Being “big” is a relative term that can mean different things for different people. For some, being big may be about physical size and weight. For others, it could relate more to influence, success, or status. There’s no definitive threshold where someone is universally considered big, but there are some general guidelines and perspectives to help understand when you might be viewed as big in various contexts.
When am I physically big?
Physically, being big often relates to weight and body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. Here are some general BMI classifications:
|18.5 – 24.9
|Normal or Healthy Weight
|25.0 – 29.9
|30.0 and Above
So according to BMI, you would generally be considered physically big or obese with a BMI of 30 or above. However, BMI is not a perfect measure. It does not distinguish between fat, muscle, or bone mass, for example. So some very muscular people may have high BMIs without much fat. There are other more accurate ways to measure body fat percentage that your doctor can use.
Height is another factor in physical size. The average height for adult men in the US is around 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm), while the average adult female height is around 5 feet 4 inches (162 cm). So you would generally be considered physically big or tall if you are significantly above those average heights for your gender.
Clothing and shoe sizes can be another indicator of physical size. For men’s clothing in the US, pants with a waist size of 36 inches or above may be considered on the bigger side. Shoe sizes above 12 in men’s are also larger than average. For women’s clothing, sizes above 16 are generally thought of as plus sizes denoting larger body types. Shoe sizes above size 10 in women would also be on the bigger end.
When does my weight become a health risk?
More important than categorical labels of big or small is your health. Excess weight can increase risks for conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and certain cancers. The most relevant thresholds relate to increased health risks based on weight:
|25.0 to 29.9
|Obese Class I
|30.0 to 34.9
|Obese Class II
|35.0 to 39.9
|Obese Class III
|40.0 and above
As the table shows, once your BMI enters the obese range of 30 or higher, your health risks start to increase substantially. The higher your BMI, the more severe the associated health risks become on average. Talk to your doctor about your BMI, body fat percentage, and other clinical health markers to properly assess your health risks based on your weight.
Am I big for my age?
Whether you are considered big for your age depends on growth charts that pediatricians use to track child development. According to the CDC growth charts, a 10-year-old boy’s weight is considered:
|5th to 84th percentile
|85th to 94th percentile
|95th percentile or greater
So a 10-year-old boy whose weight is in the 95th percentile or higher for his age would be considered big. For girls, the thresholds are slightly lower, with a weight in the 90th percentile or above qualifying as big for their age.
These percentiles account for normal growth patterns at different ages for boys and girls. A boy in the 99th percentile at age 5 may be big for his age, but following a normal growth curve at age 15. It’s about comparing to other children of the same age and gender.
When am I considered big professionally?
Professionally, being big is largely about influence, responsibilities, compensation, and reputation relative to your peers.
Some signs you may be considered big in your profession include:
- Being in a senior leadership role like CEO, Director, VP, or Partner
- Managing large teams, budgets or P&L responsibility
- Having a highly competitive salary relative to industry averages
- Being recognized by industry awards, fellowships, or press coverage
- Publishing books, research papers, or thought leadership content
- Being invited to speak at conferences and events as an expert
The specific metrics of professional success vary by industry and job function. But in general, if you wield significant influence and responsibilities compared to others in similar roles, you are likely considered professionally big within your field.
Big fish in a small pond
You may feel like a big fish in your current company or role, but still have room to grow in the broader industry context. Being a Director at a small 100-person firm is different than being a Director at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, for example. As you advance in your career, it’s useful to benchmark yourself both relative to your organization and to your wider professional community.
When am I a big deal in my social circle?
Socially, signs you may be considered a big deal in your social circle include:
- Being the life of the party or social connector bringing people together
- Having an oversized personality that takes over any room
- Telling the most interesting stories and having unique experiences
- Being emulated or copied by others in your circle in terms of style and preferences
- Having influence over where the group goes, does, and decides
Being socially big can manifest in positive ways like bringing people together. But it can also have negative effects like bragging, dominating conversations, or pressuring friends to follow your lead. Balance confidence with humility, and nurture relationships in both directions.
The biggest fish to you
At the end of the day, the perceptions that matter most are your own and those closest to you, not outsiders’ views on a socially big reputation. The biggest fish could simply be leading a small pond of loved ones in a healthy, happy school.
When does net worth make me financially big?
Your net worth is one way to quantify economic size and wealth. According to the Federal Reserve, here is the typical net worth in America at different ages:
|Median Net Worth
|35 or younger
|35 to 44
|45 to 54
|55 to 64
|65 to 74
So you would likely be considered big financially based on net worth if you are significantly above these medians for your age group. The top 10% of Americans have a net worth over $1 million. The top 1% are worth over $10 million. Financial big can be a slippery concept though, since expenses, debt, and cost of living also factor in.
Warren Buffett famously said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” True wealth comes from planting seeds daily to shade those around you, not just yourself. Big financial net worth may impress some people, but it’s the small persistent investments in others that define you.
How big is my online influence?
In today’s digital world, your online influence may cause some to view you as a big deal. Signs of sizable social media influence include:
- Having over 100,000 followers on a major platform like Instagram or Twitter
- Generating over 100,000 video views regularly on Youtube or TikTok
- Publishing content that gets high engagement and shares
- Working with big brands as an influencer or affiliate
- Being verified with a blue checkmark on social platforms
But raw follower counts can be misleading. Having 10,000 engaged, loyal followers who actually watch and interact with your content has more impact than 1 million ghosts who never see your posts. Quality trumps quantity when measuring true influence.
Spotlights and shadows
With great online power comes great responsibility. Spotlights cast shadows. Be aware of erecting unhealthy self-comparisons for others against a curated social image. Use your impact to amplify goodness.
When does confidence become arrogance?
Big egos have a tipping point where self-assurance veers into arrogance. Here are some warning signs your confidence may be crossing into harmful arrogance territory:
- Believing your needs and wants automatically take priority over others’
- Talking constantly about yourself and your achievements
- Having little interest in learning from others or hearing their perspectives
- Feeling you deserve special rules, exceptions, or treatment
- Refusing to admit mistakes or apologize for poor behavior
- Surrounding yourself only with people who reinforce your self-image
Arrogance tries to build itself up by putting others down. If your confidence causes those around you to feel small, it may be time for some self-reflection.
The arrogance antidote
The antidote to arrogance is focusing less on the “I” and more on the “we”. How can I lift others up? Contribute to my community? Make a positive difference? When your confidence serves others, it ceases to be arrogance.
Being big is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. We all have areas of life where we feel big and others where we have room to grow. Physical size is just one limited dimension. Focus less on comparing yourself to others on some external big-small scale. Nurture your unique talents to make a difference. If you brighten the worlds immediately around you – your loved ones, your work, your passions – “how big” you are will take care of itself.