This is where someone's self-loathing and self-defeating feelings are their own worst obstacle. These kind of characters sabotage themselves due to some kind of deep psychological issue, a fear of the unknown, or some other kind of feeling of inadequacy. Whenever a spark of happiness or the light of hope is upon them, they'll ruin it and keep themselves in a state of misery in a Vicious Cycle without a foreseeable ending.
In other cases, the character may have a flaw regarding a lack of skill, lack of drive/motivation, 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 they deal with their inner conflicts first.
- Zenitsu from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is too obnoxious, grabby and clingy for the comfort of the women he meets. As he approaches women with unbound zeal and behaves like a showoff, instead of approaching out of sincere drive to help and sympathize (like Tanjiro does), said women generally dislike him. Sure, he's a nice guy... but he's no gentleman.
- In Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Kaguya's "losses" in her games with Shirogane are due to her own conceit, or by thinking that she has more control of the situation than she actually does. Hell, even the majority of her "wins" have nothing to do with what she had planned.
- 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.
- My Hero Academia
- Katsuki Bakugo is a Strong and Skilled Genius Bruiser who won the Superpower Lottery. He'd be an incredible hero... if it weren't for his horrible attidude, Hair-Trigger Temper, and Inferiority Superiority Complex. He loses his first Heroes Vs. Villains exercise because he charged off to be a Leeroy Jenkins against Izuku, and he later loses his chance to get a provisional license because he couldn't stop snapping at the people he was supposed to rescue, and got marked down.
- Momo Yaoyorozu suffers this briefly after Tokoyami effortlessly bests her in the Sports Festival. It ends up shattering her confidence until Todoroki ends up giving her a much-needed pep talk.
- The main character flaw of quite a few characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- The protagonist, Shinji Ikari, has, due to the Parental Abandonment he experienced at a young age (his mother dying in an accident and his father abandoning him soon there after), internalized a belief that he is an unwanted and worthless child. This leads to have problems forming deep relationships with people, as he is stuck between the desire for love and acceptance from other love, while his own Heroic Self-Deprecation and self-loathing subconsciousness leads him to keep his distance from and fear opening up to others, because at the end of the day, he has severe problems just accepting himself, so he simply cannot imagine that anyone else could ever love him.
- Asuka Langley Soryu has similar problems, down to having a Dark and Troubled Past that is quite comparable to Shinji's, but unlike Shinji who is an Extreme Doormat who shies away from people, Asuka instead compensates with an Inferiority Superiority Complex, leading her to have a bossy and thunderous personality as she needs to be in control of and feel superior to everyone around her. But cracks start to show in Asuka's psyche when she discovers that she actually has budding feelings for Shinji, who in many ways is the opposite of the cool, masculine, and adult Kaji, who is the one Asuka's own logic dictates she should desire. For Asuka to discover that, in spite of her attempts to be in control of everything around herself, her own emotions will not allow themselves be controlled so easily, is a major blow to her self-image. This is made even worse due to the fact that whenever she tries both subtly and not-so-subtly to get Shinji to realize that she has feelings for him, he always fails to pick up on her intentions due to his own aforementioned issues, and as Asuka simply cannot just tell him how she feels as she has problems even admitting to herself that she has a crush on him, she obfuscates said flirting attempts behind several layers of facetiousness which only serves to make it even harder for Shinji to understand her. On top of this, Asuka also simultaneously experiences the humiliation of seeing her performance as an Evangelion pilot, the main thing she ties her self-esteem up in, gradually worsening during the latter half of the series, at which point she is basically helplessly trapped in an ever-downward spiral of frustration and self-hatred.
- At the end of the series, it becomes clear that Shinji's father Gendo is Not So Different from his son. Essentially, Gendo abandoned Shinji as a child and keeps him at a firm distance as a teenager because his exceptionally low opinion of himself has led him to believe that he is unworthy of being a parent and would only hurt his son by being close to him. Of course, Gendo's abandonment of Shinji is one of the main reasons why Shinji is such an emotionally damaged individual
- 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 (and would win more fights) if he would just keep his damn glasses on instead of letting his vanity get the better of him.
- Yuri!!! on Ice: The only real antagonist of the story is Yuri Katsuki's insecurities and anxieties. To put it this way, if he didn't have them, he would have been a far more powerful presence in the figure skating world.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender The Search, Azula ends up being this. Straight from the series' end: the idea of somebody loving and accepting her for who she is continues to be unfathomable to her, a self-styled monster. Like some uncommon cases, this leads to Azula actively revolting or snapping back at hallucinations of her mother telling Azula that she is indeed loved by Ursa, her mother, but Azula cannot accept it.
