From Napoleon to Tom Cruise short men have had to ‘grow a pair’ (rather than say, an inch), since the dawn of time. Although sometimes the slights are real, most men with ‘short man syndrome’ mostly act aggressive to compensate for perceived judgements from their more giraffe-like mates.
The reality is: most people don’t care as much about your height as you do. And the idea that all short guys are pre-disposed to aggression has always been an urban myth—an intergenerational joke thought up by lanky cavemen jealous of the testosterone exhibited by their pint-sized compatriots.
However a new study suggests that there may be scientific grounds to stir-up your pocket-rocket mates. Researchers at Holland’s Vrije University in the Netherlands took men of different heights and made them play a money-sharing game.
After being split into pairs, half of the men were given a small amount of ‘money’, in the form of eighteen tokens, before being led into separate rooms.
According to the game’s rules, although the person with the cash was encouraged to share some of the loot with other players, that portion could have been as small as zero.
It was found that the shorter men (1.7m and below) acted more aggressively as long as there was no threat of repercussions. They kept most of the loot for themselves, at around 14 of the 18 tokens, while the tallest men, around 2m kept just 9.
This suggests short man syndrome, also known as Napoleon Complex, is real, and influences the everyday lives of shorter men.
“It’s probably smart for short men to be like this because they have less opportunities to get resources,” lead researcher Jill Knapen told New Scientist.
This theory has supporting evidence too, various studies having shown that taller men tend to win more elections and get better jobs. So it makes sense short men have adopted this tactic.
Not convinced? We talked to a former commando, Mike Webby, a self-proclaimed “giraffe working in male-dominated jobs” who says he is a magnet for “small, insecure, testosterone-fuelled guys wanting to prove how big they are.”
“In my time in the Commandos I have come across many short aggressive men, especially when alcohol is involved! Little man syndrome definitely exists.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. If you’re insecure—regardless of whether or not you’re short—Mike says, “Learning martial arts or combat skills is definitely a confident booster for anyone.”
“You will learn great ways to channel your aggression while learning so many skills you can transition into your life like breath-work for relaxing, self defence, mindset, movement, fitness and better values.”
So: bad news—the syndrome exists. Good news: you can just let your inner Napoleon loose on some punching bags, and you’ll be right.