Insecure Love Interest

A form of Heroic Self-Deprecation where a character thinks they're not good enough for their Love Interest. They may think this while they're actually in a relationship with said person (in which case they may break it off "for the other person's good"), or they may avoid pursuing them in the first place.

Done well, it can provide conflict, as well as maybe Character Development. Done badly, it can come across as Wangst, especially if the character has no reason to feel like this, or worse, is seen as disingenuously fishing for compliments.

Related to I Want My Beloved to Be Happy. Also compare I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me. If this causes a breakup, they may say It's Not You, It's Me (and really mean it).

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess is this way towards Keiichi Morisato. Numerous times things happen that make it seem as if he's losing interest in, or cheating on her, and she more or less ends up asking if she's good enough. And every single time, he promises her that she is, considering the wish he made to her in the first episode/chapter ("for a girl like her to stay with him forever" after being rejected by another woman), he doesn't intend to betray her trust.
    • Keiichi himself is probably an even better example of this, particularly in the anime. He's quite aware that he is — especially in the beginning — an unattractive loser, and that by staying with him, Bell is taking a big step down. He often feels guilty for tethering her to him when he knows she could find someone better. The fact that both sides in this relationship are like this is one of the major contributors to the series' infamous Cannot Spit It Out dynamic.
    • Belldandy also believes that she doesn't deserve Keiichi because she has been aware from day one of their relationship that Heaven messed with Keiichi's mind to keep him from consummating their relationship.
  • In Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts despite how much he may deny feelings for and run away from Shouko and her advances on a frequent basis, when Yuuji actually talks about his relationship with her, he makes it out like it's all his fault that she's fallen in love with a worthless guy like him.
    Yuuji: I want to set her free.
    • Which hilariously backfires and only causes her to fall in love with him even more anytime he tries to convince her that she deserves a better guy than him.
  • In Mayo Chiki!, due to the nature of her situation, Subaru, who is a girl disguised as a boy, is constantly worried that she either isn't good enough for Jiro, or that he's either dating, or likes someone else. Despite that, Jiro always tries to reassure her.
  • Snow gives hints of this in M─R. Aside from the occasional jealousy, it doesn't go anywhere. It's heavily implied she hooks up with Ginta at the end anyway.
  • Naruto seems to display this trope to an extent. While not in a romantic relationship with Sakura, he states to Sai that he could not tell her how he feels because he couldn't keep his promise to her in bringing back Sasuke, implying that he feels unworthy of her. Though he's also a I Want My Beloved to Be Happy character.
    • Hinata is a more straight example. She has been in love with Naruto since they were kids, but her crippling shyness and perceived weakness prevented her from ever pursuing him. She even calls her choice to try and save him from Pein an act of selfishness. In turn, Kiba implies that Naruto feels very much the same, which is why he always tries to act so cool around her. Eventually, they move past this; the epilogue reveals they married and had two children.
  • This trope almost defines Kisa Shouta's angst and feelings toward Yukina Kou in Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi.
  • In Sekirei, Minato is plagued by the feeling that he isn't good enough for his Balanced Harem. He calls himself "unreliable", and worries that he's a worthless guy because of his failure to get into university twice, as well as being an Extreme Doormat. Rather than allow this to consume him or damage their relationships, he resolves to become someone worthy of their love and trust, someone that will believe in himself enough to fully return their feelings. He declares this to them, and asks them to wait for him until then.
  • Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin ofter wonders if he's good enough for his girlfriend Kaoru. It's rather justified in his case due to his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • In Fairy Tail Jellal, after his Heel-Face Turn, firmly believes that he has no right to be with Erza after what he's done, and even goes out of his way to lie about having a fiance to get around the fact that she's in love with him. All this in spite of the fact that he was Brainwashed and Crazy at the age of seven.
    • Juvia becomes this after she takes down the Necromancer Keyes, by extension killing the Gray's father. Instead of getting angry, Gray holds her and tearfully thanks her for freeing his father.
  • Setsuna from Mahou Sensei Negima! spends a considerable amount of time angsting over how she feels unworthy of her Ojou-sama Konoka.
  • In Detective Conan:
    • Yumi's ex-boyfriend Haneda is still in love with her, but believes that he is unworthy of Yumi until he can win all seven professional shogi title tournaments.
    • Takagi sometimes shows shades of this trope towards his girlfriend Sato. At some point he's seen in tears due to this, thinking of how he believes himself to not have what it takes to make her happy. And then he's kidnapped and put in a Death Trap. And one of the persons who saves him is Sato herself.
  • Jin from Sakura-sou no Pet na Kanojo feels he's not worthy enough to be with his beloved childhood friend Misaki, due to her talents, such as in animation, and feels he would just weigh her down if he tried to have a serious relationship with her. This despite the obvious signs that Misaki really wants to be with him.
  • Sayaka Miki from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. She has a crush on Kyousuke Kamijou but Can Not Spit It Out, especially once it is revealed that becoming a Magical Girl means effectively becoming a sparkly lich. Sayaka feels she can't ask for Kyousuke's love because she now considers herself a zombie, and the realization that she made her supposedly selfless wish for selfish reasons along with her good friend Hitomi pushing the issue by giving her a one day headstart on confessing (which she balks at)...it doesn't end well.
  • Annie Brighton from Candy Candy is this to Archie Cornwall, which isn't helped by his crush on the titular Candy and how Annie, despite her and Candy's Romantic Two-Girl Friendship, is also jealous of her. However, Archie soon realises that Annie is the one he actually loves, and they stay together.
  • High School DXD deconstructs this trope with the relationship between Issei and Rias. Despite their love being blatantly reciprocated, Issei was - for quite some time - resigned to the mindset that she, a bonafide Ms. Fanservice and a Nice Girl with a noble heritage, deserves better than a perverted guy like him. This, however, causes Rias to remain heartbroken when Issei answered her question on what she really is to him: he said she's nothing more than the president of the Occult Research Club and his master. It took the support of the other girls to let Issei battle with his inferiority complex - caused by the trauma involving being killed on his first date by his ex-GF for being boring - and successfully hook up with Rias.
  • My Monster Secret: Initially, Youko is merely oblivious to the fact that Asahi has any deeper feelings for her than friendship. When the idea finally crosses her mind, she instantly shoots it down, convincing herself that Asahi treats all his friends with the same level of kindness, and that being her Secret Keeper is a pain in the ass but he's far too polite to say so out loud. While Youko and Asahi do end up getting together, it takes another 40 chapters to happen, and not before they both go through some pretty painful emotional torment.