- 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 in the first place was that he wanted to see a movie.
- Naturally, this is the case with many Batman Villains as well - most prominently Harley Quinn, whose adoration for the Joker keeps her on the ropes, and The Riddler, whose prevailing obsessive-compulsions prevent him from pursuing several genuine attempts to reform. In both cases, it's usually more by fault of their own (Harley placing concern for the Joker above concern for herself, and The Riddler feeling compelled to tell Batman everything he's going to do before he does it) than by Batman that they're defeated.
- Cassandra "Cassie" Hack from Hack/Slash accumulates a number of enemies over the course of her years-long career, but never really gets a long-standing Arch-Enemy... because her real enemy is her own personal issues, from being a Shell-Shocked Veteran and a literal Sociopathic Hero to her problems with intimacy (both platonic and romantic). Her own love life, coupled with her immaturity, leads to a multitude of conflicts, and she ends up racking up enough psychological problems to leave her close to being The Mentally Disturbed on her own. Notably, shes completely aware of her nature, and it causes her to push people away... which just ends up causing her even more problems down the line and leaves her life in constant flux in terms of the people she can trust and rely upon to help her, let alone like her.
- Lex Luthor has severe issues with this trope. During the The Black Ring event, he briefly achieved true, absolute omnipotence. The price tag was to never, ever, do anything to harm anyone with the power. The first thing he did was to send a wave of pure, true bliss across the entire Universe, liberating it from all pain and sorrow. Unfortunately, at that moment, he discovered Superman was Clark Kent. After briefly struggling, he attacked - because the thought of leaving his enemy alone was so impossible for Luthor, he decided it wasn't worth omnipotence.
- Luthor does this in general. What Luthor wants is to be the most beloved man in Metropolis and ruler of the universe. He has the intellect and resources to achieve both, but Luthor thinks he's above everyone so he treats humanity like annoying bugs, he needs everyone to know he's on top so he always goes for the direct world domination route, and he cannot stand the idea that someone else might be better than him so he wastes time and resources trying to kill Superman. If Luthor just treated everyone decently, used his brain to help the world, and worked with Superman, he could have everything he wants.
- In a Marvel Comics story, the Greek Giant 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, revenge-obsessed person.
- In Scott Pilgrim, this is the revelation that Scott has during the final volume. Interestingly enough, these feelings, as well as his inability to own up to his mistakes, actually formed a malevolent doppelganger Scott can only see during periods of intense stress. This is Negascott. Ultimately, Scott accepts and absorbs him and is thus on the road of improving himself.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) incarnation of Dr. Eggman has a very severe self-destructive streak; he constantly enacts complex schemes to beat Sonic, never bothers to come up with contingencies, his ego prevents him from reflecting on and learning from his mistakes, and whenever something does go wrong, rather than stay calm and seek a solution, he ends up throwing tantrums and forgoing any further strategy. Orbot even comes right out and admits to Starline that while Sonic's skill and power undoubtedly play a part, it's mostly Eggman's own flaws and inability to plan ahead for the long-term that lead to his numerous defeats.
- In Superior Spider-Man 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.
- From another angle, Peter is his own worst enemy because many of his personal problems stem from his inability to find a proper work/life balance between Spider-Man and Peter Parker.
- Thanos has gained omnipotence at least once and still manages to somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Supposedly, it's because he doesn't truly believe he deserves to win and thus he unconsciously sabotages himself.
- When he's not being depicted as in the right if not extreme, Doctor Doom is shown to be his true worst enemy instead of Reed Richards. Sometimes it's argued that he could restore his scarred face at any time, especially since he's achieved omnipotence on more than one occasion, but he can't because his self-flagellating narcissism demands he has an obvious flaw so he can lash out at the world over. In his 2019 solo series, he meets an alternate self that finally managed to make his Earth into a utopia. All it took was swallowing his pride, letting go of his grudges and working with people to make it happen, instead of dominating them. He even managed to fix his face. Doom grows to despise him, especially when he feels slighted by having his readily fixable faults and melodramatic overcompensation pointed out. In the end, he does arguably the worst thing he's ever done, and uses the Ultimate Nullifier to erase that universe.
- 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.
- It's implied Rainbow Crash (Mirror Rainbow Dash) from The Dark Side of the Mirror Verse has this issue. It's implied she's genuinely talented, but too much of an emotional wreck to use it fully. When she's more focused on reaching and saving Twilight during the finale, she manages to perform a Sonic Rainboom to get back! Mirror Starlight even says afterwards she forgot she was 'supposed' to fail.
