The Napoleon Complex Theory: Why Are Short People Always the Worst to Put Up With?


A Common Trait Between All My Tormentors

When I look back at my life, I tend to think back to all the people who have wronged me in some way, and I’ve always had this belief that most of them were small people; small as in… short. I don’t really know the politically correct way of putting it. It could be people of diminished stature, or is that diminutive stature?

You have to be careful because that could refer to people with dwarfism. And where do you draw the line? Because the late Gary Coleman, may he rest in peace, was technically not a dwarf although he was quite small as an adult. He contracted a disease as a young boy which pretty much kept him small and relatively young looking until his dying day, which was premature to say the least, and not attributed to that disease, but because he knocked his head during a fall. Some cruelly joke that he didn’t have that far to fall in any case, but I think it’s a bit too soon to start with all that.

Anyway, they’re not all bad, short people, and some can be quite humble. But quite a number of them aren’t so good. I once had the misfortune of living next door to such a person. I had him as a neighbour for a couple of years when I was younger. Small people can be nice when they’re your friends, but if they become your enemies – watch out, because they can be ruthless little buggers. They’re like wolverines, or something; small, but bloody vicious, with beady eyes and sharp teeth and an even sharper tongue.

This was the case with this kid. We were friends for nearly a year before we fell out, and he went from being one of my best friends to one of my worst enemies seemingly overnight. I think I’ve mentioned him before in one of my articles, called Negotiating Niggling Neighbours. Names that crop up in this article shall not me mentioned to protect the (not so) innocent… and also to prevent retribution. Some of them took karate in school and are therefore experts in hand to knee combat, you see…

There were other kids at school, mostly in the same class as I, that were tiny – some barely over 5 foot, or 4 foot depending on which grade we were in, and they all seemed to stick together to form their own little band of miserable men.

I think the first time I ever encountered one of these creatures was when I was in preschool. I remember having gotten revenge on this one kid with glasses for something he did to me earlier, which I was clearly entitled to do seeing as "he started it", and this smaller kid - his friend - like a faithful lapdog, launched into this aggressive, protective mode, and started chasing me around the classroom. I remember running round and round the one table trying to either elude him or tire him out, all the while he was growling, “Why did you do that?! Snarl! Why did you do that to him?! Snap!" It was really none of his business.

But by far one of the worst little people I ever came across was in my first year at Primary School, in Grade 1. This kid was ruthless. He had no morals; no scruples. He went out of his way to relentlessly terrorize me. You know the one child I mentioned above that I likened to a dog in an extended simile? Well, this boy was literally some sort of vicious animal. He actually did growl sometimes and bare his teeth when he talked. It was kind of funny but disturbing at the same time. He blackmailed me at one stage after an embarrassing incident took place. I was told if I didn’t tell him what I had for lunch every day, he would tell on me. I didn’t want this and so for a while I unwillingly went along with his demands. Sometimes I tried to negotiate to try to reach a compromise. Why he actually didn’t take the food and eat it himself or the lunch money I would have had to buy food, I don’t know to this day. Most bullies do. It might have actually helped him grow if he had a bit of nutrition. He wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box, looking back.

Then one day I just called his bluff when he came along with his usual rubbish, and I just replied, “Go ahead. I don’t care.”

He did nothing, thankfully, until one day when he stabbed me with a pencil. Whether the two incidents were related I can’t remember. But through the years we were at the same school, I had run-ins with him from time to time, and despite my efforts to try and befriend him, he took every opportunity he had to make things hard for me. I once had an item that wasn’t of much monetary value but of great sentimental value, which I’m sure he stole right out of my bag. He then tormented me for the next few months, telling me that he knew where the thing was, and how I could get it; where I should look. And of course as a kid, I was naïve and believed it all, and allowed myself to be fooled. I think I ended up partially crawling under a building, in the dirt, looking for this thing. He probably had a lot less trouble fitting in tight spaces than I did.

I honestly hope to this day that he was run over by a bus or something. It wouldn’t be hard seeing as he’s probably not a lot larger than one of the wheels on it, which would make it difficult for the driver to see him anyway.