    Comic Books 
  • Tommy Monoghan of the Hitman comic book ends his relationship with Tiegel once and for all by pretty much telling her outright that he's a scumbag, and if they stay together he'd just keep letting her down and screwing up. He's saying it because it's true, but he's ALSO saying it because he's about to take on a pretty good sized chunk of the CIA and doesn't want her around for it. Whether or not a reader thinks he would have said/done it if not for the whole CIA thing varies.
  • Barbara Gordon of Batgirl/Oracle fame sometimes felt as though Dick was only in love with the memory of the girl she had once been, rather than the woman she had become.
  • Frank Einstein Jr. is this to Henrietta in Mini Monsters, specifically in the second album. He falls for her at first sight, but his feelings of being rejected and his own inferiority complex towards his physical appearance; made him create an invention who makes people physically perfect. But that became dangerous because of Henrietta's extreme bipolar disorder. After that, he's still very much in love with her, and Henrietta starts feeling the same for him, although they can't tell their own feelings for each other.
  • Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson are this to each other. For Spider-Man, MJ is an incredibly beautiful, charismatic and talented young woman who is incredibly out of his league and would be far better off if she wasn't with him. For Mary Jane, Spider-Man is a selfless and brave superhero with amazing abilities. They each believe they aren't good enough for the other, and that they are dragging the other person down.
  • Dale in The Walking Dead is always insecure about his relationship with Andrea, due to the fact that he is twice as old as her. Andrea shows a few small shades of this, mostly whenever Dale mentions his late wife. It ultimately works out until Dale's death, and Andrea is able to move on and be with Rick.

