Men, Why Are You Lying About Your Height?

We asked a neuroscientist what drives guys – including US presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (allegedly) – to give themselves a leg up.
​Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis. Photo: Getty Images

Men love to add an extra inch or two to their actual height. We know that. Women are at it too, with their own physical hangups, but guys fudging their height on dating apps is so commonplace it feels almost passé to point out. We as a society are mad for great big tall guys, and anything short of that is not enough. But that’s where we’re wrong – I know of 5’7’’ men who are absolutely killing it; electric in every facet of their life, with absolutely charged romantic lives. Height isn’t always the life-defining factor for those who don’t wish it to be.


But then you’ve got Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis and his curled-up-toe cowboy boots. The allegation is that DeSantis wears heel lifts inside his boots, meaning the entire front portion of the shoe is empty (and that his foot is in a high-heel posture within the boot), leading to the curling phenomenon and giving the self-reported 5”11’ politician a few extra inches of height. 

TikTok is awash with fevered debate about the boots. While there are lots of deeply sarcastic “slay queen”-type comments, it is true that tall presidential candidates tend to do better in the US. For the record, DeSantis’ campaign team has denied that the Florida governor wears lifts.

Whatever the case may be, we wanted to find out what might be driving this kind of behaviour. So we spoke to neuroscientist Eldin Hasa to find out more. 

VICE: So, given the internet’s debating guys’ heights on dating apps and Ron DeSantis’ curly Wild West boots, why might men lie about their height?
From the neuroscientist’s perspective, there are several reasons. Obviously, you've got your combination of biological factors, physiological, socio-cultural factors. According to evolutionary psychology, men are worried and preoccupied about their height due to an inherent desire to appear dominant and attractive to potential partners. So it's kind of like an animal instinct deeply ingrained in their ancestral DNA. First, to appear more attractive to their potential partners, but then also, like an alpha male, to ward off any potential suitors that she might have. So, over time, the preference for taller mates, in a sexual sense – and this is all unconscious, by the way – may have evolved as a result of evolutionary pressures. 


Why do men compare themselves to other men, though?
These things have evolved as a societal comparison. The human brain has a natural tendency to compare himself to others. And this is unconscious, so height is readily observed. So let's say you go to a networking event: Unconsciously, the brain will be scanning the room and do the comparison. You know, like ‘Who is shorter than me? Taller than me? Better looking than me? What is their social status, financial status,’ whatever it is. But they go through these sequences, complex steps within a split second to put themselves in a certain rank, ‘whether I am better off or worse than the people I'm surrounded by’. And one which is very obvious is height. And we compare our physical traits.

So when men perceive themselves as shorter than others, this can trigger related preoccupation to other issues that they might carry related to their self-esteem and social status. There is actually a physiological activation of the brain region associated with self-esteem and social status. So it's not something that is within the control of your conscious awareness: It’s instantaneous – it happens within the brain without your conscious awareness. 

Why else might men be preoccupied with their height?
Cultural and societal influences. So these factors play a significant role in height fixation. It's like we've been programmed: The cultural ideas, the media portrayals, the societal expectations frequently emphasise taller men as a symbol of power, success and attractiveness. You know the old saying when you ask a woman, what is attractive in men? ‘Tall, dark and handsome’ – you've heard it a million times. The societal influence shapes individual's self-perception and contributes to concerns related to height. 


If a guy’s obsessed about his height, or lack thereof, might that interlink with other issues?
There's a lot of research in neuroscience that indicates perception of body image and self-esteem are interconnected to brain regions involved in self-representation and emotional processing. So men who are dissatisfied with their height may experience negative emotions and lower self-esteem much more frequently, which can have an impact on the overall mental and physical well-being.

If someone might perceive themselves to be shorter, might they then also start to judge and obsess over other parts of their body? 
Well, self-criticism and negative self-image, in simple terms, is called ‘inner conversation’. Your entire experiences in your external world, in your three-dimensional world, it's actually experienced from your inner thoughts, feelings, beliefs. And especially that inner conversation, that silent voice that is constantly saying ‘I'm so stupid’, ‘I'm such an idiot. How could I have done this?’ ‘Oh, I'm such a this, I’m such a that.’ And even when we might be passing by a mirror, unconsciously we are looking, not to say, ‘Oh, wow, look at this handsome guy, you look amazing.’ We are self-criticising; we are looking for faults. This is actually societal also – society teaches men to actually look for faults. ‘What's wrong with me? What's missing?’


What’s one of the things you do in your coaching to help men concerned about their height?
People seldom stop and count their blessings, or maybe even focus on all the achievements and accolades to date. Take a piece of paper, maybe even a vision board – I call it an achievement accolades board – you take a note and put pictures and cutouts of all the things you have already achieved and all the positive attributes about yourself. And once you do that, you are actually consciously physiologically rewiring the brain to focus on what's good about you. And this is a process, one of the tools to actually change the negative self-image and low self-esteem and improve your self-esteem. 

Because, you know, we also buy into the myth that everyone is doing it, everybody's self-criticising, everybody's judging the size of the hands, the penis, the whatever. But the idea is so deeply indoctrinated in their brain that they feel overwhelmed. That's why people reach out for things to actually suppress those feelings: maybe too much food, too much alcohol, maybe they take drugs or whatever. They seek external validation for something they have the power to change internally. No amount of external circumstances can make improvements, can actually give them what they truly require. It's an inside-out experience. 

What would you tell the guys you speak to if they encounter women on dating apps stating their preference is men six foot and above, for example?
I tell them to actually stay away from dating for a short period of time until you have worked on yourself – your self-esteem and self-worth – and then you can go there. Because the problem with just looking for a mate to satisfy the sexual needs and other needs you have, you're not going to achieve the overall objective. So, heal first, and then go dating. And once you have healed, and you feel so full and complete, as in: It's not like: “my other half”, rather, “I am a whole person. I have so much unconditional love for myself”, that actually, you have, on a cellular level – you have this feeling that “I don't need anyone”. And the moment you feel like that, you're going to attract an equal, fully-healed partner who is going to be a mirror image of how you are today.