"Names that crop up in this article shall not be mentioned to protect the (not so) innocent… and also to prevent retribution. Some of them took karate in school and are therefore experts in hand to knee combat…"

As I got older and progressed through the grades, it seemed as though there were all these smaller kids around me. The sheer number of them – these angry, ankle-biting creatures – grew and grew… in number, not height. It could well have been that I was experiencing more growth at that age than they were. Maybe they caught up years later. But then again, I’ve seen some of them on Facebook and the like. Not only do they look the same, but they’re still short, and a lot of them overcompensate for it by going to the gym excessively, so they end up looking very comical like Mark Wahlberg in Pain and Gain. So I don’t know. I guess I can take comfort in knowing that.

Anyway, those are some of my experiences. Now to get to the bottom of why. It seems as though there’s a rule here: if you were the smallest kid in the class at school, and/or if you are under 5’8 as an adult, then you’re more likely to be a complete and utter @$$hole.

It’s called the Napoleon Complex: short people who have an axe to grind with practically everyone, and have a lot to prove seemingly because of their short stature. This is easy to recognize because of their apparent antagonistic, overly aggressive and bossy attitude, particularly towards people taller than they are, as well as perhaps being overachievers – having to excel at everything to make up for their size. It’s basically an inferiority complex (feeling small), but for small people.

For example, it made me laugh to see this guy on TV the one day. Even his name is funny - something like Roman Pizzi - and he appears on this show where he deals with animals and so on. He’s such a thin, tiny guy, and yet he has accomplished a lot in his life so far. Apart from being a vet, he’s a black belt in karate or judo, he can play the violin, and many other things. There were so many that he insisted were listed by the narrator (Jo Brand, I think) at the beginning of the show, that I can’t even remember them all. It’s no wonder that particular narrator sounded so depressed and monotonous all the time - having to work with him.

Other names for a Napoleon Complex include Short Man syndrome, Small Man syndrome, Little Man syndrome, Small Person Complex, or in Afrikaans, Kort Gat Kompleks (Short @rse Complex).

Don't you go around starting any trouble, right?
Don't you go around starting any trouble, right? | Source

It was obviously named after the historical figure, Napoleon Bonaparte, who was said by some to be short. But it has actually since been discovered that he was probably about average height at the time, at 5’6 – considered to be short by today’s standards. He was just short compared to his Imperial Guards, who were mostly all above average height. I should also mention that he had trouble sleeping, and claimed to only have a few hours of sleep a night. I bet he was awake all night thinking about his height, or plotting on how to inflict humiliation on his taller opponents.

After all, it was he who once claimed: “Six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.”

But as for this Napoleon Complex, you have to look at it from their (often smaller) point of view. In this world humans are merely more than animals - mammals actually - just like the rest of the creatures on earth, and just like with them, it’s survival of the fittest. There are traits that are desirable to people, both men and women. A lot of men like women with nice long legs and preferably a shapely derrière as well. Big breasts are also sought after, and a pretty face is usually a must. A nice personality is just a bonus you don’t often get.

Tom Cruise, aka Tiny Tom, still did pretty well despite his short stature.
Tom Cruise, aka Tiny Tom, still did pretty well despite his short stature. | Source

A lot of women like tall, dark and handsome guys, preferably well-built too, and don’t want to be with a guy who is shorter than them, especially when they wear high heels, or platforms, or some other ridiculous man-made contraption that makes it even harder for short guys to keep up height-wise. I remember Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire when he said he was going to kill the misogynistic pr!ck who invented high heels. Maybe that person was actually a misandrist…

As far as I know, short women are less likely to display this sort of behaviour that seems to be perceived as common in short men. It’s commonly accepted that in women, to be around 5’5 or 5’6 is about average, whereas in men it would be short. In fact, I think it’s the other way around. Taller than average women, particularly those over 6 foot, may be at a disadvantage when looking for a man, especially if they are taller than the average guy, or even men that are taller than the average guy. So they’d have to be with an even taller guy, who would probably be going on 7 foot tall at that rate. I think that makes sense.

