But you're the only enemy you ever seem to lose to
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. This kind of character sabotages themself 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 they 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 or Self-Disposing Villain. 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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, the second thing he did was learn that 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. Luthor is genuinely one of the greatest minds to ever live, and if he put his mind to it, he could easily gain all the respect and power he wanted without bothering with supervillainy. He just can't resist squandering any respect others have for him by being a smug dick, and as for power... well, see above. To Lex, Superman existing is a slight that he'll give up anything to avenge, which results in Supes beating him back down to size in short order.
- 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 to 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.
- 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.
- Kung Fu Panda: While Po initially comes off as an incompetent dunce, it's really this trope in play. He's tough enough to shrug off Shifu deliberately putting him through master-level Training from Hell to force him to quit, agile enough to do the splits on a top shelf to get to Monkey's cookies, and his kung-fu nerdery means that he knows more moves than you'd think (and he's a Supreme Chef). His problem is mostly that he's internalized the idea that he's "just a big fat panda" and can't be a martial artist, so he sabotages himself in fights-something not helped by Shifu not initially knowing how to teach him. One Shifu does step up to the plate and Po learns the secret to the Dragon Scroll ( that you don't need to learn any secret scroll magic to be the Dragon Warrior; if you're reading the scroll in the first place then you've got what it takes), he manages to beat the fur off Tai Lung, a martial artist who's far superior to him but who hasn't managed to overcome this trope.
- 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.
- The Super Mario Bros. Movie: In the end, no matter how many times he blames Mario, Bowser's greatest enemy is himself. His campaign to rule the world and bring misery to others is why Peach hates him to the core. His paranoia that Mario may win Peach's love leads him to personally antagonize the Mario Brothers, which not only makes them the superheroes adored by everyone, including Peach, but he also ended up deepening the bond between Mario and Peach, which is soon destined to blossom into romance, the very thing he tried to prevent. By the time Mario and Donkey Kong arrive at Bowser's Castle to save the day, Bowser's wedding is already in ruins because he genuinely thought Peach would love him despite evidence to the contrary.
- Eddie Felson from The Hustler (1961) 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 Pottersville to prove to him that despite all of this, he's had a wonderful life anyway.
- 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.
- 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.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters: Emma Russell is extremely arrogant, refuses to acknowledge that she might not be clear-headed due to her grief, and these things ultimately shoot her in the foot. She aims to stop humanity's meddling with the Titans from causing the next mass extinction including our own destruction, she aims to create a better world for her remaining child, and she aims to ensure that some good can come out of Andrew's demise. But by trying to control the Titans, including Godzilla's three-headed rival, Emma ironically puts the world in danger of an even more rapid global apocalypse that will surely wipe out the entire human race; and because she didn't bother to properly indoctrinate Madison into her radicalism (and because Emma seems too lost in her madness to even notice straight away how horrified Madison is), Emma ends up completely alienating her remaining child, who calls out her blatant Insane Troll Logic of believing that Andrew would ever consider a million repeats of the tragedy that killed him being enacted by his own mother to be a good thing.
- Godzilla vs. Kong: The heroes fail to do anything to stop the villainous Apex Cybernetics, and ultimately, the only person who kills Walter Simmons and ruins everything he's worked towards is Walter Simmons. His pride, ego, and immaturity lead to his own death twofold when he: (1) decided before the movie's start that it was somehow not a monstrously-dangerous idea to use Ghidorah's undead skull as the main part of his artificial Titan's brain, and when he (2) foregoes basic testing on the synthesized Hollow Earth element out of a desire for instant gratification and a belief that fortune favors risk-takers, directly shooting down Ren Serizawa's pragmatic cautioning. Both of which together lead to Ghidorah's subconsciousness possessing the empowered Mechagodzilla and killing Simmons, before it goes on a rampage which almost surely burns Apex's name and its Muggle Power agenda to ashes. What's more, Simmons' actions against Godzilla with his secret project were entirely unnecessary, and he ultimately acted solely out of wounded pride and out of a desire for acclaim and power – if he'd just left well enough alone after the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the world would still be enjoying an all-round beneficial peace between man and Titan, and Simmons would still be alive and could have profited off the Titans' existence through far more legitimate ventures.
- 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.
- 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 by getting close to 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.