- Lincoln in the The Loud House fanfic The Fractured Mirror almost ends up killing himself trying to become talented like his sisters. It isn't until later on when it's revealed he's been a talented artist this entire time. However, due to his how critical he was of his art, he never considered it to be a genuine skill.
- In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku's massive guilt complex and inability to forgive himself for nearly killing Bakugou as a child keep him from moving forward with his life and harnessing his potential to achieve a dream that's very much within reach for him. All Might straight up tells him that Izuku's personal shortcomings are the only things keeping him from becoming a Hero. After coming to terms with his identity, Izuku acknowledges this, pledging to prove to everyone and himself that he deserves to be on Earth and become a Hero.
All Might: Midoriya, my boy, I still think you can be a Hero, but whether or not you should be one? I honestly can't say, and it's not because you're an alien, it's because of a shortcoming you could've had, even if you were human.
- The Enchanted Kingdom: Even after overcoming herself to escape the Library, Twilight can't help but feel bad thoughts asserting themselves every once in a while.
- Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: In many ways, the biggest obstacle in Goh's way is Goh himself:
- His single-minded obsession with Mew led him to neglect Chloe for years, to the point that they became The Friends Who Never Hang.
- After Tokio missed their promised meet-up, Goh decided this was proof that Pokémon are more reliable than people and stopped attempting to make friends... or maintain any kind of relationship with the one he did have.
- When Chloe finally blows up at him, he's more concerned about his phone, and angrily accuses her of not having any goals or dreams of her own. Afterwards, he fixates on this fight as though it's the sole cause of their falling out, rather than the moment where years of resentment and other issues boiled over.
- Goh is so focused on 'getting Chloe back' that he completely ignores her feelings on the matter. Even when she explicitly tells him that she has no intention of returning to Vermillion, he keeps insisting that she HAS to come home because he wants her back... which, naturally, only serves to drive her further away.
- In the LadyBugOut AU, Alya, Adrien and Lila all effectively sabotage themselves:
- Alya refuses to admit that she betrayed Ladybug's trust or that she did anything wrong. No matter how much evidence stacks up, she insists that she's the victim and that others should apologize to HER instead. This persists even after Lila tells a lie even SHE can't deny; even after realizing that Marinette was telling the truth all along, she continues to insist that Mari must make amends to her instead, unable and unwilling to swallow her pride.
- Adrien is so singularly focused on wanting a Relationship Upgrade with Ladybug that he refuses to see how his entitled behavior keeps driving a wedge between them. Like Alya, he doubles down on his misbehavior when challenged, and not even being stripped of the Ring impresses upon him how far he's fallen.
- Lila is so used to manipulating others with all her lies that once she's exposed as one, she has no idea how to go about fixing the problem. Aside from continuing with the same tactics, refusing to accept that they're no longer effective.
- In the She-Ra and the Princesses of Power fanfic Remember Their Sins No More, Catra's immense guilt over everything she did in the Horde manifests itself as extreme self-loathing. It gets so bad that she initially rejects Adora's marriage proposal because she considers herself undeserving of Adora's love and happiness. Catra is regularly tormented by nightmares of the portal incident (which she considers her greatest mistake) and vows to save Queen Angella, hoping that will make her feel better.
- In Frozen (2013), Queen Elsa's biggest problem is her own fear of her powers. 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.
- Though the title characters in Mary and Max mostly face hardships and suffering relating to their grim environments, and forces outside of their control, a good portion of the conflict comes from their own human imperfections. This is especially true of Mary, who writes and publishes a thesis framing Max's Aspergers as a disability, against his own wishes. His subsequent refusal to write to her anymore causes a Sanity Slippage that accumulates in the form of her attempting suicide.
- 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.
- Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Although Mr. Potter acts as George Bailey's foil, and indeed shows us that Aristocrats Are Evil, it's George Bailey himself that proves to be the ultimate cause of most of his own heartache. Although his undying compassion ultimately comes through at the end, saving him from bank fraud charges through The Power of Friendship, throughout most of the film, his drive to help people costs him his dreams of traveling, going to college, and engineering great works of infrastructure, showing that Being Good Sucks. It takes being shown the Crapsack World of Potterville to prove to him that despite all of this, he's had a wonderful life anyway.
- Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He never quite fit in, and The Reveal of being adopted from a race of "monsters" made him struggle with his personal identity. This drives much of his actions, from the horrific attempt to prove himself to Odin in Thor, to invading Earth as a "recompense for imagined slights" in The Avengers, to commissioning a play as a means of self-aggrandizement in Thor: Ragnarok. Only by Avengers: Infinity War did he find peace. His actor explains it this way:
Interviewer: What's there left for Loki to conquer?