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Animated 
  • Implied with Xibalba in The Book of Life. At the end, when he apologizes to La Muerte for all the trouble he caused, he adds in "you [La Muerte] deserve better than me". Gutierrez stated that the reason Xibalba wanted to make it look like he was cheating on her was out of insecurity.
  • In An Extremely Goofy Movie, PJ is in this role. Bobby is willing to flirt with Beret Girl, PJ is not. He says a grand total of zero words to her, being visibly stunned speechless each time, until she decides to take the initiative and start flirting with him. At this point, PJ responds by reciting a poem about how nobody notices fat people no matter how they act. Beret Girl is both impressed and sympathetic, asks, "How could anyone overlook this bundle of yes-ness?" and asks him to dance. This is the catalyst for PJ's Character Development: he immediately becomes a lot happier, less insecure, and more confident.
  • In Strange Magic, when his use of a love potion goes badly, the Bog King becomes convinced that he so hideous that even a magic can't make him lovable. It turns out that the the object of his affections was already in love - the one thing that makes someone immune to its power. Bog is still fairly insecure though when it comes to his fairy beauty second love.
  • In Mermaidia, Nori feels that Nalu will never love her because of class differences. She vents these feelings by bitching at Elina, who she thinks is dating him. (Unusually for the trope, Nori resolves these feelings before starting a relationship with Nalu.)

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • This is a constant problem for Georgina in the Georgina Kincaid series. She thinks she's not good enough for Seth and is going to end up hurting him, because she's hurt people in the past. That and she's a succubus, whereas he's a reserved and virtuous man.
  • In New Moon of the Twilight series, Edward leaves Bella because of this, resulting in much Wangst from both of them.
    • Although in this case it's less "I'm not good enough for you" and more "I'm finding it very difficult not to eat you."
  • In the last two Harry Potter books, Lupin has this problem with Tonks—he turns her down because a.) he's quite a bit (12 years) older than her, b.) he has no steady means of support, and c.) he's a werewolf, with all the danger and Fantastic Racism that includes. They wind up eloping sometime between the last two books, but he's so sure that this was a mistake that he tries to leave her (and their unborn child) until Harry gives him a What the Hell, Hero? speech.
  • Vin and Elend provide a double example, Vin thinks she's too Book Dumb and violent for Elend, Elend feels he's too much of a passive screwup for Vin.
  • Watson to Mary Morstan in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four. As a wounded retiree from the Afghan army with little income, he feels that he has no right to even think about her, and things get worse when it turns out that she stands to gain a large sum of money.
  • Katniss Everdeen feels that she doesn't deserve the unconditional love of a Nice Guy like Peeta. Haymitch agrees with her.
    Haymitch: You could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him, you know.
  • Both Jerin and Cira/ Princess Halley in A Brother's Price, though for different reasons.
  • Michael of The Traitor Game is a platonic (or not) version of this trope for Francis, constantly feeling insecure about their friendship. This is because Michael has trust issues after being bullied at his previous school, and finds it difficult to accept that Francis - who is "cool", "posh" and "handsome" - would genuinely want to be friends with him. This leads to disastrous consequences.
  • Both Michael and Mia in The Princess Diaries, Michael because of feeling the constant need to prove himself "worthy" of dating a princess, Mia due to her low self esteem for dating an attractive genius who is her best friend's brother.
