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Too short to date?

Dear Alice,

I am a twenty-three-year-old man, and I haven't had any kind of sexual intercourse for the last year and a half. I have gone this long because I am intimidated by women. Even though friends and women tell me that I am attractive, I am still very self-conscious about my physical appearance. I always feel that women will not take me seriously because of my height (5'5"). What should I do?

— Self-conscious

Dear Self-Conscious,

There are so many qualities to consider when finding the perfect partner. According to evolutionary psychology theory, humans tend to appreciate similarities when selecting a partner, often looking for someone who speaks the same language, practices the same religion, and is the same ethnicity. As for physical features, however, this isn't necessarily the case. In Western cultures, societal expectations are such that the man is generally taller than the woman. For this reason, in heterosexual relationships, women often seek men who are taller than themselves. However, this doesn't mean that your dating prospects are shot or that women won't take you seriously! Keep on reading to learn more about these expectations and how it plays out in the dating world. 

It's true that studies have shown that women value the height of a potential partner more than men. While men are most satisfied when their partner is slightly shorter than themselves, women find satisfaction most when their partner is taller than themselves. The reasoning behind this preference is unclear but may be explained by an evolutionary desire for taller men symbolic of good health and reproductive success. While men generally desire shorter female partners, short men such as yourself are more likely to be willing to date women their height or taller, a potentially evolutionary tactic to maximize mating pool. For a 5’5’’ man like you, consider that the average height of women is about 5’4’’. Thus, there are still plenty of women that are shorter than yourself if you do feel strongly about dating someone shorter or feel concerned that a woman wouldn't be interested in you because you're too short. 

That being said, this overall pattern of preferences doesn't indicate how a specific person will feel about your height. You could meet someone who is much shorter than you and would prefer to date someone significantly taller, but you could also meet someone taller than you that doesn't mind that you're shorter. A lot of how people will respond to you can have to do with your own self-confidence. Many men feel dissatisfaction when it comes to dating women with height preferences or feeling nervous that they aren't tall enough. While there is no way to change your height, the good news is there are steps you can take to improve your perception of this issue and to become less self-conscious overall.

Insecurity, or the critical inner voice that you are experiencing, often stems from negative experiences and a subsequent pattern of destructive thoughts. It's common for people to harbor unconscious fears and insecurities, especially when it comes to intimacy and relationships. One method to overcome this negative self-perception is through Voice Therapy, a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This and other CBT strategies may be helpful in challenging your thought patterns, and support from a mental health provider may help with integrating this practice into your life.

This process won't always be easy, as making changes often induces anxieties and other negative feelings. By working through your feelings of self-consciousness and inadequacy, you may project a more confident, attractive, and healthy attitude that women respond to positively.

Good luck!

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Last updated Jul 12, 2022
Originally published Feb 24, 1995

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