scorecard4 signs you have 'main character syndrome,' according to therapists
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4 signs you have 'main character syndrome,' according to therapists

Canela López   

4 signs you have 'main character syndrome,' according to therapists
LifeScience3 min read
  • "Main character syndrome" is a term popularized on TikTok to describe self-centered, out of touch people.
  • Having main character energy, typically means someone sees the people in their life as supporting actors in their movie.

Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and the City" is the main character in more ways than one.

The character of Carrie is generally regarded in popular culture as a self-centered, entitled person whose life needs to be the center of her friends' attention. As the (arguably self-appointed) protagonist of her friend groups, Carrie's problems and her relationships come first as her friends support her, grinning and bearing it on the sidelines.

"Her neediness, her self-obsession, her insecurity and her immaturity – are all things that, in the real world, would have rendered her unable to retain relationships this long-standing with these women," wrote Hannah-Rose Yee

for Body + Soul.

But Carrie represents something that isn't reserved to the screen — it can affect anyone.

"'Main character syndrome' refers to identifying as the protagonist in your own life story," Kate Rosenblatt, therapist and senior clinical manager at Talkspace, told Insider.

While "main character syndrome" isn't an actual mental health diagnosis, it is generally defined — in pop culture and on TikTok — as someone who is self-centered, believes the people around them live to support them, and views themself as the main character of their life.

According to Rosenblatt and other experts, there are three key red flags that can tell you if you, inadvertently, are the Carrie of your group:

Everything is about you and your problems

A surefire way to tell you have main character syndrome is taking a second to reflect on your relationships with people. If you see yourself as the center of attention and them as the supporting roles, you might be exuding some main character energy.

Cynthia Catchings, a therapist for Talkspace, told Insider a person with main character syndrome often "thinks or sees themself as someone they imagine or want to be like, or is pretending to be the lead of their own story or self-created tale."

That main character mentality can come with a "sense of entitlement that" leaves little room for them to provide emotional support to the people in their lives.

You frame yourself and your life as perfect

People with main character syndrome can often present a false image of themselves online to sell the plot of their fictional movie, Catchings said — they present their life through rose-colored lenses and make it more positive than it actually is.

Catchings told Insider people with main character syndrome tend to constantly upload photos of themselves online and carefully curate their online persona to reflect exactly how they see themselves.

The risk here is that the person with main character syndrome may be so controlling over their "image" that they lash out at anyone who contradicts it, or cuts people out of their lives.

You aren't good at taking criticism

People with main character syndrome have trouble taking any criticism or a joke, Catchings said. That can be reflected in how they digest advice, or how they deal with funny or less flattering photos.

You feel out of control in your everyday life, so you try to take the reigns back as the 'main character'

"Main characters" try to fictionalize their lives through validation from others because their life isn't nearly as perfect as it seems, psychology professor Phil Reed says in Psychology Today.

It's something to take stock of, to make sure you're not overwhelming your friends — but this isn't the worst thing.

In fact, Rosenblatt noted, "some signs someone may have main character syndrome can be seen as a positive thing."

"When you view yourself as having agency over your life, and that your life and choices are often really up to you, this can feel powerful, and can ultimately contribute to enhanced self worth, self esteem, and self confidence."

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