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Living With Main Character Syndrome: The Passive Protagonist

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

I remember the first time I ever heard the term “main character” referring to oneself, when suddenly something clicked. I think I was in high school at the time, and this idea just made sense, in the way it affirmed some of the preconceived notions I had been holding onto for quite a while. I don’t know if it came from the constant consumption of media as a kid, mostly in the form of books and movies, that led me to see my life as if it was a movie or a TV show. I suddenly found myself with a term that perfectly encapsulated how I was feeling. 

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‘Photo by Kaboompics

Main Character Syndrome is a term that originated on social media, in order to describe the phenomenon of people conceptualizing themselves as the protagonists in their own story. It is not a recognized psychological phenomenon or mental health condition. And even though it once started as a positive movement, encouraging young people to romanticize their lives, nowadays you’ll see it’s deeply laced with negative connotations, and words like narcissism and superiority complex, pop up again and again.

Although I won’t deny these characteristics can be a side of this phenomenon, there’s also a part of its definition that isn’t as vain. Main Character Syndrome has impacted the way I interact with the world around me, and it is through what I call being the “The Passive Protagonist.” 

I’ve nickednamed it this way because I’ve realized that living my life as if I was in a movie has oftentimes led me to taking the backseat in my own reality, instead of assuming responsibility over my life. Like, if I’m having a bad day, or something just didn’t go my way, it’s alright because all main characters go through sucky stuff, and that’s what makes them grow in the end. Problems make life entertaining… right?

Going over this thought process, although it might not be the most logical, the reality is that it’s the one that has gotten me through some of my worst moments. Phrases like, “It just wasn’t meant to be” and “Everything happens for a reason” live rent free in my brain. And I often run to these instead of wondering what my actions (or lack thereof) could’ve changed about the situation. 

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‘Photo by Kaboompics

However, I’m sure by now you can see how this is potentially problematic, by giving into the idea of “destiny,” you begin to give up authorship over your life, like a fictional protagonist, whose story had been written by a middle aged dude. But life isn’t a movie, (shocker, I know) and as I look back, I think maybe this way of thinking is a sure recipe for a midlife crisis of sorts. Having the feeling of just going through autopilot everyday waiting for something exciting to happen to you, until one day you just think, “What the hell am I doing?” 

Lately, I’ve been trying to take steps towards making life feel less like a script, and more like an ad-lib exercise. Most times this means getting out of my comfort zone, which in introvert means torture. But looking back on the moments I have convinced myself to do just this, I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever regretted it.

Andrea I. Rodríguez Nieves is a writer for Her Campus at UPR, where she is currently working on writing articles. Some of her topics of interest include fashion, lifestyle, productivity, amongst others. At present, she is coursing her third year at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, where she is majoring in Political Sciences, but with eyes set on Comparative Literature. Under an internship at Seed Academy, a platform seeking to educate independent artists on the music business, she developed some educational articles on royalties, strategies for digital marketing, and others. She has also worked a summer at the Municipality of Cayey’s Public Relations division, where she was given the task of digitizing historical documents. Her hobbies include crocheting, making music, playing video games, and going on long walks. She is a matcha enthusiast, lover of anything fashion related and a resident cat lover. Her ultimate goals in life are opening a boba store in her hometown, as well as being a full-time writer.