- All the damned in The Great Divorce are their own worst enemies. Even as the Bright Ones point this out via psychoanalysis, they either cannot admit their shortcomings, or confront them. They find any welcoming audience or reunion, unbearable, and many of them flat out refuse to venture any further and leave.
- Harry Potter: Although Harry is Voldemort's literal mortal enemy, Voldemort does have a huge responsibility for 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 prophecy even explicitly states that it would be Voldemort's own actions- to "mark [the chosen one] as his equal"- that would lead to the prophecy's subject becoming his enemy.
- 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.
- Dolores in She's Come Undone: While a lot of bad things happen to her through no fault of her own, Dolores's own choices are the cause of a lot of her misery. She can be a terrible person, going from merely cruel and thoughtless to outright criminal. The book's saving grace is that it thoroughly explores the consequences of her behavior—she must earn her happy ending by making a conscious decision to be a better person.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, several characters suffer this.
- Robert Baratheon, for example, could have become a 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.
- 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 toward 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 Eleventh 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 suppress 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 doesn’t 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 Queen’s 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
- Emilie Autumn's "God Help Me" says, "all the world is a judge / But that doesn't compare to what I do to myself / When you're not there."
- The brilliant and irascible (putting it mildly on both counts) conductor and music director Georg Szell was literally described as this. While working for the Metropolitan Opera Company in the early 1950s, Szell terrorized the orchestra, made snotty remarks about general manager Rudolf Bing's choices on the Met's stagecraftnote , and finally quit in a huff. An assistant commented "Georg Szell is his own worst enemy," and Bing famously snapped "Not while I'm alive."
- In the Book of Matthew from The Four Gospels, Jesus debunks an argument against Him with this trope. After word spread of Him performing an exorcism, the Pharisees cynically accused Him of consorting with demons. Jesus then proceeded to lay into them, explaining that their inability to accept their own salvation would be their downfall.
- Sloth/Despair from the Seven Deadly Sins essentially boils down to this trope and ties into the lesson above. Despair is the idea that you're unworthy of God's love and thus damned absolutely, therefore rejecting Christ's Heroic Sacrifice for our sake and challenging God's infinite capacity for forgiveness. While no sin is beyond God's forgiveness, Despair is often referred to as the "unforgivable sin" because if you've completely given up on seeking absolution then you won't find it.
- In Zoroastrianism, the main cause of Angra Mainyu's constant defeats is his Stupid Evil tendencies.
- Jeff Hardy, both In-Universe and in Real Life. More than once, it's been remarked that Jeff's daredevil, high-flying style is a double-edged sword. On top of being risky, those moves tend to hurt him almost as much as they hurt his opponent. In Real Life, Jeff has jumped between WWE and TNA several times due to his inability to keep off the drugs, and those same problems arguably prevented him from reaching his full potential as a performer. When it comes down to it, nobody has screwed over Jeff Hardy more than Jeff Hardy.
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, due to the abusive rhetoric he's been victim to by his parents, Benedict truly believes that he's not deserving of any help and that anyone who does try to help him is lying and putting on an act.
- 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 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.
- The God-Emperor of Mankind also counts. He was a brilliant leader and a psyker of near-godlike power, but his divorce from humanity and belief that he always knew best ended up turning half the Primarchs against him- something that could've easily been avoided if he'd taken the time to address their severe psychological issues, or at least been honest from them from the start.
- Hamilton has the titular character. He's a financial and legal genius, but he also tends to get ahead of himself and make boneheaded moves, followed by recklessly overcorrecting and making the situation worse. The cut song "Congratulations" (found in The Hamilton Mixtape) has Angelica call him on this, noting that the Reynolds Affair would never have happened if he hadn't reacted to rumors of embezzlement by ruining his own reputation by disclosing the Reynolds Affair.
Angelica: You know why Jefferson can do what he wants? He doesn't dignify schoolyard taunts with a response!
- Ace Attorney: A good number of culprits have good murder plots that end up failing because said villain can't stop meddling with their own evil plans. The most common variant is criminals who've committed a crime and have no evidence tying them to it... until they decide to frame someone else, are called in court as a witness, and have Phoenix tear their lies to shreds.
