Ever heard a song and had the feeling that the lyrics immediately spoke to you? Or did you watch a TV show that convinced you it was dramatizing the story of your life?
Welcome to main character syndrome, an often narcissistic state of mind where a person acts as if their life (or someone else’s) is a movie – and that they are the star.
While not a medical condition in the conventional sense, it is a behavior that is becoming more and more common worldwide at a time when social media and self-promotion are prevalent, and can be problematic if it means treating everyone else in their life as “bad”. extras’ see .
According to psychologist Dr. Michael G. Wetter, the main character syndrome is an “inevitable consequence of the natural human desire to be recognized and validated, along with the rapidly evolving technology that enables immediate and widespread self-promotion.”
On TikTok, the “main character” tag has been viewed more than 5.4 billion times, while #maincharacter has been featured in more than 80,500 posts on Instagram, giving it meme status.
Videos often show young millennials or Gen Z zoomers pretending — often ironically, but not always — to be the main character in their lives, doing the kinds of things a lead actor in a stereotypical indie movie might do.
dr. Julienne McGeough, a psychology professor at Liverpool Hope University who specializes in personality and social identity theory, argues that while it can’t hurt to be the protagonist in your own life, and have a good sense of “self,” if associated with narcissism it can cause real problems, especially when it comes to relationships with other people.
She told FEMAIL: “To some extent, we are all protagonists in the lives we lead. And having a good idea of who you are, as well as a sense of autonomy, is an important element of self-acceptance and well-being.
Digging deeper into the idea of ’self’ unlocks things like the knowledge of who you are, interpersonal skills, and your role in making decisions about your life.
Narcissism is also a personality trait that we all have to a greater or lesser degree — that’s how traits work. But pairing a highly developed sense of self with some of the negative aspects of narcissism can cause problems.
A video that went viral towards the start of the pandemic was shared by TikTok user Ashley Ward, in which her lo-fi voice, which sounds like that of a “main character” in a coming-of-age movie, encourages people to ‘start romanticizing your life’
For example, those who score high on the narcissism scale are unlikely to be able to understand the impact of their actions on those around them. From this perspective, it may seem that their knowledge of who they are and their motivation to be loved and admired probably seem like they put themselves at the center of all interactions with others.
“So while ‘main character syndrome’ is not a recognized psychological construct or condition, there are frameworks through which we can understand this way of relating to others.”
A video that went viral towards the start of the pandemic was shared by TikToker Ashley Ward, in which her lo-fi voice, which sounds like that of a ‘main character’ in a coming-of-age movie, prompts people to ‘romanize your life’.
TikTokers have shared videos using her words and voice, dubbed over Hollywood movie-inspired clips, from driving through a city at night to couples kissing in the rain, Notebook style
“You have to start seeing yourself as the main character because if you don’t, life will keep passing you by,” she says, lying on a beach towel surrounded by friends going about their business.
While her video has a recognizable life lesson — to slow down every now and then to take stock and appreciate the mundane, a bit like the art of mindfulness — it helped spark a more self-indulgent trend.
TikTokers has shared videos with her words dubbed about Hollywood movie-inspired clips, from driving through a city at night, getting into a random taxi and announcing “I’m going home,” to couples kissing in the rain, in Notebook- style.
It’s gotten to the point where some are now using the “main character” trend to make fun of people who seem to think everyone is as obsessed with them as they are with themselves.
The main character’s meme has increasingly become an ironic hashtag for expressing blatant narcissism, both in yourself and other people.
Another clip shared in May last year featured a TikTok user who had returned to her childhood home and took daily walks around her area to remind her neighbors that she is “the main character” in her town.
Those who are paranoid can come across as having main character syndrome (or, again, want to mock those who do), are now implementing the hashtag #notthemaincharacter – which has 333.4 million views on TikTok.
A clip shared in May last year featured a TikTok user who had returned to her childhood home and took daily walks in her neighborhood to remind her neighbors that she is “the main character” in her town.
In it, she lies down in the middle of the road and dances along, demanding that people “look at her” and give her the attention she “didn’t get in high school.”
A caption on another reads: “Drink from a wine glass and look out over the balcony so everyone on this beach knows I’m the main character.”
It’s no surprise that the main character syndrome is having a renaissance on social media, given that they provide an individual platform to showcase our lives to a global audience and build a personal brand.
In this clip, the ‘main character’ lays down in the middle of the road and dances along, demanding that people ‘look at her’ and give her the attention she ‘didn’t get in high school’
According to Oxford psychologist Dr. Nelisha Wickremasinghe, author of Being with Others: Curses, Spells and Scintillation, there is nothing wrong with seeing yourself as an actor or performer in your life.
“It can be a helpful reminder that ‘I’ is often a collection of habits, behaviors, reactions, and familiar reactions to situations and other people,” she explains. “Sometimes I see people ‘angry’ or shy or sociable and even seem to be playing those roles.”
Where it becomes problematic, she argues, is when the desire to be “main character” is actually a desire to amass likes, followers, fans, status and fame. These are features of our emotion system in the brain that leads us, at best, to go out into the world to make money, learn, do rewarding work, and so on.
“When that drive brain is hijacked by an ‘always on’ desire for recognition, status, and fame, we’re ignoring what we have in a desperate quest for what we might get,” she says.
Turning TikToker Ashley Ward’s now famous words on its head, Dr. Wickremasinghe: ‘While you dream of the movie star you could become, life will really pass you by’.
Professor Michael Karson of the University of Denver said: News week that main character syndrome isn’t necessarily bad, but “unhealthy narcissism” is behaving as if others are minor characters in one’s own drama rather than main characters in their own intersecting dramas.
“My view is that it is healthy to see yourself as the protagonist of your own life, and it is also healthy to realize that you are not the protagonist of all humanity,” he said.
‘The serious side’ [of the trend] promotes a sense of importance and making jokes is an ideal way to limit the sense of importance.’