It sounds clichéd and stereotyped, and I know it all comes down to personal preference. But these are common physical traits that people either look for in other people or wish for themselves. It’s just an instinctive, evolutionary thing that has carried over for all these years, and like bad habits, it’s hard to unlearn. We want the best partners to breed with, and then move on to the next, and then the next, and so on. That is life. That is our nature, no matter what anybody says and civilized society tries to suppress with its political correctness.

So what? Short people are left out in the cold?

It’s for this reason that short people have to develop other means of attracting people and being liked, seeing as they don’t have the looks or aforementioned physical characteristics to rely on. They become funny comedians; very talkative, and often mischievous. Look at Richard “Hamster” Hammond from Top Gear for instance – probably one of the more likeable smaller people out there, but nonetheless annoying with his Rod Stewart looks and bright, white teeth, and rushing about Porsche 911s all the time that just make you want to squish him under your shoe.

Just playing Hammond. You’re all right.

Other short celebrities

Joe Pesci (5’3”)

Willem Dafoe (5’7”)

Justin Bieber (5’6”)

Prince (5’2”)

Elijah Wood (5’5”)

Peter Jackson (5’4.75”)

Al Pacino (5’6”)

Kevin Hart (5’2”)

Lars Ulrich (5’5.5”)

Martin Scorsese (5’3”)

Like famous comedian Chris Rock says, there are rules in this world pertaining to making fun of someone. You may make fun of someone if they’re beautiful, rich, slim or tall. You may not make fun of someone if they are ugly, poor, fat, or small… or all of the above. That’s just mean.

And let’s face it, small people are often discriminated against, and suffer being the butt of a few jokes here and there throughout their lives. A lot of the time they’re not taken seriously. They reportedly earn less than taller men at work, and don’t receive promotions as often, if at all. As far as I know they’ve even had trouble being accepted when applying for recruitment in the military in the past. I don’t know if this still applies today though.

Some dismiss the whole Napoleon Complex theory, saying that tall men can be just as aggressive if not more so, but people don’t notice as much as when a small guy throws a tantrum. And they say because of his size, which is the first thing they notice, they start to attribute that to his aggressive attitude, saying it’s the root cause.

Then others claim that tall men are less likely to initiate combat with a smaller person, seeing as they assume that the odds are in their favour, and the little man will back down and retreat. This is called the Gentle Giant Complex or syndrome. I’ve seen it myself and experienced it, seeing as when a smaller dog barks and barks, eventually the big dog bites, and that’s the end of that. He’s gone in one yomp.

Speaking of dogs, have you ever noticed how big breeds of dogs like Great Danes and so on can be pretty friendly sometimes compared to the smaller dogs like Dachshunds or various Terrier (terrierists, I call them) breeds, which are often yappers that bark all the time - and biters too. They can’t be big burly guard dogs – only little lapdogs that fit in someone’s handbag, and this is very embarrassing and humiliating for them. They also often get added to a collection of small dogs, like ornaments that adorn beds like decorative scatter cushions and so on.

There are exceptions to this rule though. There are big dogs like Alsatians, Dobermann Pinschers, and Rottweilers that are born to kill right from birth or soon trained to do so. But what would you expect? They are German after all…

But that's another story.

What to Do When You're Small and Want to Appear Taller

There are solutions for this nowadays. Some of them do actually make you taller, whereas others just make you look taller, like an illusion which fools the senses of the average person.

· It’s said that the clothes you wear can make a difference, seeing as wearing garments with vertical stripes could possibly make you look taller versus horizontal ones which just make you look shorter and fatter.

· It’s been said that black is slimming, so dark colours work when trying to look taller. I often wear black clothes, and people have remarked that I’m very tall, when in fact I’m 6 foot, which is still tall compared to a lot of men around here.

· Clothes that fit and figure hugging stuff might also be good ideas seeing as baggy clothes that don’t fit can make you look shorter.

· They say you should keep your hair short and not grow it long. With tall people, long hair looks fine, usually.

· Make sure to keep slim and exercise. Being fat makes you look smaller, and being tall and fat isn’t so good either, anyway.