  • This is par for the course in Catherine Anderson's novels, but Molly Sterling, Laura Townsend, Natalie Patterson and Bethany Coulter are the biggest examples.
  • Lauchlan Huxley, the main character of Mix Beer With Liquor And You Will Get Sicker has some self-esteem issues. And self confidence issues. And self image issues. He just has a lot of issues period, and is a Nervous Wreck as a result. When the confronted with the possibility of a real, meaningful relationship, he's terrified, and honestly doesn't believe that he deserves to be in a relationship at all.
  • Razz in Don't Call Me Ishmael!. While he is usually self-confident, he is this to Sally, believing that she is 'too everything' for him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Nip/Tuck has Christian break up with Natasha because he thinks she deserves better than The Casanova like him.
  • In Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is Angel's reasoning for ending his relationship with Buffy before he moves to LA. He wants her to have a relatively normal life and he feels that her being with him would make that more difficult.
    • Spike in the comics. He doesn't think Buffy will love him after everything that's happened between them. She proves him wrong and they get back together...only for Spike to pull this again when they have to call on Angel to help with a Big Bad.
  • Lennier never admits he loves Delenn until the fifth season of Babylon 5.
  • Rachel of Suits displays signs of this when Mike breaks it off. Despite all her explanations of how important she is to the firm, she still believes he looks down on her for never passing the LSATs and remaining a paralegal.
  • In New Girl's season 1 finale, Schmidt ends things with Cece because he's convinced she's too out of his league for him to ever make her happy.
  • Gossip Girl Chuck Bass runs on this trope regarding Blair for most of the show's duration. It doesn't help that Blair goes back and forth between reinforcing this belief and telling him he's the best man she's ever known and all that she's ever wanted.
  • Rory of Doctor Who thinks he's not good enough for Amy. So much so that he was too certain of rejection to ask her out, and is constantly surprised whenever she demonstrates her affection for him. This gets a lot better though, and by the end of the series, he's thrown it off.
    • This also happens to Amy herself. In series 7 Amy almost gets a divorce because she's infertile and she knows Rory's always wanted children. Since Amy's bad at dealing with feelings, she never told him why she wanted a divorce. Of course, it turns out Rory doesn't care and in an unshot scene we find out that they adopted a child.
    • The Doctor himself feels this way about most of his major love interests, given that he leads a dangerous life, is a centuries old space alien and (particularly after the Time War) generally hates himself. As a general tendency, he's very quick to leave them to find the happiness he can't give them elsewhere.
  • Friends: The insecure Chandler sometimes feels this way concerning Monica, his girlfriend and later wife. This is despite him being genuinely smart, funny, good-looking, a very successful career and a very kind personality. It's caused, in part, by his traumatic childhood, bad luck with women, commitment phobia, one previous boyfriend the gang had idolized at the time and whom she had truly loved, and their friend's jokes that Monica 'can do better'. Fortunately, he and Monica have an Opposites Attract thing going on, so while he's very good at stabilizing her neuroses, she's very good at building his confidence.
    • One of the most telling moments is in an alternate universe episode when he falls for Monica who is fat, a virgin and dating an incredibly boring guy. Despite all this Chandler still thinks she wouldn't want to date him and he isn't good enough. Yeah, it doesn't matter about the circumstances, this guy has major insecurity issues.