- Redd White has no connection to Maya's trial whatsoever until Phoenix annoys him and Redd decides to insert himself as a witness to the trial in order to frame him for Mia's murder. He then proves to be a Bad Liar who nearly blows his case wide open in a few minutes and would have probably got himself indicted as the murderer in his first testimony if he didn't use his blackmail empire to get the judge to listen to him.
- Richard Wellington panics when he sees a cop with his phone, which contains evidence that he is part of a con artist ring. He kills the cop, frames his girlfriend for it, and assaults said girlfriend's lawyer (Phoenix) in the court's lobby to get the phone back. Not only does Phoenix easily expose him as the real killer, said cop was off duty, hadn't even looked at the phone, and was just being a good Samaritan. And to add insult to injury, he steals the wrong phone from Phoenix at court (since he isn't wearing his glasses).
- Matt Engarde of Justice for All is able to put Phoenix in a Morton's Fork where he either gets Matt off on a murder he commissioned, or have Maya be killed by the assassin he hired, Shelly de Killer. There is seemingly no way for Phoenix to avoid sacrificing either Maya or Adrian Andrews (the most likely suspect after Matt)... except Matt decides, with no prompting from anyone else, to blackmail de Killer. Shelly de Killer considers betrayal by clients to be a Berserk Button, and being told of the blackmail attempt is enough to get him to dissolve the contract, release Maya, and turn the Morton's Fork on Matt; either he's found guilty and goes to prison, or he's found innocent and Shelly hunts him down and kills him for betraying his trust. Matt ends up choosing prison.
- Dahlia Hawthorne manages to escape justice twice- once prior to the game and once in case 3-4 (a flashback to the first time she and Mia are in court)- with her talent for manipulation. There is no direct evidence connecting her to any of her crimes, but she still decides to poison Diego Armando when he investigated the crimes, which leads to a series of crimes and frantic cover-ups that eventually lead to her being caught for yet another murder, this time of the boyfriend who'd unwittingly supplied her with the poison she used on Diego, and she's executed for that one.
- Godot, the Trials and Tribulations prosecutor, also counts. He causes most of the complications of Bridge to the Turnabout, including the death of Misty Fey, because he feels guilty about not being able to protect Mia and wants to "atone" by saving her sister Maya (and get revenge on Dahlia despite her already being dead)- even though he could have easily prevented the situation from ever happening if he'd told Phoenix that he'd discovered Morgan's plot to use Pearl to kill Maya, but he is projecting his guilt onto Phoenix and didn't want Phoenix to be part of saving Maya. In the end, the whole plot just means a murder conviction for him and Maya losing her mother unnecessarily.
- Kristoph Gavin is this twice over. The first trial reveals his tendency to wax poetic and put his foot in his mouth by revealing things he really shouldn't have known about Shadi's murder, and the fourth trial reveals he has black psyche-locks. The next game explains that black locks mean someone is concealing a secret from themselves (a witness with black locks in Dual Destinies has Trauma-Induced Amnesia), so that means Kristoph is so committed to subconsciously screwing himself over, he's withholding important information about his own motives from himself. The black lock secret is that he always envied Phoenix Wright as a lawyer, and his inability to confront his own feelings of inferiority drove him to frame Phoenix for forgery and eventually murder the guy who brought the issue to his attention.
- Florent L'Belle in case 2 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is such a narcissist that he causes his own money problems because of his absolute refusal to sell his beauty products to "peasants" (i.e. people who aren't him) despite said products being in high demand.
- The phantom really only has himself to blame for getting caught for UR-1; even if Simon Blackquill was still looking for him, all he has to do is not frame Athena for Clay Terran's murder, and no one would have even considered him suspicious.
- Junko Enoshima is this, and happily so. Her love for despair means that she will knowingly and willingly take actions that will complicate her plans (such as sparing Makoto and killing Mukuro), because experiencing despair excites her just as much as causing it.
- Most of the murderers count, as Monokuma makes a point of sowing dissent and using the students' own character flaws to drive them to murder, only occasionally forcing the situation (like in the Funhouse segment of 2, where he locks the students in without food until somebody kills). Mondo's own temper caused him to lash out at Chihiro (whom he would've otherwise considered a friend), Celestia could've easily won if she could reign in her Complexity Addiction or trusted her friends to break the game, Sakura's susceptibility to blackmail led her to become The Mole and later kill herself in atonement (and to prevent deaths from her status being revealed), and so on.
