The Feedback Loop of the diminutive

I’ve known of, known, knew, heard of…an obese woman who was obese from her earliest childhood recollections. Her entire life was spent in a rotund body. Her emotional and physical formative years were all spent in that overweight body.

Suddenly, after a lifetime of failed romance and newly earned lucrative income, she decides to do something about it this “problem.” She takes a drastic “action.” She loses weight, quite visibly. She loses a lot of weight in the span of months. People who don’t know her well, the ones not privy, whisper and estimate to each other what she has done to accomplish such a drastic weight loss. Theories abound, but no one can ever know except her tightest circles. Everyone can note one thing: despite the fact she has shed inches from her waist and scores of pounds from her scale, her attitude is tragically…the same. She continues ot have the fat woman attitude. Sharp, harsh, bitter, sarcastic, loud, overbearing…her body altered, her psyche, not so much.

I don’t want to talk about obese women. There are enough men who don’t mind spending hours lamenting such women, but that bores me.

Rather, I want to extrapolate something of this phenomena to make a general point.

Our character, our very civilized essence, is not formed in a vacuum. Obviously.

We grow up in amid a society of peers and non-peers alike, and our formative childhood and teen years are a period of emotional malleability. Our personality and outlook is shaped by a multitude of feedback loops which serve to perpetuate and stunt certain behavioral patterns. Oft repeated is the research showing that attractive children receive more favorable attention than unattractive children from adults. This in turn creates an optimistic and gracious adult, for someone whose childhood is bolstered by external favoritism will extract from their inner core a pleasant and hopeful, sunny demeanor. Pretty girls are much friendlier and happier (even if it’s all fake) than ugly girls. The feedback loop for a developing child is composed of his presentation and the treatment that it elicits from society and his peers. The more favorable and palatable his presentation, the greater the acceptance and embracing are the reactions he receives from his human surroundings.

Personality is an important element of the feedback loop, especially as the person matures into teen years, but physical appearance rivals personality for a good portion of early life. Young adults are the harshest judges of physiotype. They are the least forgiving of physical imperfections. Even adults stoop to the lowest levels when it concerns their treatment of children based on physical appearance and personality. The feedback loops are perpetuated further by the treatment you elicit by virtue of your overall presentation. Which in turn is reinforced, thus eliciting the concomitant treatment in yet greater degrees exponentially.

The fat girl I mentioned earlier, having grown up fat, encountered dismissive and disinterested reactions throughout her entire life. She turned into a loud shrew who found that boisterous bitterness cloaked her hurt and was the most potent device in her arsenal which broke the the shields of physical anonymity and repulsion that stemmed from her obesity. Her personality became etched in stone behind the blubbery walls of societal marginalization. As humans, our goal is to exist and fit in, but often we don’t fit in. In response, we react by flaunting our alienation in annoying doses of social antipathy. It’s the “if I can’t join them…” dynamic played out as our personality.

All physical shortcomings that are experienced from youth onward leave a marked impact on our personality development. You can witness this firsthand if you pay attention.

For instance, I know of a big man. He’s about 6’6″ and weighs about 250. He’s not fat, but he’s not lithe. He’s just a big mother. He walks around with the utmost nonchalant confidence, is unsmiling, does little to engage others, yet comes across as entirely socially capable even though he does nothing to convey such a notion. This is something he earns by nature of his size and height. Conversely, I know of another man who is about 5’6″ and who seems like the ultimate supplicating, hurried spaz ever. He tries to befriend everyone in his path, and tries to strike up a conversation with anyone who will listen. He lives externally and tries to please the world by ingratiating himself. Two studies in feedback loops. The short man who has never learned to be the master of his kingdom, and the tall man who lorded over the kingdom his entire life. And they grew up to represent the feedback loop which society presented them with, and which they in turn present us with.

It all boils down to a comment I read in one of the oldest blog posts I’ve been to subscribed to. Titled “7 Observations on Dating for Short Guys,” I first read and commented on it almost 2 years ago. The post was an insightful examination of the obstacles short men face in this world, and the ensuing comment stream has been notable as well, representing the male and female perspective. Today, a female posted something which struck me as the greatest, most sincere truth a woman can spell out for short men. She wrote:

I am one of the shorter women at 5’1- and yes, my choice is bigger. However, for me it’s not so much about height as it is about self-confidence. Short guys who hit on me in the past have come across as desperate, needy, and vulnerable in their sloppy attire, posture, and the way they spoke. That was the biggest turn off ever. For one guy, he constantly hunched over (making him seem even shorter still). He really offended me too, as his repeated complaints about lack of an ability to find a girlfriend who would accept his height, made me think I was a last resort when he asked me out (to which I was absolutely horrified and shell-shocked as we did not mesh well either imo). I do have someone I like who’s my height right now- and the reason is for his confidence, self-assurance, and he takes pride in himself. Having the right attitude really trumps height for me. I mean, how can I be proud to be with someone who can’t even be proud of/comfortable with them-self? Seriously. Avoid the surgeries. Don’t cave in to fulfilling the stereotypical tall male. Instead, build up confidence in being yourself. That matters so much more to woman I believe.

She spells out the exact feedback loop which short men fall prey to. Short men (and boys), elicit bullying, castigation, sarcasm, ridicule…and they construct a needy, clingy personality in response which the commenter speaks of when she notes they are “desperate, needy, and vulnerable…” She hits the bullseye. She is honest about what she wants but she also recognizes her motives and rationales, which is more than I can say for most women.

The personality traits she prizes–confidence, self-assurance, pride in personal appearance–are not what we expect from short men. More often than not, short men represent the polar opposite of these characteristics. The modern societal feedback loop does nothing to bolster such favorable qualities in short men. In fact, the feedback loop only chips away and trivializes a short man’s behaviors in these contexts. The short man learns to be ignored, overlooked, humiliated, so he becomes needy, he grovels, he seeks to please, he smiles, he yaps, he tries to get on good sides. He does everything the 6’6″ dude does not. We are shaped by our environment.

The feedback loop is our greatest manipulator. Nature vs nurture is nothing but a vast feedback loop.

That which we intrinsically are predisposed to experiencing is enhanced, for good or bad, by our environment (feedback). We live a vicious circle. Who you are now, represents the feedback you fostered when you were cementing your personality and growth plates.