Hiddleston: His own mind. [...] All these motivations were actually misguided. Needing to be king, needing the love of his father. And actually, it's something in himself, this kind of self-rejection or self-disgust that he hasn't fully realized. He hasn't just relaxed into it, you know.
- While not as powerful and similar to the other examples listed on this page, one scene in the 2013 movie Jobs has John Sculley (along with Arthur Rock and Mike Markkula) confronting Steve Jobs and telling him that he will be replacing him as CEO of Apple. While doing so, he tells Steve that he is both his and Apple's worst enemy.
- A Frozen Heart: Looking at how he's depicted in the tie-in novel versus the Disney film, what stops Prince Hans of the Southern Isles from the happiness he sought isn't anyone but himself. He could have easily just found happiness getting close with Anna or Elsa, or by pursuing a different interest altogether, but his desperation to seek his distant father's approval destroyed everything he worked so hard for, as he's deported back in disgrace for trying to take over Arendelle's throne via his attempted murder of Anna and Elsa.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, several characters suffer this.
- Robert Baratheon, for example, could have become an great politician and ruler, but the death of the woman he loved absolutely crushed him (emotionally speaking), so he decided to give up and spend his time drinking, eating, hunting and whoring through his life - and he knows that what he is doing is wrong.
- Ironically, Robert's wife Cersei Lannister (who utterly hates him) is pretty much the same: thinking that anyone that does not fawn over her is an enemy (particularly her brother Tyrion who she thinks is prophecized to kill her), she has a habit of driving away most allies she could gain, her petty actions to attempt to screw with anyone that might face against her tend to backfire, and every day she is gaining more enemies that she does not notice because of her obsessions.
- This is one of the main themes in The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee. The main character is made to believe that she is cursed to never know happiness until she finds the Jade, a piece of her soul, and that she is hounded by a demon named Karrakaz. She has great powers as she is descended from a lost race of mystical beings who were nearly godlike, but her powers come and go and she can't control them. She repeatedly falls in with aggressive, domineering men who seek to exploit her and use her powers for their own gain, and she submits to them and fulfills the roles they want her to play even though she is more powerful than they are. an Exposition Fairy in the form of modern space travelers arrive at the very end and help her discover repressed memories in her unconscious mind. As a child, she was brainwashed into believing that her kind and their powers were evil and she should never use them, and all the men she ends up with bear a faint resemblance to the male authority figure(a priest) who forced her to believe those messages about how evil she was. She has been unconsciously using her own powers to manipulate events and the people around her all along, even when it ended up harming her, due to an internalized need to punish herself. The Jade is embedded in her own forehead (a tradition of her people) and Karrakaz represents her own unconscious mind punishing her (that is her real name, which we only find out at the end.). Finally after uncovering her hidden psychological baggage, she understands and accepts herself and overcomes these internal blockages.
- Walter White from Breaking Bad has one fatal flaw throughout the series: his ego. While most of what happens to him can also be attributed to outside forces, one incident stands out as plain stupid self-sabotage: His DEA agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader mentions at a dinner that he's basically given up searching for Heisenberg (Walt), content to believe another suspect (the dead Gale Boetticher) was the guy. Walt, who is drunk and seemingly unable to let someone else take the credit for his genius, suggests to Hank that there was another guy who was the REAL cook. This puts Hank back on the case, and Hank's snooping around becomes a MAJOR issue for Walt's business from there on out.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor themself of course, whenever they are close to happy. In the new series, they tend to self-sabotage.
- The Ninth Doctor, while trying to look like 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 seen 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. As 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.
- The Thirteenth Doctor, due to her insistence on bottling up all her traumas and negative emotions rather than properly dealing with any of it, allows her suppressed rage to start bubbling over and her mental health to take a huge nosedive, to the point that the entirety of series 12 seems like one ongoing mental breakdown for her.
- The Doctor's Enemy Without The Valeyard who is the darkest and the worst parts of all the Doctors is separate from them.
- The Flash (2014): It's repeatedly stated that Barry's worst enemy has never been any of the villains he's faced, but rather himself. His own inability to cope with the tragedy in his life and move past all the trauma he's faced has caused him constant problems, culminating in the biggest mistake of his life: Flashpoint. As the result of this mistake, it becomes literal: the Season 3 Big Bad, Savitar, is a time remnant of Future Barry Allen, as the result of a Stable Time Loop created from the ripple effect of Flashpoint. Savitar hates his past self so much that he's willing to recreate the very tragedy that defined his entire existence in order to ensure it: the premature death of Iris West, the love of Barry's life. To be willing to go so far to get back at who essentially is you, in all aspects, takes an unbelievable amount of internalized self-hatred.
