"Undeserved praise causes more pangs of conscience later than undeserved blame, but probably only for this reason, that our power of judgment are more completely exposed by being over praised than by being unjustly underestimated."Roughly translated: "I don't deserve your praise." This trope refers to that state of mind in a hero, an anti-hero, or possibly a villain, in which he reflects on how he is not worthy of the adulation or acclaim or status he has received. This isn't necessarily others denouncing him, or giving him inverted praise, as in Mark Antony over Caesar's body. This is where he either thinks or overtly says something like, "I am not worthy" or "I've done terrible things [to get here]." He may not regret the actions himself, but typically he regrets having to take the action. The idea is that he was either forced, through circumstances or personal weakness to do terrible things. If he does regret his misdeeds and considers them unnecessary, then he might be The Atoner. Compare No Place for Me There and The Atoner. See also Heroic Self-Deprecation, Warts and All.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
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Anime & Manga
- In Code Geass, Suzaku almost constantly, because he has an enormous Guilt Complex. Lelouch also later on, as he does more and more morally dubious things for his cause.
- Beelzemon from Digimon Tamers initially refuses to do a Heel–Face Turn, not because he doesn't want to, but because he sold his soul for power, went on a murderous rampage, and killed one of the heroes. Even after the Tamers forgive him and reassure him that he's one of them, he never, ever forgets what he did.
- When Grimmer calls him a doctor, Tenma goes on an angsty tirade about how he is not worth the title because he killed someone. He doesn't know at the time that the person he thought he killed is still very much alive.
- Eva also goes through a period of this when she realizes how badly she has been treating Martin (and how much worse she had been to Tenma).
- At the end of One Piece's Dressrosa arc, we see this with secondary character Kyros. He tries to disassociate himself from his daughter Rebecca in the belief that he's protecting her from the stigma of being the child of an ill-bred criminal. As part of this he writes Rebecca a letter detailing his sordid past to make her understand his reasons. Their subplot ends with Rebecca deciding she doesn't care about that and declaring she's the daughter of Kyros.
- In Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk, Arcturus Rann of the Micronauts reveals that he visited Jarella's homeworld K'ai more than a thousand years ago and in a moment of extreme prejudice, massacred most of the civilization due to a perceived threat to Homeworld. This also creates a big Plot Hole and Continuity Snarl since Rann's Microverse originally existed in a separate one from Jarella's. It wasn't till recently that they merged, postdating Rann's visit by 1,000 years.
- In Child of the Storm, at a Reformed, but Not Tamed Loki's own insistence, the "Rogues Gallery" exhibit at New York's Natural History Museum contains a replica of him as he was during the Chitauri invasion.
- Takara Tsukuda of Despair's Last Resort takes no pride in solving the murders that take place in the resort. Considering that someone is executed every time she does so, it's not hard to see why.
- In the Pony POV Series, Fluttershy actually ended up doing a lot of good as Princess Gaia/Nightmare Whisper, despite all the bad she also did. When given a celebration for the good she did (and that she was able to have the self control to at least TRY to do good when given the power of a goddess), she outright says there's a lot of things she did she'll never forgive herself for and she doesn't blame the ponies who won't forgive her for what she's done. She accepts those that will, but she'll never forget what she's done.
- A Bridge Once Broken, a Avengers / Wakfu crossover gives Loki a bit of Draco in Leather Pants treatment, complete with copious amounts of this trope.
Films — Animation
- Beowulf says as much before he leaves to confront Grendel's mother and the dragon, and try to end the cycle once and for all.
Beowulf: Keep a memory of me, not as a king or a hero; but as a man: fallible and flawed.
- He tries to do the same to Wiglaf, but he will not hear it. After Beowulf dies fighting the dragon, Wiglaf comments that Beowulf will be remembered as a great hero.
- Beowulf says as much before he leaves to confront Grendel's mother and the dragon, and try to end the cycle once and for all.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:
- Sunset Shimmer, the Alpha Bitch Big Bad of the first movie, pulls a Heel–Face Turn at the end and becomes good. The sequels show her to have a knack for Heroic Self-Deprecation, and a rather dark sense of humor about her past. She doesn't speak up much in Rainbow Rocks due to feeling like it isn't her place to say anything after what she'd done. Granted, it's not like anyone else will let her forget.
