Someone who fills the role of the villain for themselves? Or at least a phrase/way to describe this?

E.g. By using the word 'penanced', meaning that she has inflicted a punishment on herself, the poet is suggesting that she is a XXX, filling the role of both the hero and the villain

Thank you

  • Hi Daisy, please consider elaborating on your answer. For example, what role does the hero/villain concept play in this phrase? What is the message you are trying to get across to your readers with such a sentence?
    – Terah
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 0:34
  • 1
    You need to edit your post. Otherwise, it is not very clear what you are asking.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 6:41

3 Answers 3


This could be described as self sabotaging behavior

Psychology Today describes this as:

What is Self-Sabotage?

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting. These acts may seem helpful in the moment, but they ultimately undermine us, especially when we engage in them repeatedly.

The person therefor might be described as a self-saboteur

More colloquially she might be described as her own worst enemy

He must fall either by his enemies, or by himself, who indeed is his own worst enemy.1

1 The life and letters of Marcus Tullius Cicero by By Marcus Tullius Cicero, William Heberden, Melmoth, Middleton; London, Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, MDCCCXLVIII

  • Self-sabotage, and being one's own worst enemy can take lots of different shapes, most of which are psychologically and/or personality based (also evidenced by the quote). Physical punishment (barring a 'final act'), as suggested by the OP, does not really come into play.
    – Terah
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 0:28
  • @Terah- Fair point. I don't think of self-punishment as being villainous at all though so I think the example is a poor one as it relates to being one's own villain. A villain would certainly endeavor to sabotage his enemy though. I guess it all depends on which part of the question you want to focus.
    – Jim
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 0:36
  • Yes, the question in it's current state leaves much to the imagination when it comes providing a contextually sound answer. I do hope the OP elaborates :)
    – Terah
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 0:45
  • “Her own worst enemy” reads perfectly to me in this context. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 7:48

Though being a hero or villain has little to do with it, one word that comes to mind is 'flaggelant'. Keep in mind that this word not only describes the act of self-punishment, but also describes the 'how' (by means of flogging/whipping).

Depending on context (ie. why does she punish herself), again without much incorporating the hero/villain concept, another applicable word may be 'masochist'.

Sticking with the assumption that the self-punishment is religion or honor based, the "filling the role of both the hero and the villain" part might be better served with a phrase like 'filling the role of both judge and jury'.


Yes, I thought of self-flagellation or self-sabotage, but with your poet example you seem to be getting at a character playing both hero and villain in a wider narrative. In modern times, we call such a person morally ambiguous. Classic tragedy, on the other hand, has always been based on the fact that the downfall of an otherwise noble person was due to one single in-built flaw.

Being one's own worst enemy seems to be the most widely used idiom, although I have always liked being one's own banana peel.

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