· Always walk tall, with head held up high and shoulders back and broad. If you slouch and don’t exercise good posture, this works against you too.

· Shoes can give you a little bit of extra height – especially boots and so on. There are even inserts available nowadays that can add on an extra inch or two. It could be the difference between being small, and being of average size.

· You could undergo surgery and have bone extensions put in, which can effectively make you as tall as you want, but will be obvious if someone sees you without your clothes on, as there will likely be surgical scarring and so on, so cover those up. Only undergo this sort of surgery if you’re really desperate.

Now for the Plain Silly Impractical Ones (Which Could Still Work):

· Wear stilts.

· Wear high heels (works for women, but I'd advise against it I you're a man).

· Wear platform shoes (see above).

· Hang around with men that are shorter than you are, making you seem taller.

· Live in a small house with a small garden with short trees. This will make it seem as though you’re towering over everything.

· Go on a torture rack for a spell. That should stretch you out a bit. Don’t be surprised if afterwards you can’t walk for a bit seeing as your limbs will be out of their sockets.

· Lie about having a disease or something that made you small. People might feel compassion for you.

· Become rich and famous, and women will want you regardless.

Which are you?

  • I'm tall and passive.
  • I'm tall and aggressive.
  • I'm short and passive.
  • I'm short and aggressive.
See results without voting

"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

— Mark Twain

© 2010 Anti-Valentine

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Comments 21 comments

Johnb 5 weeks ago

I am not tall, nor short - before getting into my 70s, I was 5'11", but have been measured a good 1=1/2 inch less at my physical. My partner is roughly the same size. I never felt like a tall person, so I don't feel any different now. We have a neighbor who is abvout 5'5" or 5'6", VERY bulked on gym (and we suspect some medicinal "goodies"). He dresses rather flamboyantly, considering he actually wears as little as possible in most cases. He is an architect, which he never lets anyone forget - whether it's his first meeting with them or, like in our case, as his neighbors. He has a tendency to look down on most people and exhibits a dismissive nature when in a conversation - mostly toward taller people. He's also incredibly impressed with himself. When he engages in conversation with others, he has a tendency to listen for a few minutes, then deliver a pronouncement and walk away - "I HAVE SPOKEN, END OF DISCUSSION". We've given up on trying to be friends - much less neighborly. It's too much trouble and not fun dealing with someone who's always making sure he's the only one with an opinion worth expressing. Too bad. What's interesting is that we have never said or done anything that would upset him, but his "small person attitude" is always on display. We've actually discussed selling our home because of some of the things he's said.

the goat 2 months ago

I'm agressive, tall strong male, but in Context. It's not used a social display or action to make me appear larger like a puff adder. The short man is something I do not enjoy. The short male has the tendency to also think they posess some superior sense of humour, but all they are doing is making fun of peoples flaws to overcompensate. They tend to be sheltered by their mid-height groupies who enjoy the caffeine like rush of the short dude hyper spaz modo energy shifts so if you do choose to crush the shorty, he's backed up and you'll be scorned. But you will not be defeated by any means, as like mentioned the bark has no bite and when you do decide to take action you will be ultimately safe. The funniest is watching a Short man raise his carbon copy Short boy. I'm witnessing that with a neighbour right now, and it's entertaining .

Desdemona 8 months ago

That's sooo true! Short people are mostly assholes! Both men and women. You were so spot on! I had a short friend who was also extremely passive-aggressive, she spent the whole time putting others down with veiled comments and when comfronted, used to blame shift, saying "How could you ever think I would do this to a friend?" Long story short: she falsely accused me of being a racist to a mixed race friend in common. The person stopped speaking to me. I found out why, eventually.

When this venemous troll got the job of her dreams, I used my influence... And a few days before her probation time was finished, she was dismissed. Ha. She didn't know I'm a vengeous person (not proud of it), I cannot stand injustice, so she paid the price for her assholeness! Short people are just venemous! At least most of them. Passive-aggressive, insecure people!

