Napoleon Complex

Napoleon Complex – The Short Man Syndrome

~Arya Gadekar

You may be taller, but I am greater

    Napoleon Bonaparte

What is the Napoleon Complex?

The Napoleon Complex (short man syndrome) is an inferiority complex that is normally attributed to people of short stature. People who have a small height may suffer from this syndrome. Here, the personality trait is negatively inferred by reference to height.

It sometimes drives shorter men to prove that they are as manly as any other tall man. Thereby, in the same action, a taller man would be seen as confident, and on the other hand, the shorter man would look boastful.


This syndrome is characterized by aggressive behaviour born from feelings of inferiority. They may even overcompensate for their short stature by being excessively hostile, belligerent, or quarrelsome in their relationships. There are other behavioural forms that these people may experience other than violence or aggression.

These people certainly have lower self-esteem than the normal human male. To lift their self-esteem, they generally try to pursue highly ambitious goals. Short people cannot easily make themselves taller, they may act to appear psychologically taller or more dominant, assertive, or even arrogant.

Some people may wear shoes with higher heels. Other might hang the wall hangings of their room a little lower than the average size. This will give them a sense that they are tall enough like the rest of people.

Such people with a shorter height will try to achieve some extraordinary powers that will compensate for their loss. For some people, a sense of extraordinary Power can also work to increase their self-esteem and to recover them from the Napoleon Complex.

There are different methods to increase the self-esteem of a person. By practising these methods we can make a person suffering from the Napoleon Complex feel good about himself. But there is not a certain medication to do so.

The other names for the Napoleon Complex include the Napoleonic Complex and the Short man syndrome.

Why is it called the Napoleon Complex?

The Napoleon Complex is named after the first French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte whose military and amorous conquests have been attributed to the desire to compensate for his small size. It is also known as the Short man syndrome.

As the common people supposed, Napoleon compensated for his height by seeking power, war, and conquest. He compensated for the things he did not have by gaining other things which would prove him as powerful as he would be with it.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was 5 feet 6 inches tall, which was the normal average height of males but it was not enough for a leader. The French had a certain limit of height which was considered a true height for an emperor or a leader.

Symptoms and Characteristics

  • Some of the characteristics of the Napoleon Complex include domineering social behaviour. These people may be overly aggressive. Such people cannot handle occasional defeats. They may have a constant desire to overcome a problem.
  • The people suffering from the short man syndrome will go beyond any limits to get anything that they want, even if it is wrong in the first place. Such people may even commit crimes to win or to have something that they desire.
  • They concentrate more on other’s work rather than their own. Consequently, they indulge themselves too much in other’s works, thus completely forgetting or overlooking their own.
  • Moreover, such people always keep an eye on their competitors because they do not want to be lower than anyone. Their success is defined by the fact that they are better than anyone they know.
  • It is a different, harmful behaviour as they feel happy when others fail and sad when other people achieve anything or succeed in something. They find happiness in the loss of others who achieved more than them.
  • Most of the time, men suffering from this complex view the people around them as their opponents, be it their family, friends, or relatives. They constantly try to do better than everyone they know.

Also read: Galtea Effect – Self belief leads to Success


The Napoleon Complex leads to the prediction that short men will be more likely to respond with aggression when their status is challenged, when compared to tall men. They may boast about things to prove to other people that they are successful enough like the rest of them.

Such personalities constantly have the habit of comparing themselves to other people so that they can prove themselves better.

Napoleon complex’s biggest effect was the spread of nationalism which was one of the reasons for World War I.  As Napoleon expanded the French Empire, he took over many countries, leading them to find an overpowering sense of nationalism.


According to many independent studies, the income of taller workers is substantially premium than that of the shorter workers. This gives them a sense of inferiority among fellow workers.

Many studies even prove that women like to date taller men more than they would like to date shorter ones. Women view men as more attractive when they are taller than the woman they are with.

Emotions Related to it

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Defensiveness
  • Resentment
  • Envy
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness

Is the Napoleon Complex Real?

Several studies show that the Napoleon Complex or the short man syndrome is real and exists in shorter men. To make up for their shorter height and the fear of being perceived as weak by other tall people, shorter people act aggressively in several situations.

Short man syndrome really does exist, Oxford University finds. Feeling smaller makes people feel paranoid, mistrust and more likely to think that people are staring or talking about them, a study by Oxford finds.


How to find out

There is no certain way to find out if a person is suffering from the syndrome without going to therapists or psychiatrists.

However, one can look for the symptoms of this syndrome in himself. The first step in treating a disease or a syndrome is to accept it.

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How to Deal with someone with a Napoleon Complex?

A simple way to deal with the Napoleon Complex is to lift the self-esteem of the person who is suffering from this syndrome. Dealing with hurtful memories will certainly help.

Replacing the unhappy memories with happy ones can help in building the self-esteem of a person. There are different ways to lift the self-esteem of a person.

Taking pride in being oneself and loving someone for who they are will eventually help the person grow a stronger self-confidence. It’s highly important to make the person believe that being tall or short does not define one’s personality or strength of character.

Social acceptance and moral support is the key to winning all mental battles. This complex is no different.  

The Napoleon Complex is often associated with the name of Alfred Adler, a former associate of Sigmund Freud and the key founder of Individual Psychology. It can be viewed as a particular implication of Adlerian Psychology.

Napoleon Complex Examples

While in real life it is quite difficult (and highly bigoted) to point out the Napoleon Complex in someone, there are several movies that serve as Napoleon Complex examples. The name of the movie and the character with the short man syndrome is mentioned below:

  • Twins – Vincent Bendict
  • Casino – Nicky Santoro
  • Trainspotting – Begbie
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Dolores Umbridge
  • Night at the Museum – Gus
  • Of Mice and Men – Curley

Facts about Napoleon

Who was Napoleon’s wife?

Empress Josephine (Josephine de Beauharnais), the Empress of the French was Napoleon’s first wife.

The Habsburg Archduchess Marie-Louise was the second wife of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon Bonaparte height in feet

The French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s height in feet was 5 feet 6 inches (5’6”).

Anupam Kundu
A professional blogger and an IT freak. The atypical combo of a Civil Service aspirant and a Tech enthusiast.