His Own Worst Enemy

"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand".
The Bible, Matthew 12:25

His greatest enemy is himself. Not a split personality as in Enemy Within nor an evil clone/twin or dark counterpart. But the character himself.

Most of the time the self-loathing and self-defeating feelings of a character's are his own worst obstacle. These kind of characters self-sabotage themselves due to the darkness or the void in their hearts. Whenever a spark of happiness or the light of hope is upon them, they ruin it and keep themselves in state of their misery in a cycle without a foreseeable ending.

In other cases, the character may be have a flaw regarding a lack of a skill or an ability that will stop them from ever achieving true victory. For instance, when a villain would've won if he had played by the rules.

Whatever the case, the character won't ever reach true happiness/success until he deals with his inner conflicts first.

May overlap with Byronic Hero. See also Heroic Self-Deprecation.


Anime and Manga
  • Ranma ½: Every character is their own worst enemy in one way or another. Stand out mention to Genma, who manages to derail more of his own schemes through cheating or running away, and Mousse, who would make more progress with Shampoo if he would just wear his damn glasses (and would win more fights if he kept them on too) more instead of letting his vanity get the better of him.
  • Kumagawa in Medaka Box. His constant self-loathing and the nature of his ability means he can never actually achieve a true victory over anyone.

Comic Books
  • In a Marvel Comics story, the Greek titan Typhon had gotten his battleaxe fused to his hand. He learns that "only the blood of your worst enemy can free you." Naturally, he assumes his hated foe Hercules is the one to go after, and spends most of the story futilely trying to make Hercules bleed. In the end, Typhon himself is cut, his blood flows over his hand and frees him from the axe. Sadly, he just doesn't get it and continues to be a hateful and revenge-obsessed person.
  • The person who ultimately causes Bruce Wayne more pain than anyone else is Bruce Wayne. In almost all continuities he genuinely believes that he doesn't deserve to be happy since the reason he and his parents were in Crime Alley was because he wanted to see a movie.
  • In Superior Spiderman Otto Octavius claims that he and Peter were their own worst enemies, but in different ways. Otto was a flawed arrogant man who over-compensated for his failings. Peter on the other hand was a genuinely superior man who sabotaged himself because he never felt worthy of being superior because it came at such a terrible price.

Fan Works
  • Corpse Party D2: Depths of Despair: Ayumi Shinozaki feels so much guilt about what happened six years ago that she's barely holding herself together before ending up back in the cursed school again. What's more, it's eventually revealed that the evil spirits are effectively feeding off of her self-loathing — before she can get their forgiveness, she has to forgive herself.

  • Eddie Felson from The Hustler, whose obsession with beating Minnesota Fats and proving himself the best at pool is destructive to himself and those around him.
  • Queen Elsa's greatest enemy is her own fear of herself. This is what transforms her into the film's Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds and Anti-Villain. She ends up conquering her fears after Anna teaches her The Power of Love .
    Pabbie: "Fear will be your enemy."

  • The eponymous protagonist of the Horatio Hornblower books absolutely cannot let himself be happy. He considers the loyalty and affection his men have for him as bad judgment and ruthlessly criticizes himself for every mistake made in his successful ventures as well as his "cowardice" (i.e. being afraid of death despite never actually hiding from danger). Although this doesn't hinder his successful career, his powerful self-loathing keeps him miserable throughout it.
  • Harry Potter: Although Harry is Voldemort's literal mortal enemy, Voldemort does have a huge responsibility on his own downfall right from the very beginning, when he was presented the Schrodinger's Prophecy he could've chosen to ignore, but didn't, and in doing so, created his own downfall with Harry's scar.
  • General Thiébault says this almost word for word in his Mémoires. Indeed, he apparently missed many great occasions to improve his standing with many high-ranking characters, Napoleon and Berthier chief among them, through misplaced pride or plain laziness.

Live Action Tv
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor himself of course, whenever he is close to happy. In the new series he tends to self-sabotage himself.
    • The Ninth Doctor, while trying to look as a confident man and even retaining his cool at the worst situations, was hiding a great deal of guilt over his actions in the Time War as see in the episode "Dalek".
    • The Tenth Doctor was probably the closest to the dark side of the new Doctors. Three words: "Time Lord Victorious". It was so bad hat he indirectly made the woman he was trying to rescue commit suicide. Before that he gave fates worse than death to the Family of Blood. Like Donna said, he needs people to have him grounded or his path towards darkness would be assured.
    • While the Dream Lord is a case of Enemy Within, it's also this trope given that it represents the dark side of the Doctor. The Eleven Doctor even states that the person that hates him the most isn't the Master or even the pure evil Daleks but himself.
  • Red Dwarf: Rimmer is truly his own worst enemy. His own sense of self-loathing and lack of self-confidence lead him to screw up everything he touches. His attempts to pass his astro-navigation exams are always ruined because he is so convinced he will fail he spends more time trying to work out how to cheat than he does studying.