William 2 years ago

There are alot of tall people 6 foot plus who were much skinnier than me and I'm at 5 ft 8 inches. There are big taller people, little tall people, skinny shorter people, and big size shorter people. We all come in different size but we are all of the same in God's eyes

Jin 2 years ago

Thing is, if you're a small guy you just can't win. I'm 5'8 and most of the time I am laid back but when I do get angry (in the same situation a tall man would get angry) I suddenly have 'small man syndrome'. When a tall man is assertive he's seen as confident and strong, when a small man is assertive, he's seen as insecure and over compensating.

chialing 2 years ago

short guys are scary and bark like dogs

if you don't do what they say

they will keep barking and harbor a grudge

i met several of them

i don't know about America

but if they are 150 cm

they are terribly scary

no matter what you do for them

they just bark at what you don't give

and they do not love you back

Cleboone 2 years ago

This article is truth personified. Short people are extremely aggressive, defensive and more likely to pick an altercation than someone of a taller stature. As mentioned, not every short person is Bipolar or have inferior issues but MANY screw up for the few who don't behave barbaric.

If this article were not truth so many wouldn't have ended up here. Obviously people have experienced these mentally unstable personalities in order to get curious enough and research about it.

Well written passage, Author. Enough said.

Markos66 3 years ago

This article is a bit simplistic, cliched and seems to justify looking down on someone because of the cards they've been dealt. One of the other commenters is right to say (paraphrasing) "if you mistreat a group of people, don't be surprised if they eventually lash out in anger". I'm 5'10 myself, which seems to be in the middle of American males. When I encounter taller males picking on short ones, or simply deriding them for their height behind their, I'm really taken aback at how pathetic they are. You have larger men, who already enjoys a size advantage, feeling it necessary to poke fun at another man's genetics he didn't choose. These short men suffer these insults for much of their lives. Many, like most shorter men I know, let it just role of their backs--but can you really be surprised if some of them are a little testy? To be honest, most of the hotheads I know are men taller than average while the majority of relaxed, kinder male friends I've had have been shorter than me. Perhaps they've had to reflect on their situation more than a man who has always been one of the biggest. It's the reverse of what I've been told my whole life about the "napoleon complex". To be sure, there are short men out there who are assholes, but I've found there are more taller men who would fall in this category. The author was nasty in this article and "running" with an assumption just because you think it will make a solid article, even if its morbidly simplistic isn't really the best way to go in discovering truth on this earth. peace

Johnny 3 years ago

I read some of your article (it was a bit of a TL;DR situation unfortunately :P).

Anyway, I'm a short (5'6), but laid back guy. I do agree that most short guys are very upset about it and try very hard to over-compensate. I think it's a little ridiculous and unnecessary. But I also may be the exception to the rule of short guys: I've never been directly rejected for being short (no girl ever cited that as a reason not to date me to my face, despite asking out at least hundred of girls, which is an experience that most short guys seems to have had multiple times).

I also have a 6 figure job in a high ranking position at a young age (26).

I also hang out with many guys that are 6 feet plus and haven't noticed a major difference in the quantity and quality of girls that we get.

So I'm not particularly insecure about my height, but I understand why many short guys do.

Aiyana 3 years ago

Omg this just proves that there are people shallow enough to treat others differently because of height. I am 5ft but i never ever seen it as a problem i just value my life and live to the fullest it's a shame that people still discriminate on height.

This has been a wake up call for me as i have realised that people just don't the confidence that short people have because i have been short all my life and it hasn't stopped me achieving my goals in life.

If people think we have a short complex they really don't have any confidence and are not assertive in themselves why do they feel the need to discriminate on height.

tommy 3 years ago

we have a girl at work who is a terror and suffers with this i just cant absolutely stand her as well as the rest of us at our workplace and im a guy who is an mma practitioner i always try to keep my composure around her but she is always cutting me and everyone down by use of intimidation we really hate this girl she seems to love the hate and attention it just makes me sick to my stomach and really eats at me

ollyshuteye 4 years ago

The Napoleon Complex is quite interesting due the perceptions that have been created around short people considering Napoleon himself was actually above average in height for his time. People are a product of their surroundings and dogs are pretty much the same. So if you treat a small dog like an alpha male ie you carry it everywhere, you let it sleep in your bed, you let it jump on's going to think you're its bitch and it will continue to act like an aggressive alpha male until you train it properly. You wouldn't do any of that stuff with a big dog so why would you do so with a small dog? If you treat the dog like shit, it's going to get angry at of the differences between people and dogs though is that we can make a conscious decision to change. Although if you're in an unfriendly environment, chances are you're not going to turn out friendly.

