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What is Main Character Syndrome? Not A Real Diagnosis, But A Real Problem

what is main character syndrome?

In a world saturated with narratives—from movies to video games to social media feeds—where the spotlight relentlessly shines on the protagonist, it’s no wonder that the phenomenon known as “Main Character Syndrome” has entered our vernacular. This term, often tossed around in discussions of personality and behavior, captures a certain zeitgeist of our era. But what does it really mean to have Main Character Syndrome, and why should we pay attention to it?

In this blog we’ll discuss exactly what kind of behavior main character syndrome (or main character energy) points to, why it’s problematic and isolating, how it can be founded on an inaccurate view of the world, and what steps we can take to improve our connection to reality, and those around us.


Understanding Main Character Syndrome

Main Character Syndrome refers to a state where an individual sees themselves as the central figure of their life story, akin to the protagonist of a movie or novel. This perspective can manifest in various behaviors, such as expecting events to unfold in their favor, perceiving their own emotions and experiences as more significant than those of others, and often behaving as if they are under a constant spotlight. For example, someone with Main Character Syndrome might walk into a room and assume they are the immediate focus of everyone’s attention, or they may expect their personal drama to take precedence in group settings.

Someone who has main character syndrome may, upon facing a minor inconvenience like a canceled appointment, react as if it were a major life disruption, expecting sympathy and support as though they were enduring a tragic plot twist. In social situations, they might dominate conversations or make dramatic exits to capture attention, much like a scripted character might.


Main Character Energy Vs NPC Energy

Main Character Energy is the glamorized version of Main Character Syndrome, particularly idolized by young people who yearn to stand out or make a mark on the world. It encapsulates a desire to be seen as pivotal and extraordinary, constantly at the center of excitement and attention. This idealization suggests that having Main Character Energy is not only desirable but also something to aspire to. 

In contrast, NPC (non-player character) energy represents the opposite end of the spectrum—being perceived as a background character in the vast narrative of life, seemingly less important and often overlooked. However, these labels fail to capture the true depth and complexity of a person’s life. No one is merely a main character or an NPC. Each individual’s existence weaves through moments of prominence and periods of supporting roles, often simultaneously affecting and being affected by others. Life is a collective experience, where everyone’s story is interlinked, filled with unique aspirations, challenges, and contributions that go far beyond the simplistic categorizations of Main Character and NPC Energy.


Possible Roots of Main Character Syndrome

The roots of Main Character Syndrome can often be traced back to our cultural consumption. Growing up, many of us are deeply influenced by television, movies, video games and now, the curated personas on social media. Consciously we may know we’re just watching TV, but at a deep level we are forming beliefs about how the world works. 

Consider a common situation that many people will not even admit to—a fear of the dark. Have you ever gone downstairs in your own house in the middle of the night, in the dark? Most of us will feel at least a little nervous and uneasy, despite the fact that we’re in our own home. We know it’s probably irrational, but we feel it nonetheless. Most of us have no real reason to fear the dark kitchen at night, except that we’ve seen this scene a hundred times or more in thriller and horror films.

So what else are we learning from the stories we imbibe? Remember, any good TV show or movie must be based around conflict and drama. These mediums typically revolve around a central character whose life is full of significance and orchestrated events. For some, continuous exposure to these narratives can lead them to believe that life is a series of spotlight moments where they are always at the center.

Moreover, psychological factors play a significant role. Individuals exhibiting traits of Main Character Syndrome may also show higher levels of narcissism or experience of past trauma. The narrative-driven perspective they adopt can be a coping mechanism for deeper issues, such as a need for validation or an inability to connect authentically with others.


what is main character syndrome


Life Is Not a Story

It’s crucial to remember that unlike narrative art, real life does not have a main character. Everyone is the protagonist of their own story, but unlike a scripted show or movie, real life involves a complex network of interactions where no single person’s narrative dominates. The belief that one is the main character in real life can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointments, as real-world scenarios do not always play out like a well-crafted story.


The Role of Counseling

While Main Character Syndrome is not recognized as a diagnosable condition in clinical settings, the behaviors and attitudes associated with it can still impact one’s life and relationships significantly. Counseling can play a vital role in addressing these issues. It provides a space to explore the origins of such behaviors, understand the impact on oneself and others, and develop healthier ways to relate to the world. Therapy can help individuals balance their narrative so that they recognize the value and agency of others in their life stories, fostering more meaningful and reciprocal relationships. 

If you or someone you know needs help becoming part of the greater story of the world, The Truism Center is here to help. With locations in Grand Rapids, Grandville, Troy, Commerce Township, and a virtual office for individuals anywhere in Michigan, our professionally trained counselors are standing by to help.


Coping with Main Character Syndrome in Others

Dealing with a friend or family member who exhibits Main Character Syndrome behaviors can be challenging. It’s important to set clear boundaries and maintain open communication. Letting the individual know how their behavior affects you can help them see beyond their self-centric view. Emphasizing empathy and the importance of other perspectives might encourage them to step out of their narrative bubble. 

Remember—it’s not your responsibility to change someone else’s selfish behavior. Individuals with Main Character Syndrome may tend to attract relationships with people pleasers who are attracted to the projection of certainty, feeling needed, and being useful. One-on-one or couples counseling can help create healthy patterns in these often difficult dynamics.


Growing Up For The Good Of All

While Main Character Syndrome might sound like a quirky trait, it underscores real challenges in how individuals perceive themselves and interact with others. Main Character Syndrome can lead to dangerous life decisions, harmful behavior, and frustrating, unsatisfying relationships. In fact it could even be said that those with Main Character Syndrome will appear closer to a villain than a hero when viewed from the outside.

Recognizing and addressing these behaviors can lead to more balanced relationships and a healthier, more inclusive view of life. As we navigate our social worlds, let us remember that we are all co-authors of a shared story, where everyone’s role is vital and no single character can claim the spotlight at all times.




Robb Kornoelje is the owner of The Truism Center, a relationship enthusiast, and the creator of the “30-Day Relationship Challenge.” This 30-day, fully online email course offers gentle guidance to identify behaviors causing trouble, find ease with emotions, and enhance self-awareness. With a focus on stress-free communication, the challenge encourages a stronger connection with others, nurturing compassion, and fostering forgiveness. Join Robb on this journey to improve the fabric of your relationships—one day at a time.