Short Man Syndrome: Is It a Real Thing?


I'm sure we have all heard about "little man syndrome."  You know, the phrase you say to someone who can act pompous, arrogant or just done right stupid and also just happens to be short.  Some people say it's a way to make up for the lack of height but is this actually a real thing?  Speaking from personal experience, I one hundred percent believe it is possible for it to be real and can even think of a few people in my life who fit the bill. 

According to an entry on, little or short man syndrome is defined as a, "condition in which a person has to deal with a feeling of inadequacy which can come from a lack of height - or a perceived lack of height. This is particularly common in men who gain a lot of confidence and status from physicality and who often gain pleasure from being able to feel physically imposing. Short man syndrome is an informal term and not a medical or psychological condition and goes by other names such as 'Napoleon complex'. Technically it is a form of inferiority complex in which the person attempts to overcompensate for their perceived shortcoming. The term is often used as a derogatory term also to describe those who are perceived as acting this way."

"Napoleon complex" comes from the ruthless ruler, Napoleon Bonaparte.  It has been said that his unruly nature may have been a way to overcompensate for his short height, but obviously cannot be proven (, 2012). credits the causes of short man syndrome to be from overcompensation and evolutionary biology.  It stated that overcompensation, "is one of the ego defense mechanisms as described by Freud, the idea being that the individual could this way protect themselves from the belief that they were smaller in size."  When it comes to evolutionary biology, it is suggested that smaller males had to be more aggressive and loud, in order to survive and get food and mates (, 2012). 

Adolf Hitler and Benito Musssalini were both short men as well, with less than stellar reputations and serious attitudes.  So is little man syndrome real? This article discusses the two dictators and the idea of an inferiority complex behind the so called syndrome. It even draws parallels to the animal kingdom; however whether or not it is a real syndrome is still up for debate and mostly in the eye of the beholder.  

Any broad generalization, such as this, is always good for stirring up some controversy and there are many times when other factors come into play that people are unaware of.  So before you go diagnosing every short guy you come across with short man syndrome, talk to them and get to know them first. You might be surprised on how the conversation turns out.   


This is a great topic that relates to the whole idea of correlation. I wonder if there are aspects of this syndrome in the female gender as well - maybe it's the opposite, maybe really tall girls feel as though they have to overcompensate (or really short girls). Even so, I feel like causation could never be proved because there are too many uncontrollable variables that come into play - a person's disposition and personality, genetics, etc. As you said, just because someone is short doesn't mean they have Napoleon Syndrome. This article offers a paragraph on a solution. If you find that you are beating yourself up for your "shortcomings," read this:

I LOVE that you brought this topic up and I assure you I could also name a few guys I know that could fall into this category. It is funny though to compare it to other things. For instance, I have a Jack Russell (small dog) and she always barks and growls and stands up for herself against big dogs, even a Saint Bernard once and it's just the funniest thing to stand back and watch because it clearly doesn't make sense. But, here's a quick link for any short guys reading this to show the plus side of it all.

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