- Nagito Komaeda in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair wants to help his classmates, make friends, and create a better world, and his intelligence and supernatural luck make him an incredibly useful asset. However, said supernatural luck (and, more to the point, unluck) has left him deeply disturbed, with a bizarre Misery Builds Character worldview that borders on Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad, a firm conviction that the world is divided into 'haves' and 'have-nots', and an extreme inferiority complex. This results in him alienating the other students with his constant rambling about hope, put-downs of himself, and focus on their talents above their personalities, and means he aids Monokuma as much as he opposes him. Hajime ( who, ironically, has no Ultimate talent) is the only student who even tries to understand him, and he ends up forcing Chiaki to make a Heroic Sacrifice to protect the others.
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has Kokichi Ouma. He's intelligent, a Living Lie Detector, and opposes the existence of the killing game from the start. His problem is that he's also a Consummate Liar who can't seem to stop lying even when it runs directly counter to his goals. Naturally, none of the other students trust him and he makes no effort to work with them, even if they could have accomplished his goals much more easily in this way.
- The backstory has Kiyotaka Ishimaru's grandfather. If you do his free-time events, you'll find that Grandpa Ishimaru was a Hope's Peak alumnus (Ultimate Manager) who was considered a political genius and quickly rose to become Prime Minister, but became so complacent in his talent that he ruined his own career by getting involved in an unspecified corruption scandal. The familial shame of this is why Kiyotaka is such a verging-on-Lawful Stupid hardass; he resents the concept of born geniuses because of his personal experience with prodigies falling prey to this trope just like anyone else (and more often than most people if their talent gives them a swelled head), so he strives to avert it and excel despite a lack of natural talent with rigorous study and focus on self-improvement and incorruptibility. This has left him with No Social Skills but worked to the point where he was accepted into Hope's Peak as the Ultimate Moral Compass (or Ethics Committee Member in Japan, but it's pretty much the same thing) and he has the highest grades in his class.
- Minotaur Hotel: P has severe self-loathing due to his family being largely dysfunctional after his grandfather got kicked out of the hotel, and his job forcing him to do some shady stuff. Storm, or rather Oscar, helps him realize that it's the only thing that's stopping him from being a good person.
- Karkat from Homestuck. He uses Time Travel to communicate with himself, and he's LITERALLY his own worst enemy.
- 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. When she does, she gets humiliated and/or maimed.
- 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 from who he is. 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.
- Bob's Burgers: For all the crap Bob suffers, from his dysfunctional family to his obnoxious rival, perhaps the biggest and most consistent threat to his business is actually Bob himself. While an excellent chef, Bob's business sense is extremely poor to the point of being self-defeating due to a sense of pride as a cook. He's turned down numerous opportunities for profit (such as an investor's tiki theme or a plaque indicating his restaurant was the location of a criminal's death) and tends not to follow ongoing trends like sweet potato fries out of the misguided belief that he only needs his burgers to attract customers, resulting in his restaurant and family being constantly stuck in Perpetual Poverty.
- 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!
- To make matters worse, his behavior is a textbook example of compensatory narcissism meaning if this really is the case, he's pathologically incapable of learning from his mistakes and growing as a person despite his best efforts. He's also been often interpreted as having clinical depression which would be dangerous enough on its own without potentially being a narcissist on top of it.
- 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".
- Invader Zim: Zim can be quite cunning and capable when he puts his mind to something, but his ego is so overpowering that he's not only his own worst enemy, he's the entire Irken Empire's worst enemy. He absolutely refuses to change his mind once he's set on a plan or accept any criticism- not even people trying to tell him he's destroying his own side with that Humongous Mecha.
- The Coyote in Looney Tunes ultimately brings all of his pain and misery to 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.
- The Owl House:
- Luz Noceda's single biggest flaw is the fact that as a result of her emotionally difficult childhood, literally all of Luz's positive emotions are focused outwards which while making her a Genki Girl also causes her to suffer from a case of self-loathing. In "Separate Tides", Luz pushes herself to try and redeem her perceived failing of playing a part in Eda and Lilith losing their magic by trying to single handedly slay a Selkidomus even though this could get her killed. In "Edge of the World", she suffers a huge emotional breakdown due to the revelation that she inadvertently aided Belos with his plan of genocide in the previous episode which carries over into "O Titan, Where Art Thou", where Luz spends the entire episode hyper fixated on attempting to "correct her mistake" by halting Belos' plans even if it means getting into a fight with Eda in order to not be sent away for her protection. Finally in "Thanks to Them", she is so overwhelmed by guilt for everything that has happened that she is willing to stay in the Human Realm forever despite the fact that doing so would be nothing short of catastrophic for Luz's mental health and in the long run probably her physical health as well.
- Amity Blight is very self-destructive to the point where any chance at forming meaningful relationships is killed by her pride and inability to take accountability or responsibility for her actions. This is rather evident when she blames Luz for her embarrassment instead of realizing that she got herself in trouble for acting out at school, when she accepted Luz's reckless challenge to a Witch's Duel on the terms that Luz gives up magic forever if Amity wins after she provoked her by picking on her and king instead of simply declining the challenge, accuses her of making her look bad in front of the Emperor's Coven when it was really Lilith's cheating that got her in that position, constantly rebuffs Luz's offer of friendship despite her loneliness with her fake friends, and when she attempts to erase Willow's memory of her so she wouldn't have to deal with the pain of what happened or for anyone to discover their former friendship, only for it to become a problem she's forced to confront. And we then find out when she was blackmailed into ending her friendship with Willow, she could've saved face and told her that, but she was too stubborn and too proud to do so and instead went with the idea of Willow being "too weak". Her Character Development involves her having a Heel Realization and learning to work on her issues.
- 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, full stop. Despite being a competent commander and great fighter, she has a truckload of issues related to her abusive foster mother, Shadow Weaver, and being considered Always Second Best to her friend/crush Adora. Said issues mean that, while her truest desire is to have friends, said mental issues mean that she pushes away the people who might actually give her friendship (like Adora, the other cadets, and Scorpia) in favor of grabbing power and trying to impress people like Shadow Weaver and Hordak. She becomes even worse about it in Season 4 after having a breakdown in the previous finale, being such a Bad Boss that she causes all of her allies in the Horde to defect. She gets better after Double Trouble gives her an extremely blunt "The Reason You Suck" Speech that forces her to face that yes, her problems are in fact her own fault.
- 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 in the end, her pride and selfishness tend 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 making friends as well as being in romantic relationships but her tendency to betray everyone makes her one of the most hated contestants.
- The Transformers has Wheeljack, resident Autobot Mad Scientist and Gadgeteer Genius. He isn't self-sabotaging due to self-loathing—indeed, he's actually quite a gregarious fellow—but rather, he's just a little too eager to test out his inventions before checking to make sure they're viable, reliable, or even mechanically sound. A more careful person wouldn't have nearly the track record for accidental self-inflicted damage that Wheeljack does. The show's lore bible literally states that "Wheeljack is his own worst enemy, as he frequently injures himself while experimenting with new weapons." Best summed up in this pair of screenshots taken mere seconds apart◊ when a cobbled-together BFG catastrophically explodes on him as opposed to the Decepticons.
- 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.
- Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD), isn't classified as an executive dysfunction disorder like ADHD above but can have similar results. In fact, it's especially dangerous as the resulting neurochemical imbalances can leave the afflicted with intense feelings of self-loathing and suicidal ideation even if nothing is wrong. Without proper treatment, their entire worldview becomes warped.
- Sometimes suicidal people will feel compelled to lash out and kill themselves to hurt others like loved ones they might be upset with, with especially unstable ones desiring a Taking You with Me. The reason for this is that depressed people suffer from a lack of motivation, which acts as a double-edged sword. While it can help them fix their problems, if they've let their life get far enough out of control, then suicide often feels like the only way out and it's exactly what they'll do with any short burst of executive function. One of the most dangerous motivators for a depressed person is spite, which directs that energy in a negative way. This is why antidepressants are typically combined with psychotherapy, so people finding success with pills don't immediately use their newfound energy to do something drastic.
- For example, the South Korean Mapo Bridge was commonly used by jumpers and the government attempted to remedy this by plastering positive imagery over it. The suicide rate increased sixfold, as some people felt like the system wronged them and after people who participated in that system put disingenuous signage all over it, they flocked to that bridge for their suicides simply to spite them. This didn't just fail to stop suicides; it actively provided people with the motivation to go through with it.