Shoot yourself in the Foot – Meaning, Origin and Examples

shoot yourself in the foot meaning and examples, explained below

The idiom “shoot yourself in the foot” is widely used to describe someone who inadvertently makes a situation worse for themselves, essentially causing their own downfall or hindrance through their actions or words.

The expression gets utilized when an individual’s actions inadvertently create a more problematic situation for themselves.

Take for instance, a student who skips class to have more time to study for an exam in that same class, but then realizes that the content discussed during the missed class is crucial for the exam – the student essentially “shot themselves in the foot.”

chrisAbout the Author: has a PhD in Education. He has been a teacher in schools and universities and has taught English as a Second Language in Colombia. He is former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

Shoot Yourself in the Foot Idiom Origins

The origin of the term “shoot yourself in the foot” is somewhat unclear but delving into Google’s historical data, gathered from books and newspapers, this idiom appears to have only come on the scene in about 1970:

Today, the term is broadly used to describe any action or statement that backfires, undermining the actor in some way.

10 Examples in a Sentence

  • “He really shot himself in the foot by not preparing for the interview.”
  • “By neglecting to backup her files, she shot herself in the foot.
  • “Talking negatively about his last job in the interview, John shot himself in the foot.”
  • “She shot herself in the foot by forgetting to bring the important documents to the meeting.”
  • “By waiting until the last minute to start his project, he shot himself in the foot.”
  • “They shot themselves in the foot by not conducting thorough research.”
  • “Ignoring the customer complaints, the company essentially shot itself in the foot.”
  • “By spreading rumors about his colleagues, he effectively shot himself in the foot.”
  • “Refusing to adapt to technological changes, the firm really shot itself in the foot.”
  • “By not applying on time, she shot herself in the foot and missed the opportunity.”

Practice Questions Worksheet for Students

Question 1: What emotion might you feel if you realize you’ve “shot yourself in the foot”?

  • a) Joy and happiness
  • b) Regret and frustration
  • c) Excitement and anticipation
  • d) Peace and tranquility

Question 2: Which situation best illustrates the idiom “shoot yourself in the foot”?

  • a) Studying hard and acing a test.
  • b) Buying a gift for a friend.
  • c) Arguing with the person who is interviewing you for a job.
  • d) Helping a neighbor with chores.

Question 3: What does it typically mean if someone has “shot themselves in the foot”?

  • a) They have acted in a way that is beneficial to them.
  • b) They have unintentionally harmed their own prospects or position.
  • c) They have physically injured themselves.
  • d) They have been brave and taken a risk.

Question 4: If a business reduces the quality of their bestselling product to save money, what are they likely doing?

  • a) Increasing their profit margins.
  • b) Shooting themselves in the foot.
  • c) Innovating in their industry.
  • d) Focusing on customer satisfaction.

Similar Idioms

1. Dig your own grave

Definition: To create serious trouble for oneself.

In a Sentence: “By lying to the boss, he was just digging his own grave.”

2. Bite the hand that feeds you

Definition: To harm someone who does good for you.

In a Sentence: “By stealing from her employer, she bit the hand that fed her.”

3. Cut off your nose to spite your face

Definition: To hurt oneself in an attempt to hurt others.

In a Sentence: “By rejecting the deal just because he doesn’t like the mediator, he’s cutting off his nose to spite his face.”

4. Shoot oneself in the knee

Definition: To disadvantage oneself by one’s own actions (a milder version of “shoot oneself in the foot”).

In a Sentence: “By not considering the other viable options, he shot himself in the knee.”

5. Put your foot in your mouth

Definition: To say something that is tactless or embarrassing.

In a Sentence: “He really put his foot in his mouth during the meeting yesterday.”

6. Make a rod for your own back

Definition: To create problems for oneself through one’s own actions.

In a Sentence: “By procrastinating, she’s making a rod for her own back.”

7. Be your own worst enemy

Definition: To make things difficult for oneself.

In a Sentence: “By always second-guessing himself, he’s his own worst enemy.”

8. Trip over your own feet

Definition: To cause one’s own downfall.

In a Sentence: “He would have had a great career in politics if he hadn’t tripped over his own feet with that scandal.”

9. Hit yourself in the head

Definition: To act in a way that harms oneself.

In a Sentence: “By not accepting constructive criticism, she’s hitting herself in the head.”

10. Burn your bridges

Definition: To destroy one’s path, connections, reputation, opportunities, etc., particularly intentionally.

In a Sentence: “He burned his bridges when he openly criticized his previous company.”

11. Paint oneself into a corner

Definition: To put oneself in a situation with no easy way out.

In a Sentence: “By promising too much, the developer painted himself into a corner.”

12. Play with fire

Definition: To take dangerous, unnecessary risks.

In a Sentence: “Investing all your money in a volatile market is like playing with fire.”

13. Set yourself up for failure

Definition: To create conditions that make it likely for oneself to fail.

In a Sentence: “With no preparation, he’s setting himself up for failure.”

14. Wash your dirty linen in public

Definition: To openly discuss private affairs.

In a Sentence: “By discussing their infighting in the press, the political party was washing its dirty linen in public.”

15. Lay in the bed one has made

Definition: To accept the unpleasant results of something you have done.

In a Sentence: “He has to lay in the bed he’s made regarding his investment choices.”

These idioms, like “shoot yourself in the foot,” highlight actions or words that, while possibly well-intended, lead to unfavorable consequences for oneself, often unnecessarily or avoidably.

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