Follow TV Tropes


Confidence Sabotage

Go To

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.


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.



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.


  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.

Western Animation

  • Employed in one episode of SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron by Dark Kat to make Razor think he injured an elderly couple with his missiles by accident to make him lose confidence in his shooting.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Example of: