Why Do People Have Main Character Syndrome and Is It Okay?


Photo Credit: “Teenagers” by Images by Petra

Anna Salinas, OwlFeed Editor-in-Chief

We all live in our own bodies. We all have our own eyes where we can see things from a different perspective than others, but I think we can agree that we all have those experiences where we feel like the only ones on the Earth, or the main character of our own stories. 

While yes it is our own perspective, these feelings aren’t really that different from everyone else. What is known as Main Character Syndrome can be defined as “when somebody presents, or imagines, themself as the lead in a sort of fictional version of their life,” according to psychologytoday.com. 

What has become popular all over the internet (mainly TikTok), main character syndrome is on rise in teenagers, but the big question is why? Is there something wrong with it? How has the internet or forms of media influenced it? Well, let’s find out. 

This all began as Generation Z and Millennials took to the platform of TikTok to post videos showcasing them pretending to be the main character of their own life. This became popular when ashlaward posted a video for teens to start “romanticising their lives.” She claims in the video, “You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character, because if you don’t, life will continue to pass you by.”

Afterward, people started to use her audio including their own clips where they feel like the main character. Examples being them driving through their small towns at night with their friends or kissing in the rain, like something out of an awkward romantic coming of age film.

To figure out more information, I interviewed Agua Fria’s new psychology teacher, Ms. Ramsbacher on if Main Character Syndrome is truly okay and why it might potentially develop in teens and young adults.

“I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing,”  Ms. Ramsbacher said. “It could kinda be connected to narcissism but if we’re looking at the psychological definition of like narcissistic personality disorders, that has a lot to do with a lack of empathy.”

Throughout our discussion, the topic of lack of empathy was mentioned very often. It’s like in movies where the main character starts to forget about those around them and think they are the only ones having problems or that things only occur to them. When in reality, different issues pop up into everyone’s life. 

According to Jillian Cote from the State Press, “Quite often, this protagonist complex comes with a victim complex, or the idea that everything bad or undesirable that happens is the result of others. As the center of the story, everything must revolve around them, and they never see themselves in the wrong.”

But in real life, a person can still care about others but view themselves as the main person in their world at the same time. “It doesn’t mean you have a lack of empathy for others. So you could still care about other people,” Ms. Ramsbacher said.

Cote also said, “It’s not unhealthy to see yourself as the main character of your life. Seeing your internal monologue as the narrator and thinking of yourself as the protagonist to make life feel more meaningful is perfectly OK.”

But what’s interesting about Main Character Syndrome is it’s pretty normal in people’s lives. “It’s actually really natural, looking at evolutionary psychology, to put ourselves at the center because we want to work on our own survival,”  Ms. Ramsbacher said. 

But when Main Character Syndrome is taken too far it can take a toll on someone’s life as it could affect someone’s life drastically. And to solve this problem, as long as the person takes into consideration that people have their perspective and experiences then it’s something that maybe should not be worried about. 

“Unless it starts getting in the way of relationships with others and maybe their academics and just functioning as someone in society, until then it’s probably not something to worry about,”  Ms. Ramsbacher said.

The easiest way that Main Character Syndrome can be developed is a huge percent from the false realities of movies and media nowadays. Not only teens but people, in general, are caught up in the way that others view them, which can result in self-esteem issues. On the other hand, if someone views themselves as the main character it can give them a boost of confidence.

 “By thinking of yourself as the narrative’s main character, your existence becomes imbued with a sense of purpose and importance,” Cote said. “As the center of the story, one begins to feel the need to create the best “plot” possible, allowing them to have a much more positive and renewed sense of self.” 

Someone who can agree and explain this is Ms. Ramsbacher. “Movies, especially today, have influenced it a little more just because there’s this prototype of the person that maybe has something bad happen and they can easily overcome it,” she said. “So if anything potentially those films and social media has made it so people are to jump over hurdles and overcome things ‘like oh! This is just a part of my story.’ It also makes it seem a little better.”

To conclude, Main Character Syndrome can be both a good and a bad thing. It can give confidence and help get through problems, but also can limit you from paying attention to those around you. 

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have self-confidence and know yourself worth, which is actually a really good thing, but just like just remembering other people’s perspectives and working on empathy and just trying to remind yourself that everyone has an opinion, everyone has an experience and just being aware of that when you interact with people,” Ms. Ramsbacher said.

Even when it comes to you maybe having a bigger problem than others, we should remember that we all have something going wrong and that it shouldn’t be a comparison game. 

“It’s a delicate balance between like comparing, because it’s okay to have something hard that you’re going through and make it be a thing but then also remembering that other people are also going through something,” Ms. Ramsbacher concluded.