Hubert 4 years ago

I am a short male and laughed at this article it was funny and i totally understand what u mean but sometimes if you keep your eyes pealed you can find some really nice short people. Being short i have learned to be patient and know people aren't used to seeing short statured people therefore don't know how to react. But i always get along with everyone because i can take a joke and don't mind explaining my short stature i actually prefer when people put it out in the open that way its never awkward :) why cry over something that's not your fault for being born with. I learn to live with it and be happy with the life i was giving.

Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine 4 years ago from My lair Author

Well exactly. That was one of the points I was trying to make. There's more than likely a reason for their behaviour.

Kevin 4 years ago

Honestly if a short person is angry, most likely they've been bullied by someone in the past. People always call the short person angry and label them with a Napoleon Compex. Never do they think "what made them that way?"

If someone is bullied because of their height, naturally they're going to get angry over time.

Shawn 4 years ago

If this article was written but instead of writing short you input a race well it would be a huge reaction. I am small in stature, around 5 feet tall. I have been bullied as a youth, but developed myself as a person to never be an easy target. I am harsh on my enemies, but I don't look for battles. I'm not easily offended, and I certainly can't say this article offends's just an ignorant view of a few isolated incidents... The world can be a tough place for shorter people, only the strong survive.

Celto 4 years ago

Lol I can't really say I've ever seen this but I'm pretty short as well and I've never been bullied before. That could be because I'm the star athlete in the school and I'm much stronger than most people around me but even then I don't see anyone being bullied over it. I'm almost positive as well that I've never heard someone said oh he's mad because he's short...that's just plain rediculous. It was interesting reading this article but I can't say I agree.

Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine 6 years ago from My lair Author

Well, these things tend to happen. They get lost in translation - particularly over the WWW!

But seriously, I was just reassuring you and making it known that my intentions were good - but with a bit of venom that was intended for those in my past, perhaps. Sometimes bias makes an article interesting to read, wouldn't you say?

I agree with what you say, though: that when small people get aggressive, they really go for it. Look at Joe "Pesky" Pesci in practically any movie he's ever been in, to see what I mean! That's the sort of image I get when I think about it. I've met some people like that too.

equealla profile image

equealla 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

I was not at the least offended, and really enjoyed your article a lot. I know exactly what you were trying to relay, because short people that are nasty, are being nasty in high frequency, ultra mode supreme. I have encountered them myself. Then we all, me included, "skinder" about them, to our utmost pleasure!

I was trying to bring across the fact that you are not offending me in my first remark, but I guess I did not do a good job with it. Perhaps I was too tired then to think properly.

Still a good article, enjoyable to read from beginning to the end!

Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine 6 years ago from My lair Author

Of course I didn't mean to offend anyone, especially not you!

It's just a generalization or a stereotype.

Not all short people are bad - I'll admit that. Some are okay. I think there are just good and bad people at the end of the day, and it probably doesn't rely a lot on how tall you are. I've likely met some people who were my size or taller than I, who were just as nasty if not more so.

But you know how it is: it made for an interesting article and I just ran with it.

equealla profile image

equealla 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

I have a lot more patience than length, so I will tolerate this article. lol

I know what you mean and have encountered some real plain nasty people that is short with kortgat sindroon or klein mannetjie sindroom.

At the other side of the coin, I am small, and on the schoolbus and in the school, at times, I had been the target for many bullies. Guess I had been nasty, too, when need be to defend myself.

Fortunately I have learned how to dodge the bullies with grace, and appreciate the others. Some short people cannot do that, and they are even "nasties" towards the rest of us short people as well! I agree they can be very unpleasant people.

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