I am trying to find an idiom that describes someone setting hurdles for themself or putting themself in a more difficult position every step of the way, eventually trapping oneself or forcing one's back against the wall. The English phrase I have in mind is "paint oneself into a corner", as in:

If you keep doing that, you are just going to paint yourself into a corner.

What would be an apt Japanese phrase for this? I've thought of 自縄自縛 and 墓穴を掘る. I think 墓穴を掘る is probably closer to what I am reaching for, but are there better ones out there?

  • ドツボにはまる digging him/herself into the deeper hole.
  • 自らの首を締める cut your own throat.
  • 楽屋から火を出す (can’t find similar English phrase.literal translation should be “set fire to your dressing room”)
  • いたちごっこ A vicious cycle.

are the most common idioms in my humble opinion.


I think (自分で)自分の首を締める is the closest and safest. It does convey the meaning of "setting hurdles for themself or putting themself in a more difficult position". 自縄自縛 is also usable, but it's a relatively difficult 四字熟語 that is used mainly in serious essays and literary works.

墓穴を掘る is not wrong but it doesn't necessarily have the above-mentioned nuance; it's more commonly used to describe a one-time "backfiring" mistake.

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