- Kamen Rider Zero-One: While Gai Amatsu has physical means of torturing her that she can't escape or avoid, Yua Yaiba was not bound by them just as much as her own conviction that any attempt to do so is futile. She spent a while trying to supress thoughts of fighting back to preserve her fragile sanity, but eventually his vileness reached a critical mass and she decided that since she is going to suffer anyway, she might at least suffer for fighting back.
- Red Dwarf: Rimmer is truly his own worst enemy. His own sense of self-loathing and lack of self-confidence leads 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. This was best shown in the episode "Better Than Life" and the novel of the same name where the crew is playing a game that makes their deepest fantasies come true. Rimmer's internalized self-loathing eventually ends up destroying his dream life and those of the others.
- Supergirl (2015): Lena Luthor often bemoans her lack of friends due to her familial reputation, but as the series goes on, it's shown that she has a habit of inadvertently driving people who are closest to her away when it comes to disagreements over her work. Her deterioration of her friendship with Supergirl over the issue of her keeping Kryptonite and anti-Kryptonian technology; her very blunt refusal to even try to rebuild her friendship with Supergirl, and her (second) break-up with James for his heinous crime of daring to tell her that he thought sharing her human augmentation research with the government for military use would be a bad idea are primes examples of this. In the latter case, Lena recognizes this.
- The Evil Queen of Once Upon a Time finds out this applies to her when she enchants a Cupid's Arrow. The arrow in this case doesnt make people fall in love, but shows them where to find the person they love most. Regina changes the spell so it will lead her to the one she hates most instead, thinking it will lead her to Snow White, but it flies back to her own castle and hits a mirror, demonstrating the Queens anger at herself.
- 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.
- "Crashing Around You" by Machine Head is an "I Hate" Song with the Wham Line in the last verse:
I'll make your world come crashing around you
Smash down around you
I'll let you see why cannot hide from me
Because I am you
- Some songs by "James Blunt", like "Same Mistake", for example in these lines:
And so I sent some men to fight / and one came back at death of night / Said he'd seen my enemy / said he looked just like me / So I set out to cut myself, and here I go
- Tim McGraw's "The Cowboy in Me".
- Pink's greatest enemy in The Wall is none other than Pink himself. The emotional wall that serves as the main driver of the story was built by Pink alone, the various "bricks" in it being composed of everything bad that's happened to him.
- "Freak" by Molly Sandén.
It tells me I'm a freak
The monster inside of me
Save me, the enemy is inside of me
- "Given Up" by Linkin Park says bluntly, "I'm my own worst enemy".
- Demi Lovato's "I Love Me" is a peppy song about being self-destructive: "I'm a black belt when I'm beating up on myself," "Jedi level sabotage," "I'm my own worst critic," and "I always got my finger on the self destruct."
- Woodkid's "Enemy."
This self-destruction draws patterns in me
It will bring us down, I don't know why
I keep on playing games of power and need
You're the only way out, I am my own enemy
- This is pretty much the defining feature of being a Darklord in Ravenloft. People become Darklords when they cross the Moral Event Horizon, in-universe known as an Act of Ultimate Darkness; a perfect stew of cruelty, depravity, hypocrisy, and treason, capped off with an absolute refusal to admit you are a bad person doing bad things. If such an act catches the attention of the Dark Powers, they'll trap you in an Ironic Hell specifically tailored for your flaws to torment you. For example, Strahd, the setting's flagship Darklord, committed his Act of Ultimate Darkness out of his love/lust for a girl named Tatyana, who committed suicide to get away from him. Now he's condemned for this cycle to repeat itself every generation- he finds a reincarnation of Tatyana, fails at courting her because she's not into evil bastards, and then she dies getting away. If he were to simply give up on pursuing her love, he would be entirely free of the curse, but his obsession means that he continuously suffers from his beloved's rejection and death.
- In fact, there are two canonical Darklords who escaped by not embodying this trope: Lord Soth and Nathan Timothy. Soth escaped Darklordship and was returned to his home world because he accepted that all his suffering was his own damn fault and stopped responding to any of the Dark Powers' provocations (and because his original creators hated crossovers). Nathan Timothy lost his darklordship by accepting his own curse- he was originally confined to one river to curtail his wanderlust, but he grew to genuinely like being a ferryman so much that he eventually lost his domain (though he retained the curse), which merged with his son's domain of Vebrek.
