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His Own Worst Enemy

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

A character's greatest enemy is themselves. Not a Split Personality as in Enemy Within nor an evil clone/twin or Evil Counterpart. But the character themselves.

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.

May overlap with Byronic Hero. If this trope applies to the main character, you could say that they are the Villain Protagonist of their own story. See also Heroic Self-Deprecation.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 and in fear of 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 starts 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 social difficulties, and as Asuka simply cannot just tell him how she feels as she has problem 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-downwards 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 leads 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.
  • 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.
  • In 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 wasn't for his bad 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 graded down.

    Comic Books 
  • In a Marvel Comics story, the Greek titan Typhon had gotten his battleaxe fused to his hand. He learns that "only the blood of your worst enemy can free you." Naturally, he assumes his hated foe Hercules is the one to go after, and spends most of the story futilely trying to make Hercules bleed. In the end, Typhon himself is cut, his blood flows over his hand and frees him from the axe. Sadly, he just doesn't get it and continues to be a hateful and revenge-obsessed person.
  • The person who ultimately causes Bruce Wayne more pain than anyone else is Bruce Wayne. In almost all continuities he genuinely believes that he doesn't deserve to be happy since the reason he and his parents were in Crime Alley was because he wanted to see a movie.
    • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • In Scott Pilgrim, this is the revelation that Scott realizes 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 this on the road of improving himself.
  • 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.
  • 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 go 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.
  • 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.
  • Cassandra "Cassie" Hack 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, she’s 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.

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

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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 .
  • 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.

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

    Live Action TV 
  • 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 himself of course, whenever he is close to happy. In the new series he tends to self-sabotage.
    • The Ninth Doctor, while trying to look as a confident man and even retaining his cool at the worst situations, was hiding a great deal of guilt over his actions in the Time War as 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. Like Donna said, he needs people to have him grounded or his path towards darkness would be assured.
    • While the Dream Lord is a case of Enemy Within, it's also this trope given that it represents the dark side of the Doctor. The Eleven Doctor even states that the person that hates him the most isn't the Master or even the pure evil Daleks but himself.
    • The Doctor's Enemy Without The Valeyard who is the darkest and the worst parts of all the Doctors is separate from him.
  • Red Dwarf: Rimmer is truly his own worst enemy. His own sense of self-loathing and lack of self-confidence lead him to screw up everything he touches. His attempts to pass his astro-navigation exams are always ruined because he is so convinced he will fail he spends more time trying to work out how to cheat than he does studying. 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.
  • 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.

  • 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
  • Some songs by "James Blunt", like "Same Mistake", for example in this 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 is about this.
    It tells me I'm a freak
    Drains me
    The monster inside of me
    Save me, the enemy is inside of me

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40K: 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).

    Video Games 

    Web Comic 

    Web Original 
  • 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!

    Western Animation 
  • 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. You’re 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 don’t know they’re pieces of shit. Or is it worse? Breakfast!
  • 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.
  • In Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly would easily win all the races if he just stopped cheating. While his cheats always backfire, if he actually stopped cheating the episode would end in one minute at most. This actually is what makes him the Trope Namer of Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Aang truly mastered his full power by beating Fire Lord Ozai was very easy. However, most of the issues he faces are him accepting his role as the Avatar and stopping 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.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, the show constantly tells us that if Candace stopped trying to bust her brothers her life would be much easier and enjoyable. However Failure Is the Only Option seems to be a law in this universe for her.
    • Doofenshmirtz would be a far greater treat if he just stopped placing self-destruct buttons in his devices. But as a Harmless Villain he can't help it.
  • The Batman villain Two-Face is his own worst enemy, as lampshaded in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Second Chance".
    • The Riddler is also under this category since his Chronic Villainy won't let him stop leaving riddles for Batman to solve. In fact, the Episode Trial makes it clear that all of the villains are this. They would've become what they were in some way, and Batman's interference was a coincidence, not the cause.
  • In Teen Titans, Raven is her worst enemy by far. Even her dad, who was the ultimate personification of evil pales in comparison (he was beaten easily after Raven resolved part of her inner conflict). In fact her stoic personality is her way of controlling her dark side.
  • Greg Weisman has repeatedly stated that Gargoyles' Demona is her own worst enemy. In fact her password is "alone".
  • The Ice King from Adventure Time. In "Prisoners of Love" an unconscious Ice King has a dream where he wonders why nobody likes him, and the Cosmic Owl tells him it's because he's a sociopath, but he ignores it.
  • 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.
  • 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 one Bravestarr episode, Bravestarr is forced by circumstance to make an agreement with Tex Hex. He is hopeful, though, because he knows Tex is such a compulsive backstabber that there's almost no chance he'll keep his word; and that when Tex breaks it, Bravestarr will be free of his part of the bargain, too.
  • The Coyote in Looney Tunes ultimately brings all of his pain and misery on himself. He could give up on the Roadrunner at any time, but he won't.
  • 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.

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


Example of: