I'm short and I think it's affecting my career

Your Life
Jim Berlucchi
March, 2014

Q: I am a 5-foot-4-inch man and I really feel as if my height is having a negative impact on my career. There are some studies that back me up. Is there anything I can do to overcome my size?

A: You bet. Stop reading the studies. Stop thinking short. Stop your negative introspection. Stop anticipating failure. Stop comparing.

Make a list of 20 personal accomplishments. Get excited about your strengths. Build your unique competencies. Anticipate success. Seize your opportunities.

Ponder the mindsets of men small in stature but large in accomplishment. Little Napoleon (after whom the short man’s overcompensating complex is named) was a mighty general. 5-foot 3-inch Muggsy Bogues had a 14-year NBA career. 5-foot-tall Danny DeVito and 5-foot-4-inch Michael J. Fox made it plenty big in Hollywood.

In the pine genius, our problems can be our opportunities; our weaknesses can become our strengths. The Church rejected the notion of predestination – we are not pre-assigned to heaven or hell. She also rejects determinism and fatalism – we are not the slaves of circumstances, natural limitations or horoscopes. Just the opposite. We are free to choose, to overcome and to hope, regardless of our circumstances and limitations.

King Saul has been described as a “head and shoulders man.” Handsome in visage, he was physically imposing. But inside he thought little of himself. As Israel’s first king, his disastrous reign ended in a tragic death. Tall exterior, but short interior.

Zaccheus was so small he had to climb a sycamore tree to see the Savior. Ironically, Jesus looked up to him. Large in faith and repentance, he received salvation with joy and is chronicled in the canon of the Scriptures. Short exterior, but tall interior (and ample Jewish chutzpah!).

Your height is incidental, but your character is intentional. Leverage your physical disadvantage into a character advantage. Focus on what you have, not what you lack, and relish your God-given abilities. Believe in God for a bright future. Put on the natural confidence befitting a son of God and don’t be afraid to exhibit it. Confidence plus competence, rooted in faith and humility, have a powerful effect. And don’t neglect the standard advice: stand erect, look people straight in the eyes, extend a strong handshake, etc. And, by the way, it doesn’t hurt to have a sense of humor about being vertically challenged. People like others who are comfortable in their own skin.

Sure, height might be an advantage. But a superlative performance will overshadow a diminutive stature – and have the tall guys looking up to you.


Jim Berlucchi is the executive director of the Spitzer Center, whose mission is to build cultures of evangelization (www.spitzercenter.org).