The Napoleon Complex Theory: Why Are Short People Annoying?
What Is the Napoleon Complex Theory?
When I look back at my life and think of all the people who have wronged me in some way, most of them seemed to be small people. . .small as in short.
It’s called the Napoleon complex, and it occurs amongst short people who have a lot to prove because of their stature. This is easy to recognize because of their antagonistic, overly aggressive and bossy attitude, particularly towards people taller than they are. They also tend to be overachievers, having to excel at everything to make up for their size; basically, they have an inferiority complex.
Other names for the Napoleon complex include short man syndrome, small man syndrome, little man syndrome, small person complex or, in Afrikaans, kort gat kompleks (short @rse complex).
The name of this theory stems from Napoleon Bonaparte, who was said to be short. However, it has actually been discovered that, at 5’ 6", he was about average in height at the time—however, this would be considered short by today’s standards. He was simply short compared to his Imperial guards, who were mostly above average height. He also was said to have had trouble sleeping and claimed to only have a few hours of sleep a night. Maybe he was awake all night thinking about his height or plotting how to inflict humiliation on his taller opponents.
Six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.— Napoleon Bonaparte
However, humans are barely more than animals, and just like the rest of the creatures on earth, it’s survival of the fittest. Certain traits are instinctively more desirable to men and women.
A lot of men like women with nice long legs, a shapely derrière, big breasts and a pretty face. Likewise, a lot of women like tall, dark and handsome guys who are well-built, and don’t want to be with a guy who is shorter than them—especially when they wear high heels, platforms or some other ridiculous man-made contraption that makes it even harder for short guys to keep up.
It sounds clichéd and stereotyped, and it all comes down to personal preference. However, it’s just an instinctive, evolutionary thing that has been passed down through generations over the years, and, like bad habits, it’s hard to unlearn. We want the best partners to breed with—that is our nature.
So what? Should short people be left out in the cold?
It’s for this reason that short people have to develop other means of attracting people and being liked. They become funny comedians, very talkative and often mischievous. Take a look at Richard “Hamster” Hammond from Top Gear. Though he is probably one of the more likable short people out there, he is nonetheless annoying with his Rod Stewart looks and bright, white teeth. The fact that he rushes about in Porsche 911s all the time just makes you want to squish him under your shoe.
(Just playing, Hammond. You’re all right.)
Short Male Celebrities
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.
- The clothes you wear can make a difference. Wearing garments with vertical stripes makes you look taller, while horizontal stripes make you look shorter and fatter.
- Black is slimming, so dark colours work well when trying to look taller. I often wear black clothes, and people have remarked that I’m very tall (I am in fact 6 feet tall, which is still tall compared to a lot of men around here).
- Baggy clothes that don’t fit make you look shorter, so clothes that fit and are figure-hugging might be a good idea.
- Keep your hair short; do not grow it long. With tall people, long hair usually looks fine.
- Keep slim and exercise regularly. Being fat can make you look shorter.
- Always walk tall, with your head held up high and your shoulders back and broad. Slouching and bad posture work against you.
- Your shoes can give you a little bit of extra height, especially boots. There are even inserts that can add on an extra inch or two—the difference between being small and being of average height.
- If you are very desperate, you can undergo surgery and have bone extensions put in. This can effectively make you as tall as you want, but there will likely be surgical scarring and you'll have to cover up.
Some Impractical Solutions for Looking Taller
- Wear stilts.
- Wear high heels or platform shoes (seems to work for women well enough!).
- Hang around with men that are shorter than you are—it'll make 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.
- Hang on a torture rack for a spell. That should stretch you out a bit. Don’t be surprised if afterward you can’t walk for a bit, seeing as your limbs will be out of their sockets.
- Lie about having a disease that made you small. People might feel compassion for you.
- Become rich and famous—that way, people will want to be you regardless.
Like the 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 short. . .or all of the above. That’s just mean.
And let’s face it, short people are often discriminated against and suffer from being the butt of jokes throughout their lives. A lot of the time they’re not taken seriously. They earn less than taller men at work and don’t receive promotions as often. In the past, they’ve even had trouble being accepted when applying for recruitment in the military, though I don’t know if this still applies today.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."— Mark Twain
Some dismiss the Napoleon complex theory, saying that tall men can be just as aggressive, but people don’t notice as much as they do when a small guy throws a tantrum. They start to attribute this aggressive attitude to his height, which is the first thing they notice.
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 shorter man will back down and retreat. This is called the Gentle Giant Complex or syndrome.
This applies to dogs as well. Have you ever noticed how big breeds of dogs such as Great Danes can be pretty friendly compared to the smaller dogs like Dachshunds or various terrier breeds (terrierists, I call them), that bark and bite all the time? They can’t be big, burly guard dogs—they can only be 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.
Short people are not all bad, and some can be quite humble. But, just like with any other group, a number of them aren’t so good. They can be nice when they’re your friends, but if they become your enemies, watch out—they can be ruthless little buggers. They’re small, but bloody vicious, with beady eyes, sharp teeth and an even sharper tongue. I once had the misfortune of living next door to such a person. 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.
There were some kids in my class who were tiny—some barely over 4 or 5 feet tall, depending on which grade we were in—and they all seemed to stick together to form their own band of miserable men.
The first time I ever encountered one of these people was in preschool. I remember having gotten into a spat with this one kid with glasses, and his friend—a smaller kid—launched into an aggressive, protective mode like a faithful lapdog and started chasing me around the classroom. I remember running around and around the table trying to elude him and tire him out, and all the while he was growling, “Why did you do that?!" Snarl! "Why did you do that to him?!" Snap!. . .even though it was really none of his business.
Tall Doesn't Mean Tough
But by far one of the worst people I ever came across was in my first year at Grade 1 of primary school. This kid was ruthless. He had no morals or scruples. He went out of his way to relentlessly terrorize me.
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 point 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. For a while, I unwillingly went along with his demands, but sometimes I tried to negotiate and reach a compromise.
He never actually took the food or the lunch money for himself and to this day I don’t know why. Most bullies would. It might have actually helped him grow if he had a bit of nutrition. Looking back, he wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box.
One day when he came along with his usual rubbish, I called his bluff and I 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 or not I can’t remember.
But through the years, I had run-ins with him from time to time. 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, how I could get it and where I should look. As a kid, I was naïve and and allowed myself to be fooled. I ended up crawling in the dirt under a building looking for this thing. He probably had a lot less trouble fitting in tight spaces than I did.
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. . .but not in height.
It could very 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 that 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.
Which are you?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Anti-Valentine