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Confidence Sabotage

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A person who is quite confident in their profession is unknowingly sabotaged by outside parties. The saboteur was so covert that the person is unaware that their work has been tampered with, instead believing that the error is their own fault. As a result, the person usually suffers a Heroic BSoD and feels unable to try again for risk of failing again. Often times, the truth comes out, the person's confidence is restored, and they return to their profession with a vengeance.

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The causes for one to sabotage a person's confidence varies, usually for personal gain or a grudge. It may be to win in a challenge, making this trope different from Always Someone Better. It may be to discredit one's work, usually through a Disastrous Demonstration. It can even be utilized by villains to send The Hero into a 10-Minute Retirement, usually through a Frame-Up plan so elaborate, even the hero believes they are responsible for what they're being blamed for.

This trope is Truth in Television. See also Gaslighting.


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Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • In the episode of Pokemon: Battle Frontier in which May was going for her fifth Kanto Contest Ribbon, Harley teamed up with Team Rocket to sabotage her by using his Ariados's webbing to throw off her performance. Fortunately, Ash and Brock managed to intervene, allowing May to barely qualify. Afterwards, May was temporarily doubting herself over her apparent nerves nearly ruining her, until Ash and Brock told her it was really Team Rocket that messed with her.

Comic Books

  • In Runaways, Nico spends much of the second series doubting her leadership abilities after a string of problems besets the team, unaware that many of these problems are being caused by the New Pride.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Dr. Lana Kurree creates a rather effective cancer treatment called Plasmin, which she is then told is actually deadly, which she argues though she starts to break down and believe when it kills a patient, and the investigators come to arrest her for murder. It turns out her boyfriend actually created a deadly fake Plasmin and killed the patient, framed her and was intending to steal her formula.
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Films-Animated

  • In Meet the Robinsons, the first part of the Bowler Hat Guy's plan to destroy Lewis's future is sabotaging his Memory Scanner during the science fair. The resulting Disastrous Demonstration left Lewis doubting in his ability to invent, which was the main drive behind the film's plot.
  • In Rock-A-Doodle, Chanticler the Rooster's job was to bring up the sun with his crow. After being distracted from crowing by a fight with a villainous rooster sent by the Grand Duke of Owls, Chanticler sees the sun coming up on its own, making it seem like he was never the one bringing up the sun, shattering his confidence while turning his barnyard friends against him, thus driving him from the farm to find a new purpose in the city. This turns out to be exactly what the Grand Duke wanted, cause it turns out that while the sun was capable of coming up on its own, it required Chanticler's crow to stay up. As such, after Chanticler leaves, the sun stops shining and dark, stormy rain clouds take its place. The guilt-ridden animals are then required to find Chanticler, apologize, and bring him home so he can raise the sun again.

Live-Action TV

  • One episode of Grounded for Life has this inadvertently happen. Lily, having performed at the school talent show, was seemingly booed and hissed off the stage by the audience. She enters a deep funk that she refuses to let her family help her out of and, after talking with Eddie, decides to aim low in life, believing that she wasn't as talented as she thought. Then in the show's typical Once More, with Clarity! fashion, Claudia tells Lily the truth: her and her friends' act "Big Spender" was good, along with being hot to the boy students in the audience, to the point that they were catcalling, much to Claudia's discomfort. When she tried to make them stop, she ended up causing a scene which resulted in the audience yelling and booing that Claudia was ruining the show, which Lily thought had been aimed at her since they were shouting "Finnerty". Needless to say, Lily's upset with her mom for ruining her performance and letting her think she wasn't talented...and ecstatic that the boy students thought she was hot.