- Human Twilight Sparkle goes through much the same as Sunset Shimmer, kicking herself for almost destroying Canterlot High School because of her recklessness with magic. When magic starts popping up again in Legend of Everfree, Twilight's first response is desperate denial.
Films — Live-Action
- Both John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
- The novel All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman. The hero is a spy/operative for the galactic government. The novel is a series of debriefings where he tells what he had to do in the line of duty, and how those memories are gnawing on his conscience. The true horror of it is that in each case, his actions should have served to make the universe a better place, but his sacrifices were screwed over in the name of Realpolitik, and his "debriefings" are in fact part of memory-erasure "therapy" that are reducing him to a drooling vegetable.
- The Ciaphas Cain novels are presented as the titular commissar's unofficial memoirs, in which he confesses that despite being hailed as a legendary hero of the Imperium, he was really a Dirty Coward whose feats were done by accident, while trying to flee for his life, or only performed to uphold his reputation. The inquisitor editing Cain's memoirs, however, counters that Cain isn't giving himself enough credit and that true heroism is fighting on in spite of fear (which would make Cain a great hero indeed). It's further muddled by the fact that his account frequently mentions deliberately invoking the Humble Hero trope to manipulate people.
- In Darkness at Noon, Rubashov is made to condemn himself this way over imaginary crimes as a last service to the Party, which insists on Black and White Morality.
- Evan Walker in The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey.
Evan: I am a shark, Cassie. A shark who dreamed he was a man.
- In It Can't Happen Here, Doremus blames his own passivity (and that of others like him) for the ascendancy of totalitarianism in America. He expresses this sentiment in a scathing column criticizing Windrip:
"The tyranny of this dictatorship isn't primarily the fault of Big Business, nor of the demagogues who do their dirty work. It's the fault of Doremus Jessop! Of all the contentious, respectable, lazy-minded Doremus Jessops who have let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest ... I can blame no Aras Dilley, no Shad Ledue, no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind. Forgive, O Lord!"
- The Book Ends to Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, which take place after the story that elapses between them, make Luke into this. He actually hires an investigator to look over events and build a case against him. The investigator writes a holothriller script instead.
- Skulduggery Pleasant has some moments in here too, yet never goes too dark about it. Until Book 6, where he reveals he was Lord Vile
- Babylon 5:
- Londo Mollari toward the end of the series. In fact, in the twilight hours of his life, he tells two children and their nurse his pivotal but silent role in the Earth-Mimbari War and the actions he committed which had stopped a major chance for peace between the races.
- Along the same trajectory as his sworn rival, G'kar's transformation from conniving diplomat to the major religious figure of his race by the end of the series. So much so that he exiles himself to deep space to get away from the unwanted adulation of his followers.
- Brother Edward, a monk who discovers he was a serial killer before his death of personality. He ends up resigning himself to his death at the hands of his victims' angry relatives in contrition.
- His critique of the future justice system boils down to: How can they make me a holy man, yet not let me remember the sins I need to cleanse from my soul?
- Being Human (UK): Mitchell actually wants his sins forgotten, because for the vampires they're a source of inspiration. Still, the spirit remains - he doesn't want acclaim and admiration when he's primarily focusing on his all-consuming guilt.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- In the controversial and stunning episode "In the Pale Moonlight", Captain Benjamin Sisko - the hero of the Dominion War, survivor of Wolf 359, designer of the Defiant, winner of the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor, and a revered religious figure for the Bajoran people - narrates a log entry where he reveals his complicity in the assassination of a Romulan government official, and how he conspired with Garak - a spy exiled from his homeworld - to plant a forged holographic recording on the body of the Romulan official featuring a fake Dominion/Cardassian plan for an attack on their (then) Romulan allies. This dark act - a violation of everything Sisko stands for as a Starfleet officer - drew the Romulans into the Dominion War on the side of the Federation and the Klingons, which brought an end to the war and initiated a new era of peace... at the cost of Sisko's soul. (You'd never see Kirk or Picard doing that!) The trope is averted when, at the end of the episode, Sisko erases the log entry.
