Relationship Tips

How To Embrace Main Character Energy Without Being an A-hole

Erica Sloan

Getty Images/Westend61
The self-confidence-boosting, silver-lining-focused concept of “main character energy” first rose to TikTok fame last year and has enjoyed a major encore this summer, with the lifting of many quarantine restrictions. What it asks is simple: In the glimmering movie-montage of your life (which the original TikTok states “you have to start romanticizing” as such), consider how you can be the main character. That might mean centering your dreams in sharp focus or soaking up positivity from the bright spots of each day—like a rom-com protagonist stopping to smell flowers or smiling at a stranger during a walk through town. When an emphasis on main character energy is taken too far, however, its self-assured focus can cross the line toward overt selfishness. So, how can you work to be the main character in your life without, well, being an A-hole?

First, know that there is value to gain from introspecting about what you truly want from life in the way that a main character might. Experts say doing so can help you devise a more effective plan for working toward your big goals.“Putting yourself at the forefront of your life can be a really wonderful thing, especially when your life experiences have been marked by invalidation, dismissal, or feeling like you’re ‘not good enough’ or ‘unworthy,’” says psychotherapist Meghan Watson, MA, RP.

But main character energy is a positive force primarily to the extent that it contributes to such a mindful state of being. Once it delves into needing a supportive audience, so to speak, whose sole purpose is to lift up you, the main character, the concept can take a darker turn toward devaluing the experience of others.

That is, should you become so laser-focused on your personal trajectory, you could lose sight of the importance of respecting others' needs. “This can feel isolating, invalidating, and dismissive to those with whom you're in relationships or friendships,” Watson says. Of course, no one person’s journey through life is worthier than another’s, and acting in the name of main-character energy can occasionally muddy that understanding.

Beyond that, living every day like it’s a performance—or as if you’re speaking to an audience of supporting characters in the movie that is your life—can quickly become disconnecting and dissociative, Watson says, turning your attention to the way you’re being seen by others, instead of your true value and internal wants and needs.

By contrast, to reap the potential benefits of main character energy without veering into negative territory, you might consider how to be the main character in your life in terms of being your best advocate (without downgrading those around you). Below, get five tips for doing just that.

5 expert tips for how to be the main character in your life without alienating others:

1. Harness main character energy when you need a pick-me-up (not all the time).

Instead of considering main character energy as a constant state of being, imagine it as just one tool in your lifestyle toolbox. “Allow yourself to pick up this energy when you’re feeling less than or undervalued,” says Watson. “When you’re preparing for a job interview, psyching yourself up for a date, or expressing yourself to a group, it can be helpful to define yourself as the main character in order to highlight your brightest features,” she says. In general, a sense of validation can help you communicate from a place of inner strength.

2. Be mindful of the other "movies" that are simultaneously rolling.

Seeing yourself as the main character in your life shouldn’t discount the ability for others to see themselves as the main character in their lives, says clinical psychologist Michael Karson, PhD, JD. “Remember that the hero may be most validated by improving the lives of others along their journey,” he adds.

3. Consider your supporting characters.

Just as your main character energy shouldn’t get in the way of others adopting a similar energy in their lives, it should also steer clear of downgrading your cast and crew, so to speak, or the people who may, at times, play supportive roles in your life.

“Our relationships thrive when we can have a balance between our perspectives and those of others,” says Watson. So, even when you are the main character, it’s essential not to lose sight of the value and importance of your loved ones’ feedback. “Make friends with people who will affectionately mock you and put you in your place,” says Dr. Karson.

4. Use it as a practice of self care.

Centering your personal beliefs can take on particular significance as an act of healing in the wake of any situation that caused you to feel dismissed or invalidated, says Watson. "Journal or write from the perspective of taking action on those beliefs, or spend a day doing things that you value and attending to your self care as if you were the most important person in your life," she suggests.

5. Spare the focus on documentation.

Remember: The main character is not often the director, too. To that end, capturing your main character energy for social media could detract from the very experience of it and thwart its intended focus on enjoying the present moment. Not to mention, it’s often the social media creations themselves that contribute to the trend’s self-absorbed or narcissistic side, says Watson.

So, the next time you’re living a main character moment, perhaps your best approach is to forget about the cameras entirely—in fact, just as a true main character would.

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