Western Animation

  • Gadget from Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers once fell apart emotionally after one of her inventions, the Gyro-Mobile, literally fell apart and the Rangers were almost killed as a result. She quits the Rangers as a result and joins the Cola Cult, which the Rangers were investigating. After the other Rangers try to rescue her, the episode's villain, the cult's second-in-command, reveals he had sabotaged the Gyro-Mobile, which ends up restoring her confidence and enabling her to defeat him.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) episode "The Problem With Power", He-Man believes that he killed someone, and as a result, gives up his sword of power. Turns out that it was actually a trick by Skeletor, who wanted He-Man to do exactly that. Upon learning the truth, He-Man reclaims his sword and defeats Skeletor.
  • In one episode of Justice League, Green Lantern John Stewart believed he was responsible for the destruction of an entire planet thanks to an elaborate Frame-Up engineered by the Manhunters. He was so convinced that not only did he do nothing to defend himself at the trial, but when the Flash got caught up in his sentence to death, he actually told him not to protest and accept it. When the rest of the League saved him from his near execution and brought to light he was innocent, he was enraged that he nearly allowed himself to be executed for nothing.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Pickles", SpongeBob loses confidence in his abilities as a fry cook when he serves Bubblebass a Krabby Patty and he claims that he forgot the pickles. It gets so bad that SpongeBob is unable to do anything in the correct order, even speak!. With help from Mr. Krabs, he learns to make a Krabby Patty correctly again, and is soon back to normal. Also, it turns out Bubblebass was hiding the pickles under his tongue the whole time, likely to get a meal and then a refund.
  • Steven Universe: after the events of "Ocean Gem", Greg accidentally does this to Steven, whose healing spit did mend Greg's broken leg. Greg didn't intend to sabotage Steven; he only pretended he was still injured to have more time with his son. But Steven's confidence took a big hit and his healing spit didn't work for several episodes afterwards.
  • Employed in SWAT Kats episode "Razor's Edge". While chasing Dark Kat, one of Razor's missiles accidentally hits a shack, causing it to explode. He then hears about how an elderly couple who was walking past the shack was injured. This makes Razor lose confidence in his shooting ability, and when he and T-Bone encounter Dark Kat again, Dark Kat takes advantage of Razor's hesitation and nearly kills the SWAT Kats. Later on, T-Bone discovers that the building had actually been rigged to blow by Dark Kat, while Razor learns that the elderly couple was actually a couple of thugs in disguise that Dark Kat had hired. Once Razor realizes he didn't hurt anybody, he regains his edge and joins T-Bone in taking down Dark Kat's giant Black Widow robot.
  • A variation occurred in The Transformers episode "Heavy Metal War", where Optimus Prime faced Megatron in one-on-one combat and was soundly defeated. Initially, Optimus thought the fault was his own due to underestimating how powerful Megatron truly was and reluctantly planned to follow through with the deal that the loser and his army would go into self exile. However, he soon learned the truth: that Megatron had cheated by using the powers of all the other Decepticons. This prompted the Autobots to disregard the deal and retaliate against the Decepticons by knocking them into a pit of lava.
  • In the Xiaolin Showdown episode "The Crystal Glasses", Villain of the Week Vlad does this to Omi by making the latter anticipate a Bad Future with himself as a tyrant from viewing the titular future foreseeing Shen Gong Wu by sneaking in front of him with the "Reverse Mirror". Vlad blows his side's advantage by blabbing the scheme in Omi's presence. Omi swiftly comes out of his funk and delivers a smackdown in the shortly oncoming showdown.

Real Life

  • An inadvertent example occurred at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In the women's gymnastics individual all-around final, the vaulting horse was accidentally set 5 cm too low, an error which went undetected until after half of the gymnasts had already gone through the vault rotation. Without knowing about the equipment problem, many of them believed their poor performance on vault was due to an error they had made, which affected their confidence and caused them to make mistakes on subsequent events. The error was discovered and the gymnasts affected were offered a chance to re-attempt the vault, but in some cases it was too late: the loss of confidence had caused other mistakes they couldn't come back from.
    • Most notably, Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, who had had the high score in qualification, under-rotated her vault, landing on her knees, and subsequently fell from the uneven bars on a release move, an error which many put down to the mental effects of the earlier fall. Khorkina ended up declining to redo her vault because her low uneven bars score meant she was too far behind to get a medal, even if she got a perfect score on the do-over vault.
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