- Captain Archer at the start of Season 4 of Star Trek: Enterprise. After a year's worth of Dirty Business in the name of saving Earth, he comes home to a hero's welcome that, in his mind, he really doesn't deserve. When he takes a break to go mountain-climbing and is joined by an old flame who's newly been promoted to captain, he says that she reminds him of what he was at the start of his mission.
- Stargate Atlantis: In an episode titled "Be All My Sins Remember'd," the humans team up with their mortal enemies, the Wraith, to attack their mutual enemy, the Asurans, also known as the Pegasus Replicators. In order to do so, they create their own humanoid Replicator, whose purpose is to act as a Trojan horse, of sorts, and infect them with a computer virus that causes the complete destruction of her own kind.
- Again, inverted in Mark Antony's speech over Caesar's body, in the play Julius Caesar. Antony says he is not there to praise Caesar, but clearly that is exactly his intent, as he recounts the evil (but charitable and heroic) deeds of Caesar.
- In "Othello", the title character's closing lines, "I pray you, in your letters, When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak of one that lov'd not wisely but too well; Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought, Perplex'd in the extreme. . . ." Othello Act 5, scene 2
- In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, it's implied that Golbez (Cecil's brother and counterpart in the conflict between Cosmos' and Chaos' forces, due to his tenure as a villain in their source game) was once on Cosmos' side. Since he was among those to retain his memories between cycles of the conflict, he considers the fact that he was selected by Chaos at all to be a damning indictment on his past actions. In a bid to redeem himself, he spends the game acting as a Reverse Mole of sorts for Cosmos' side; guiding Cecil and his comrades under the guise of combat and stepping aside when satisfied that they're ready to proceed, turning down Cecil's pleas to join them until such a time that he's granted a chance at redemption.
Cecil: Where will you-
Golbez: I was summoned by Chaos. That alone is a sign of my heart's weakness. I've no right to be near you.
- Joshua Graham of Fallout: New Vegas has this mentality in the Honest Hearts DLC. When you're the co-founder of Caesar's Legion and responsible for atrocities such as rape, slavery, torture amongst other things, you honestly do have a lot to answer for.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, Delita Hyral ends up murdering or manipulating almost everyone he ever knew, to become king. The final scene of the game involves him lamenting over Ovelia, his dead wife and queen, wondering if it was all worth it.
- Cecil, the protagonist of Final Fantasy IV, believes himself to be a coward for blindly following orders that he knew were wrong. Being forced to confront his sins head-on is what sparks his Character Development to avert his Lawful Stupidity.
- In Kingdom Hearts coded, the digital Sora in Jiminy's Journal is told of how Namine helped put the original's memory back together. He's all set to thank the digital Namine for this, but she insists she's unworthy of thanks because she's also the one who took them apart in the first place. Sora thanks her anyway.
- Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. He doesn't like to be called a hero. He feels he's just a killer. Summed up in this line from MGS4:
Snake: I'm no hero. Never was. Never will be. I'm just an old killer, hired to do some wetwork.
- Kado from Tokyo Demons faces tremendous guilt for everything he's done, including becoming a tool for Touya. Half his dialogue includes apologies. Whether or not it's justified guilt is another matter.
- Dinobot, the Heel–Face Turn Blood Knight of Beast Wars, says something like this on his death bed, following a Heroic Sacrifice where he saves the human race, despite the fact that their annihilation would guarantee his ancestors win the great war. He knows he's done some questionable things and has to answer for them. He tells his Maximal comrades that he should not be regarded as a hero, but that history should judge him.
- And it has. Dinobot is regarded as one of the greatest characters in the entire Transformers franchise.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- In the episode "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" Princess Luna reveals that she had created a dream entity called the Tantabus to punish herself night after night "to make sure I never forgave myself for how much Equestria suffered because of me."
- After turning good, Starlight Glimmer developed a very self-deprecating personality quirk with her past, also making her reject or dismiss the praise she does get. This gets explored in the sixth season finale "To Where and Back Again", where just being in her old village causes Starlight to shove everyone away and lie down while covering her face, despite the fact the townspeople seem to be willing to forgive her and move on. She gets over it eventually.