack.
Check Your Posture
One way of checking your posture is to stand sideways next to a full-length mirror. Keep your head and shoulders upright and imagine there is a straight line going down through your body from your head to your ankles. Measure your height before and after doing this and if your posture needs correcting, you will see that there is a height difference.
Strengthening Your Core
It is easy to get into bad habits but the good news is that with practice and determination the correct posture can be achieved.
Remember, just by strengthening the muscles that support your spine, you will stand upright and closer to your maximum height. It does make a difference!
Proper spinal alignment means your muscles and bones are in sync, helping to prevent stress and degeneration. Supporting the spine correctly reduces compression on the spinal discs. This keeps the bones healthy, strengthening muscles and bone mass and also helping prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
Gentle exercises such as stretching, Pilates, or Yoga are great for achieving and maintaining good posture. These activities can be done at home or in a class, whatever suits you. If you prefer to do them at home, first make sure you get expert advice on the correct methods.
Disadvantage and Advantages to being Short
Regarding being short, there are too many advantages and disadvantages to list, and in many respects, it is more about how you 'rock' your height and use it.
This is because there are always advantages and disadvantages to any height. For example, traveling on public transport or a plane, it is far better to be shorter as legroom is usually an uncomfortable problem for taller people.
let's take sports as another example, as certain sports lend themselves to both heights, depending on the position. Soccer (football UK) is a case in point. Being short is a big advantage for a midfielder as speed and agility are required, a taller person is not as agile and if you look at the big teams you will see some very successful short players.
Becoming an actor is is another career avenue for both taller and shorter people. There are a diverse set of roles that you can take as both a shorter person. Whereas an imposing villain will usually be taller, such as Batman's Joker - 6'5" (195.8 cm), or for shorter, such as Batman's Penguin - 4'10" (121.9 cm).
Also, times are changing, for instance, some TV shows, and movies now seem to make a point of showing heterosexual couples with the man shorter than the woman, something that would have been very unusual in the past.
How Can I Learn to Accept My Height?
An unfortunate fact is that for too long there has been a kind of stigma attached to shorter people, for example, the emphasis on height in dating sites, or old sayings like ‘tall, dark and handsome’, indirectly denigrating shorter people.
A lot of people, especially if they are sensitive, may have been affected early on, perhaps by an innocent chance remark that was not even directly addressed to them. A small thing like this could play on their mind and fester, leaving them particularly alert to other height-related references.
The result can leave them with feelings of insecurity, lack of self-confidence, and an unjustified inferiority complex.
The truth is though, being short is not as limiting in the real world as it is online in the digital world. This is because it is a physical trait, just like being tall is.
In the real world people will see all you have to offer, so there is no need to limit yourself because of one characteristic, as you have many more traits that can be worked on to override being short.
There are many successful shorter people who lead happy and fulfilling lives. The secret is to accept what you have been given and concentrate on your strengths, and build your character.
If your height is a problem for you, do not let it blight your life. Address your concerns head-on and seek help, either by speaking to a medical professional or by investigating strategies that will assist you in overcoming your issues.
If you are always thinking to yourself 'why am I so short', then the first thing to do is to accept that height isn’t everything (and it isn’t). Many short people live successful and fulfilling lives.
Change your focus to concentrate on your strengths and best qualities, physical and non-physical, this will boost your confidence. Learn about and develop coping strategies which will help deal with any unwanted remarks or jokes. As you learn to live your life free from any inhibitions about your height, your insecurities will diminish and your self-confidence will gradually increase.
Be happy with your body and enjoy life.