Why do acquaintances think I have grown taller as an adult?
August 19, 2018 4:05 PM   Subscribe

This might be an unanswerable question but I'm too intrigued by this strange phenomenon to pass up the chance to ask. I saw a group of people I mostly haven't seen in several years today and many of them (separately) exclaimed that I was taller! I am almost 30 years old though and pretty definitely not taller than I was ten years ago. What's going on?

All of these people knew me as a child, and I was definitely shorter than average until about age 17, when I had a huge growth spurt. However, all of these people have seen me at least a few times since then, and several of them have seen me frequently as an adult and even as recently as a month ago. At least 6 people, including the ones I have seen very recently, claimed I look taller. This happened in separate conversations so it wasn't just one person saying it and everyone else agreeing. My mom also told me that one of her friends who saw me a few weeks ago commented the same thing, about me getting taller, to my mom. Several of them compared me to themselves or others too - like, "But you're taller than Sue! She's always been taller than you!" or "Since when are you taller than me?"

I was wearing flat shoes (same as always), have the same hairstyle, and generally look... the same as usual. Is there anything, other than false/poor memory, that might make people perceive me as taller?
posted by raspberrE to Human Relations (20 answers total)
Some people get shorter as they age. Perhaps you are taller relatively speaking.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:07 PM on August 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

Standing up straighter/not slouching can make you taller (I've seen it add 6 inches to a person's height). Standing more confidently can make you seem taller.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:08 PM on August 19, 2018 [19 favorites]

Better posture?
posted by MelissaSimon at 4:08 PM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

They're wearing flat shoes & normally are wearing heels when they see you. I always think people I've worked with in offices look taller when I see them out of work because I'm usually in flats then.
posted by wwax at 4:16 PM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

It may also be a perception based on how you may have matured as a person in the interim. Have you ever met someone you heard about or maybe only saw in pictures or maybe a celebrity and they were shorter than you had expected? It's like the phrase, "looking up to someone" becomes a literal thing for us - which may stem from looking up to adults and admiring them when we were little children and so the height difference equals greatness. While your friends may not have "looked down on you" in your younger years, when you're away from someone for a long time, especially during a period like your 20s when you're going to mature a lot, it may be your personality that they're responding to and you appear to physically be taller in comparison to your less mature younger self even if your actual height never changed. I hope that makes sense. (I can't explain why this might be the case for people who saw you recently, though)
posted by acidnova at 4:18 PM on August 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

Is there any reason why you might be appearing more confident, happy, or otherwise big-aura than usual? People often can tell that something is different but they can't identify what it is, so they resort to an assumption or guess like "new glasses?" or "you changed your hair?"
posted by sheldman at 4:19 PM on August 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Have you lost a lot of weight? Sometimes slim people look taller
posted by EatMyHat at 4:20 PM on August 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah perceived height is like 70% actual height, 15-25% carriage, posture, body language, attitude and 5-15% the combined footwear. And some 5-10% comes from context of who you are with, e.g. tall guys looks short when they hang out with the college girls volleyball team.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:25 PM on August 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

If these people knew you as a child for an extended period before your growth spurt, maybe their mental image of you is still the short one, despite having seen you a few times since?
posted by peacheater at 4:29 PM on August 19, 2018 [18 favorites]

Not just weight but also fit of clothing. For example skinny and slim jeans are in now whereas 90s/00s was very baggy/flare/boot leg stuff. And also if you changed clothing styles recently. I agree that parents or older people sometimes think "kids" or "young" = short.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:13 PM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

They may not have noticed you getting taller before, because it was a gradual change. They could just be used to you being shorter, especially if they grew before you did. So, their mental image of you got stuck on "short" even if they saw you at full height for a while, just because they didn't notice.

Now they see you, there are other changes, and you seem different generally. So they look for what's different from their mental image, and height is easy to focus on.
posted by amtho at 5:34 PM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding the confidence part. I once mentioned to a roommate that he was lucky being so tall, to which he walked right over to me and I realized with a start that he was an inch shorter than me. It was all his attitude.
posted by Mogur at 5:35 PM on August 19, 2018

Posture, weight, clothing and the confidence that goes along with these things (among other things) can have a big difference on perceived height.
posted by slkinsey at 5:46 PM on August 19, 2018

Have you been exercising recently? Better abdominal muscles, a stronger core - these can lead to not just better posture but also a gain in height (your spine becomes - not just less slouchy, but also less "compressed"). I had people remark on the same thing after I had exercised and strengthened my core very consistently over more than half a year - the gain in height was not just an impression but actual. (I've since lost it after I stopped exercising.)

You could try measuring and keeping track of your height from now on to see if there's any actual difference/gain.
posted by aielen at 5:56 PM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing it's a combination of your good posture and their poor memories.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:12 PM on August 19, 2018

I get this myself a lot. I’m pretty tall, which maybe you aren’t? One theory I’ve had is that people just forget that I’m very tall. Or maybe they’re used to seeing me seated. Also, I am skinnier and I wear better fitting clothes than 10 or 15 years ago, so those things might explain it too.
posted by Xalf at 6:24 PM on August 19, 2018

It’s almost certainly that they knew you when you were a child, especially if they’re older than you - it’s hard for adults to update their mental image of a kid unless they see you very regularly now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:59 AM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd weigh in with everyone saying that the majority of their memories of you are from when you were shorter and you weren't around them as much after your late growth spurt.

Anecdotally, I saw a relative earlier this year and he seemed like he'd lost quite a bit of weight. The thing is, he lost that weight almost a decade ago, and I've seen him multiple times in the years since. But that was a handful of moments compared to seeing him appearing more heavyset over decades, so my memory of how he looks now never set in.
posted by mikeh at 7:01 AM on August 20, 2018

Weightlifting, yoga, or other core work? I definitely stand straighter and keep my shoulders back in a "proud chest" posture when I'm regularly lifting, because that's the strongest position for barbell exercises. I didn't expect it to have that effect going about my normal daily activities but it absolutely does.
posted by wnissen at 10:14 AM on August 20, 2018

All great answers, marked as best the possibilities that seem most likely. I think it probably a combination of poor memory/many more years of the image of me as a short kid (there were lots of older people there and a few my age, and I used to be shorter than all the ones my age when the older folks knew us as kids); I have gotten a lot stronger in recent years and do martial arts that has probably improved my posture; and I am currently majorly pregnant - which is the opposite of the weight loss many above suggested, but I think it's that "something is different" combined with me actually feeling more comfortable and confident in my body than usual.

Interesting! Thanks, mefi.
posted by raspberrE at 7:47 PM on August 20, 2018

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