- Warhammer 40,000: Tzeentch is the Manipulative Bastard / The Chessmaster of the 'verse (being god of magic, backstabbers, mutants, and traitors), with thousands of intricate plans running at the same time, all of them giving him complete and utter domination of the galaxy and the other Chaos gods, all of them destined to fail so another plan can succeed. Tzeentch is the only one smart enough to realize that if he did win, there'd be nothing left for him to do (as hope incarnate, he needs to be the underdog to have something to aspire to), and thus he ensures he'll never be in such a position. It's possible the other Chaos gods subconsciously do the same (Khorne's forces will happily turn on each other/themselves even at the cost of victory if it means more blood and skulls, Slaanesh's followers both inflict and receive pain, and while Nurgle loves all life, bacteria need to die so humans can live, humans need to die so bacteria can live).
- At one point, there was even a god who embodied Chaos' self-sabotage: Malal. Malal's champions fought to destroy the other Chaos Gods and used the powers of the Warp against the Warp. He's currently in an odd canonicity limbo after his creators left Games Workshop; he hasn't been explicitly mentioned, but no one has said he doesn't exist, and there have been a few nods here and there.
- 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.
- Kratos is the ultimate source of many of his own problems, though it takes him a long time to admit it. By God of War (PS4), it becomes apparent that while he hates all gods, he hates none as much as himself for his Jumping Off the Slippery Slope Never My Fault complex and role in the Cycle of Revenge. He even admits, when pressed, that he is a monster. In a sense, while the game itself has no real Big Bad, his own past as the Ghost of Sparta gives him so much shame, especially over his Patricide and role in the end of the Greek era, that it can be seen as the real villain of the game itself.
- The biggest flaw of YHVH and the Great Will throughout Shin Megami Tensei is that they do not realize their flaws. They believe that their Millennium Kingdom and absolute authority are the best for humanity, and they are too ignorant to know that they aren't doing anything other than suffocating people's thoughts. This is especially obvious in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, since YHVH's ego is so large there that he fails to see any other non Judeo-Christian deity as anything other than lowly demons and filth; Yet, he's being exposed as nothing other than a demon himself by a bunch of human kids!
- Persona likes to play this around a bit. Usually, the biggest enemy of most of the characters are in fact...themselves. This category will only pick out the more notable examples.
- Persona 4 has Tohru Adachi, who appears as a textbook clumsy detective. In reality, he is the killer of Inaba who throws adolescents and even Nanako of all people into the TV to be killed by Shadows for the sole reason that he was bored and his life was nothing but misery; But he fails to see himself as anything other than a superior human and others as worthless garbage.
- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth proves that not only humans but real gods can fall into this. Exactly why did the entire thing in the game start? It's because he began to grow mercy when he saw a girl called "Niko" who died of a terminal illness and was unable to live in a meaningful way. As a result, he sealed all of his and Niko's memories and his merciless side away then created a Yasogami High School Lotus-Eater Machine to soothe her pain. Obviously, this didn't end well.
- Persona 5 has Akechi, with a similar mindset as Adachi. His life was miserable because his mother was a prostitute Shido impregnated, who later killed herself. He grew to hate Shido for abandoning his mom, and decided the best way to get revenge would be to make Shido Prime Minister of Japan- and then ruin his career by revealing himself as Shido's bastard child. To do this, he served as Shido's metaverse muscle, ruined many lives to get Shido's conspiracy off the ground, and betrayed the Phantom Thieves... when he "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot by joining the Thieves and stealing Shido's heart (or doing it himself before the Phantom Thieves came together), and Shido was aware of his plans and was going to take him out before he could drop his big reveal. He has a Villainous Breakdown when this is pointed out.
- In Royal, we also have "Kasumi Yoshizawa," who is not Kasumi Yoshizawa but her sister Sumire Yoshizawa. It turns out that Kasumi virtually outperforms her in gymnastics in any way and this caused her to go into suicidal depression courtesy of jealousy, eventually accumulating into a depressive fit that nearly got herself accidentally thrown into traffic a month before your journey started, with Kasumi sacrificing herself to get Sumire out of the way. This merely caused Sumire's mental health to obviously worsen with Survivor Guilt and her father had no choice other than to send her to Maruki, in which she actively told him to turn her into a copy of her dead sister. (He made her think she's Kasumi instead because that's the biggest extent he can do at that point.) The catch is she isn't as worthless as how she perceives herself as, since it's pretty clear she can go into the charts during gymnast championships even if not consistently perfect and unlike Kasumi, she can actually cook quite well. Unlike the others, her very own oppressor is not corrupt authorities or celebrities, it was nobody but herself.
- Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth has Hikari, who got through a Trauma Conga Line since primary school which basically consists of her getting targeted, humiliated and rejected by people for having No Social Skills with the exception of her father, which caused her to end up with catatonic depression. Since her father taught her the things that seemingly made her All of the Other Reindeer, she began to think that everyone hated her and she had become an embarrassment for him because she was being different, making the Trauma Button moment where her father expressed genuine concern on her using the exact phrase that was used before people flipped out especially traumatizing, since that actually convinced that even her father hated her. In reality, nobody but a few jerkasses did, and her father never changed at all.
- Spec Ops: The Line has Martin Walker.Although he regards Konrad as a kind of arch nemesis who has to be stopped at all costs, the further the game progresses and Walker continues to do heinous acts in pursuit of stopping his alleged arch nemesis, it becomes clear that Walker himself is his own enemy and not Konrad. It is made clearer when the real Konrad turns out to have been dead the entire time, and the Konrad who was an antagonist was a hallucination.
- It's stated on numerous occasions that The Angry Video Game Nerd's eternal torment of playing terrible video games that he despises is entirely his own fault. Freddy Krueger puts it best, after taking on the Nerd's likeness to mock him.
Freddy: Whoa, look at me! I'm a fuckin' nerd! What a piece of shit! Buffalo diarrhea fuckfarts! Y'see Nerd, nobody makes you play these games but yourself, so you're your own damn nightmare!
- RWBY: Cinder Fall is a competent fighter, a clever manipulator, and decent at Xanatos Speed Chess... when she can bring herself to stick to her task. Her incredibly abusive past conditioned her to believe that she needs to push others down to gain power herself, and that she needs power for her self-worth. Hence, she often deviates from plans to gain power or just be sadistic... and every time, she runs herself right into trouble. Her plan to destroy Beacon worked perfectly... until she murdered Pyrrha (after the girl could no longer effectively fight) and inadvertently activated Ruby's Silver-Eyed Warrior powers. When she went after Vernal for the Spring Maiden powers, she fell for the decoy set by Raven, the real Spring Maiden. Whenever she doesn't stop for dramatic flourishes, she tends to win.
- 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.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Aang truly masters his full power, beating Fire Lord Ozai is very easy. However, most of the issues he faces are him accepting his role as the Avatar and stopping from running away for his duties. He becomes much stronger after he accepts his responsibilities. In fact, his greatest failure isn't not stopping the war, but running away from it.
- The 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.
- BoJack Horseman is his own worst enemy. A self-loathing raging alcoholic who is trying to recapture his fifteen minutes of fame, he intentionally sabotages all of the people around him due to a crippling fear of being alone. Ultimately, all BoJack really wants is to be happy with who he is, but circumstances drive him further and further away from anyone who could help him. This is taken to new depths in Season 4's "Stupid Piece of Sh*t", where BoJack's Inner Monologue is featured for the first time, and the start of the episode gives you an idea of just how much self-loathing he's filled with.
BoJack's Mind: Piece of shit. Stupid piece of shit. Youre a stupid piece of shit. But I know I'm a piece of shit. That at least makes me better than all the pieces of shit who dont know theyre pieces of shit. Or is it worse? Breakfast!
- 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.
- In DuckTales (2017), the one responsible for most of Glomgold's plans failing is Glomgold himself. His poor planning, terrible impulse control, Complexity Addiction, general cheapness, and desire only to win by beating Scrooge McDuck end up backfiring on him on a regular basis. Special mention goes to the montage in "McMystery at McDuck McManor!", where Glomgold tries to make booby-trapped presents to kill Scrooge; instead, Glomgold achieves an Epic Fail with all of them and nearly gets himself killed instead. In another episode, when Glomgold leaves Glomgold Industries thanks to Louie, he's shown to be such a Bad Boss because of his obsession with beating Scrooge that Glomgold's company starts doing substantially better once he's gone.
- Elena of Avalor: As much as he may fear the wrath of anyone else, Esteban is his own worst enemy. He's responsible for part of the show's tragic backstory (that is, the assassinations of his aunt and uncle, otherwise known as the queen and king, as well as a 41-year-long tyrannical regime over his people), and though he claims he wants to take responsibility for his actions, he often weasels out at the last minute (like hiding his betrayal from his surviving family members) or tries to do so when the damage is already done. When his secret is finally exposed in Season 3, he begs for mercy and attempts to claim Freudian Excuse, which no one buys. Even when he gets the tamer sentence of being exiled to a remote island, he instead opts to break out the day before he can be transported and teams up with a group of powerful & dangerous criminals to protect himself, which kills any remaining sympathy anyone still had for him. Although he rationalizes his Enemy Mine as necessary to defend himself from the wrath of his family, Elena eventually bluntly tells him that he neither has a family or home to return to and that he's Beyond Redemption, after which he stops trying to seek her forgiveness and tries to be truly evil. To quote some foreshadowing from a mostly unrelated episode, "He did this to himself."