    Music 
  • Basically the premise to the Tal Bachman song "She's so High."
    What could a guy like me ever really offer?
    She's perfect as she can be, why should I even bother?
  • Seems to be the main theme of "She's Like the Wind" by Patrick Swayze.
    I feel her breath in my face
    Her body close to me
    Can't look in her eyes
    She's out of my league.
  • The James Ingram song "I Don't Have The Heart" shows a man who clearly cares about his woman but feels that he is not good enough for her.
  • Inverted in "Frozen" by Delain, in which the protagonist's love interest clearly has issues preventing him from being with her.
  • The song Amanda has the line "Fate should have made you a gentleman's wife".
  • Found in the Anna Nalick song "Sort of Delilah."
    Once you were a tower, and given the power, how did I become the wrecking ball?
    Didn't wanna hurt you, didn't deserve you, I'm usually the victim after all.
  • The narrator of Flyleaf's There For You is a self-described "selfish fake" who has requited feelings for a friend.
    You speak the unspeakable thought-
    I love you too...

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect:
    • Nice Guy Jacob feels this way towards both Miranda and female Shepard (if you romance him).
    • Tali'Zorah feels this way if male Shepard pursues a relationship with her. See the entry on I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy. When you meet up with her again in the third game she's much more confident and this trope becomes averted.
    • Garrus counts for slightly different reasons. He gets that you like him, but isn't quite sure how to go about a relationship with a human. He's also tired of losing people.
  • Almost every love interest in Dragon Age II. Most of them have self-esteem issues to begin with, but romancing them tends to bring it to the forefront.
    • Anders is a mage living outside the Circle who has to look over his shoulder for Templars. He's also possessed by a very angry Spirit of Justice that may or may not have become a full-on demon, and by the end of the game, he's plotting to blow up the Chantry. He's the most vocal about not having anything to offer, especially once supporting apostates is declared a hanging offense.
    • Between being an elf, a blood mage and a Fish out of Water, Merrill refuses to believe Hawke feels romantic affection towards her until Hawke specifically tells her s/he does. Even after they've just had sex.
    • Fenris is an amnesiac fugitive ex-slave whose former master is heavily implied to have sexually abused him. After his first time with Hawke, he has a rush of memories from his old life and panics, feeling like a fool for thinking he could be with someone.
    • By the time Hawke's named Champion of the city, Pirate Girl Isabela is convinced the two of them no longer have anything in common. The codex notes that after telling Hawke that they were the only reason she came back, she runs away for two years.
    • DLC character Sebastian is the least self-flagellating, possibly because he outranks Hawke socially rather than vice versa.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition follows suit:
    • Dorian, who constantly reminds the Inquisitor that their relationship will not be seen well, as Dorian is a mage from the Tevinter Imperium, and it could cost the Inquistor goodwill. He's especially unhappy when the Inquisitor uses his influence to help Dorian get an amulet back, as he's afraid people will assume Dorian's merely cozied up to him to use his power for himself.
    • Warden Blackwall doesn't believe he's worthy of the Inquisitor, and is also worried about their respective obligations and the fact that he's ultimately another soldier in her army. The biggest reason turns out to be that he's a former war criminal trying to atone.
    • Cullen also shows signs of this; he has trouble believing that the Inquisitor would be serious about pursuing a relationship, especially if she's seen him in withdrawal.
  • Raven from Rune Factory 3. If you marry her, much of your dialog with her consists of her being reassured that you love her and wanted to marry her.
  • Ninian in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword loves Eliwood, but feels she isn't worthy of him due to her secret heritage as a half-Dragon and her guilt over having been an unwilling catalyst in his father's death. Eliwood uses their A support to reassure her that he loves her no matter what.
    Laurent: "I was not worried about whether I was fit to support the army... I was worried I was unfit to support you. Thoughts of how I might better aid you and you alone consumed me! That was my true distraction from watching over the others (...) You're Chrom's daughter, and in your veins runs the blood of exalts and heroes. ... So how could a common man such as I ever be worthy of you?"
    • Sumia can be this for a male Avatar until their S support, where she decides to stop hiding behind her books and learn to love herself as she is. She actually shows traces of this towards all of her possible boyfriends; one of her event tiles with a lover has her openly ask him how come he hasn't found a prettier girl than her.
    • Brady is implied to be this for a female Avatar, as in his Love Confession he tells her "I'll become a guy worthy of your love!"
    • The male Avatar can become this for Tiki. Justified in that Tiki is the daughter of an actual goddess and the only other man she has ever shown anything resembling interest in was the Hero-King Marth, a legendary King Arthur like figure by the time of the events in Awakening.

    Visual Novels 
  • In CLANNAD, Nagisa initially acts like this when she and Tomoya start dating. Tomoya gets fed up with it pretty quickly and tells her to have more confidence in herself. He doesn't like anyone insulting his girlfriend, including herself.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Jessica Ushiromiya is in love with Kanon, one of the Ushiromiya family servants. Kanon does love her back, but he believes he isn't worthy of her love due to his insistence that he's "furniture". As the story continues, it becomes clear that this isn't just Wangst and the real reason he's so insecure is quite complicated and tragic.
  • Seizh of Under The Moon is very hesitant in his pure love paths, and requires a lot of convincing on the point that, yes, the heroine really is in love with him. Justifiably so, since he knows she was head over heels for his brother until she was wind-wiped.

    Webcomics 
  • Dora of Questionable Content may well be the Trope Codifier for webcomics. She's a ball of neuroses who is constantly worried that Marten, the first decent male she's ever dated - is going to leave her because of her hangups. And also because she's convinced he's still pining for Faye, despite both of them saying that's never going to happen. It does eventually split them up.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied with the psychotic Ask That Guy with the Glasses. Even though the Love Martyr narrator tells him how amazing he is constantly, he'd rather be abused and told he's worthless.
  • Molly from The War Comms was this for Ralph at the beginning of their relationship. She's mostly overcome it now thanks to Character Development.