What exactly is 'main character syndrome'? And how to tell if you have it.

You may have heard a cluster of words floating round the rogue corners of the internet recently. A cluster of words that have single-handedly defined a whole cohort of society. A cluster of words that have given meaning to so many personality traits that we could never quite explain...

And that cluster is of course: 'Main Character Syndrome'.

Quick! Have a watch of this video to figure out if you're accidentally dating a narcissist. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia. 

This term took flight on TikTok, but has triggered a whole host of conversations between mates trying to figure out who self-identifies as a 'Main Character' and asking, "If I'm not a 'Main Character' then what other roles are there for me?"

In fact, this very conversation recently took place on this episode of Mamamia Out Loud

Find out who out of Holly, Mia and Jessie have 'Main Character Syndrome'. Post continues after podcast.

But because there's still a fair amount of confusion around this diagnosis, we thought we'd investigate further into every aspect of 'Main Character Syndrome' to see what it is, what causes it and if there's any 'cure'.

What is 'Main Character Syndrome'? By definition.

Well, by definition, it's not a bloody medical condition by any stretch. But, if it was, it would probably be defined in a dusty old medicine textbook as so:

Main Character Syndrome is a personality flaw adopted by individuals with narcissistic tendencies, who see themselves as the leading lady in a movie about themselves. Therefore relegating all other persons within their life to auxiliary, supporting roles, there to merely service the main character's narrative. Prime examples of individuals with 'Main Character Syndrome' include Kanye West and Donald Trump.

Okay, okay, maybe that was a little bit harsh...

Because, to be honest, 'Main Character Syndrome' is actually more of a lifestyle choice, conjured and cheered on by the consumption of social media. Encouraging individuals to celebrate themselves as a protagonist in their own life - and that's not necessarily an unhealthy thing - as long as the 'extras' around them don't also see themselves as a 'main character', and, you know, the 'main character' is a total d**k about it. 


What causes 'Main Character Syndrome'?

Apparently this whole 'movement' was triggered by that TikTok narrative voiceover that you've probably heard a thousand times.

You know the one... It patronisingly declares: “You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character, because if you don't, life will continue to pass you by.”

This narration is often paired with video footage of a woman holding a homemade cup of matcha while watching the sunrise, because she's seized the day and is ready and raring... while you, watching this lying in your bed at 11am, feel terrible about yourself. 


Come say hi on IG: ReneeRoaming #photographer #blogger #travellife #sidehustle #snoozzzapalooza

♬ A Moment Apart - ODESZA - Ashley Ward

If you're interested in knowing, the original of these videos is this one, shot with a drone and zooming in on the leading lady: 


Take a second and listen ##fyp ##foryou ##aesthetic ##lovelife ##drone background song: @hannah_harpist

♬ A Moment Apart - ODESZA - Ashley Ward

We're sure that 'Main Character Syndrome' in some form existed before social media - social media simply just inflamed the message and gave these plot leads a massive platform to share their 'journey'.

In fact, reading this article you've probably had someone you know in mind that fits this bill to a tee. Either that, or you're seeing yourself in this role. Classic Main Character behaviour. 

What are the symptoms you may experience if you have 'Main Character Syndrome'?

Side effects of 'Main Character Syndrome' may include:

  • Staring out of a bus window when it's raining, listening to Lana Del Rey, believing you're in a music video.
  • An increased desire to talk to camera on your Instagram Stories.
  • Approaching a personal disaster as a 'quest' that you'll genuinely grow from.
  • Saying 'end scene' when someone ghosts you. 

...Okay they may have been entirely made up by me, but you agree, right?!

Actual experts (like Dr Shungu Hilda M'gadzah) say, “the syndrome is not always extreme and can often be managed. It's about not allowing it to take over and not considering your needs and problems to always be more important than others.”

...But we all know that you do want to know about the 'extreme' side effects of MCS diagnosed by an expert. Well, here they are:

“Young people can often feel the need to escape from their reality, whether that’s from the pandemic or other societal pressures. Social media provides them with the tools to escape but it can be all-consuming and self-perpetuating," explains Dr Shungu.

Plus, getting too sucked into the 'Main Character' lifestlye can "have a temporary benefit of bolstering self-esteem, but only if others play the part they have been given," Helen Llewellyn, Director at Infinity Wellbeing, told Glamour.

So, basically you'll only successfully live with 'Main Character Syndrome' if you surround yourself with willing 'supporting actors'. 

Wait, so is it just straight-up narcissism?

Look, it can sure read that way, because the person is thinking of themselves (along with their needs, wants and desires) well above everyone else.

But that's not always a toxic thing. We all know that women can feel the pressure to be 'nice', people-pleasing pushovers with their friends, at their workplace and with partners - so a bit of self-prioritising can be great. Seeing yourself as the 'main character' in some aspects of your life can give you that shove of confidence you need to make a big life decision or to stand up for yourself. 


How can you cure 'Main Character Syndrome'?

While it's not actually a medically diagnosed syndrome (so it by proxy doesn't have an associated 'treatment') there are some ways to combat this way of life if you see yourself slipping into a wildly unlikeable 'main character'.

The first - and most powerful - is living in the moment. Radical, we know. Simply put your phone down and be present. Present in conversation with your 'supporting actor' pals, present while watching an actual movie of someone else's life, present as often as possible, please. 

The next is the same things you're told to do when you're stressed, burnout and a bit snappy:

  • Get out into nature 
  • Practice 'mindfulness' 
  • Meditate
  • Slow down
  • Disconnect from anything digital 

What other characters can you be if you're not a 'main character'?

Lucky for you there is a whole host of other characters available to you if you're not feeling the whole 'leading lady' situation for your own life movie.

Roles include: The trusty best friend, the sassy aunt, the wise mentor, the daft sibling, the narrator and, of course, the villain. 

...And before you ask, the villain doesn't have to be an inherently evil person, it can just be a dramatic, sometimes s**t stirring being who enjoys drama and sitting somewhat adjacent to the limelight. 

What character do you think you are? Let us know in the comments!

Feature Image: Mamamia.

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