- Gargoyles: Demona's paranoia and inability to acknowledge her mistakes cause her nothing but misery and cause her to lose everything she ever cared about. But her refusal to acknowledge that anything could possibly be her fault results in her repeating this cycle over and over again.
- Greg Weisman has repeatedly stated Demona is her own worst enemy. In fact her password is "alone".
- 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.
- 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. The episode "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" drives the point home by making her create the Tantabus, a force that makes her have nightmares. Its escape and subsequent strengthening are a result of her not being able to forgive herself for her actions as Nightmare Moon.
- 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 threat if he just stopped placing self-destruct buttons in his devices. But as a Harmless Villain, he can't help it.
- Ready Jet Go!: Mitchell's loneliness and lack of social skills cause him to build up a snobby jerk persona that is keen on exposing Jet's alien identity. However, these traits prove to be self-destructive; despite Jet, Sean, Sydney, and Mindy not having any animosity towards him, they often leave him out, forget about him, or are even cautious of him because of his stalker behavior and mean attitude, as the Christmas Episode shows. Mitchell shuts all his potential friends out by telling them to go away or leave him alone, since he does his detective work by himself. He realizes this and attempts to make a change in season 2 by being more polite to the other kids and helping them out instead of spying on them all the time. Sure enough, it works, and Mitchell is an Honorary True Companion of Team Propulsion.
- Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty. He might be the smartest man in the entire universe, or multiverse even, and the "Rick-est Rick there is," but he ultimately is the cause for most of his own problems and his families problems due to his own flaws and God Complex ego. This is best shown in the season 3 finale, where after spending the entire season as the new head of the house by tricking his daughter Beth into divorcing Jerry and slowly getting his grandson Morty to be more like him and see his way of things he messes it all up by getting into a petty, completely avoidable grudge with the President of the United States, just because he can. When Rick ignores Morty even after he tells him repeatedly to stop he ends up alienating the entire family and Morty finally stands up to him. Rick's own flaws ruined his position in the family, right when he had everything he could have wanted, and sent him back to square one as "the lowest status character" in his "idiot family".
- Aku from Samurai Jack is this especially in the final season where he literally planted the seeds of his own destruction, namely his daughter Ashi.
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has Catra, who has been treated as Always Second Best "Well Done, Son!" Guy in comparison to her best friend Adora by their Parental Substitute Shadow Weaver for their entire lives. When Adora has her HeelFace Turn, it leaves Catra to take up her position in the power vacuum and to finally lash out at her former best friend. Throughout the early seasons, Catra ends up pushing away Scorpia and kills her chances at appealing to her boss Hordak, and Adora is soon forced to accept that she is Beyond Redemption in the Season 3 finale when Catra attempts to destroy reality just so that Adora wouldn't win. Catra is eventually told straight to her face by Double Trouble in the Season 4 finale that she's pushing away what she really wants (friends) in favor of vengeance and power, and that it's left her Lonely at the Top.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): This is what Leo went through in season four. The past season finale had them in a near-death battle with the Utrom Shredder they almost didn't survive. This had a toll on Leo, making him stricter and prone to anger and criticism. His battle with a mystic rock monster, which turned about to be himself underneath, made him realize that his obsession with victory and getting stronger made him his own worst enemy. He overcame this.
- 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.
- Total Drama: Courtney shows many times that she has a chance to reach the finale but at the end, her pride and selfishness tends to be her downfall. She can be a team player but her necessity to be the team leader leads everyone else to find her bossy. She also is capable of being civil and make friends as well as being in romantic relationships but her tendency to betray everyone makes her one of the most hated contestant.
- 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 leader of the Decepticons and perhaps even better than Megatron is.
- In Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly would easily win all the races if he just stopped cheating. While his cheats always backfire, if he actually raced legitimately the episode would end in one minute at most. This is what makes him the Trope Namer of Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat.
- 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 couldn't muster the motivation to actually study for it.
- Truth in Television for many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other executive function disorders, who report finding themselves routinely misplacing objects, unable to focus on tasks, late for appointments, missing deadlines and feeling unable to deal with life in general.