  • Less Than Jake's The Science of Selling Yourself Short is about a guy who has committed many mistakes in his life and realizes that "I'm My Own Worst Enemy".
  • The band Lit has a song titled "My Own Worst Enemy," and it's mostly about a guy who does many stupid things when he's drunk, like saying regrettable things, destroying objects, and fighting.

  • In Gears of War 3 If anything Dominic Santiago greatest obstacle wasn't the locust or even the lambent. But his sadness over losing his wife Maria. In fact, the only thing that kept him fighting was his desire to help Marcus, but his life looses a lot of purpose since Gears of War 2.
  • Final Fantasy IV: Kain Highwind blames himself for being possessed by the Big Bad, feeling that he wouldn't have been susceptible if he hadn't already been both resentful and guiltridden over Cecil and Rosa's relationship. He openly encourages his friends to kill him if he's possessed again and sequesters himself on Mount Ordeals in the end as he considers himself unworthy to join their celebrations. He does make peace with himself later... seventeen years later.

Web Comic
  • Karkat from Ms Paint Adventures. He uses time travel to communicate with himself, and he's LITERALLY his own worst enemy.

Western Animation
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Princess Luna's worst enemy was herself. While the mane cast and her own sister had to stop her as Nightmare Moon, her suffering and even her banishment were of her own doing, mainly for her inability to deal with her jealousy and her loneliness.
  • In Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly would easily win all the races if he just stopped cheating. While his cheats always backfire of he actually stopped cheating the episode would end in one minute at most.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Aang truly mastered his full power by beating Fire Lord Ozai was very easy. However, most of the issues he faces are him accepting his role as the Avatar and stopping/running away for his duties. He becomes much stronger atfer he accepts his responsibilities. In fact, his greatest failure isn't not stopping the war, but running away from it.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, the show constantly tells us that if Candace stopped trying to bust her brothers her life would be much easier and enjoyable. However Failure Is the Only Option seems to be a law in this universe for her.
    • Doofenshmirtz would be a far greater treat if he just stopped placing self-destruct buttons in his devices. But as a Harmless Villain he can't help it.
  • The Batman villain Two-Face is his own worst enemy, as lampshaded in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Second Chance".
    • The Riddler is also under this category since his Chronic Villainy won't let him stop leaving riddles for Batman to solve. In fact, the Episode Trial makes it clear that all of the villains are this. They would've become what they were in some way, and Batman's interference was a coincidence, not the cause.
  • In Teen Titans, Raven is her worst enemy by far. Even her dad, who was the ultimate personification of evil pales in comparison (he was beaten easily after Raven resolved part of her inner conflict). In fact her stoic personality is her way of controlling her dark side.
  • Greg Weisman has repeteadly stated that Gargoyles' Demona is her own worst enemy. In fact her password is alone
  • The Ice King from Adventure Time. In "Prisoners of Love" an unconscious Ice King has a dream where he wonders why nobody likes him, and the Cosmic Owl tells him it's because he's a sociopath, but he ignores it.
  • Transformers Prime: Starscream, at least whenever Megatron is around. Lampshaded in-universe that Starscream is too busy trying to prove he's better than Megatron to actually do his job. Perhaps all the more tragic in that whenever Megatron is out of the picture Starscream is a genuinely competent (and perhaps even better leader than Megatron is) leader of the Decepticons.
  • In one Bravestarr episode, Bravestarr is forced by circumstance to make an agreement with Tex Hex. He is hopeful, though, because he knows Tex is such a compulsive backstabber that there's almost no chance he'll keep his word; and that when Tex breaks it, Bravestarr will be free of his part of the bargain, too.
  • The Coyote in Looney Tunes ultimately brings all of his pain and misery on himself. He could give up on the Roadrunner at any time, but he won't.

Real Life

  • A psychological phenomenon called 'self-sabotage' is surprisingly very common. It involves someone, consciously or not, setting up obstacles that might prevent success just to set up a plausible excuse in case failure occurs. I.e. "I failed the test because I didn't get enough sleep last night." is an example. The mind may have unconsciously prevented you from getting enough sleep by, for instance, filling you with anxiety about the test, despite the fact that this lowers your chances of success. In reality, the lack of sleep is almost always merely an excuse set up by the brain so that the person does not have to face the truth that they probably failed the test because they weren't smart or good enough.