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Mental Health

Is 'main character energy' a real thing?

You know the feeling. You're walking down the street, coffee in hand on the way to run some errands. You catch a glimpse of yourself in a storefront window and check yourself out. You're a star.

People have been buzzing about "main character energy" for years. But what exactly is it?

It's when someone puts themselves first and takes control of their narrative, experts say. Not in a selfish way, but in a self-affirming way that prioritizes self-care. As long as it's not taken to extremes, it's perfectly healthy to look at life through this lens. If you think you look good that storefront window, for example, own it! 

"When you think of movies, and you think of the main character, that's the person that you're following, that's the person that you're rooting for," says , licensed clinical psychologist. "I see it the same way, as like, you should be rooting for yourself, you should be the main character, like it's nothing wrong with having that energy."

People have been buzzing about "main character energy" for years. But what exactly is it?

Channeling your 'main character energy'

"Main character energy" is not a specific psychological phenomenon, and should not be confused with narcissistic personality disorder, which affects about 1% of the population. That's a disorder someone typically carries throughout their life – not a shift to prioritizing one's needs and establishing boundaries.

Martin wants her patients to have main character energy. It means they come into a session focused on themselves and what they need, as opposed to trying to appease someone else. This is in line with the phenomena of self-care and self-preservation as opposed to selfishness.

Taking charge of one's life need not be all-consuming. If it feels that way, it may be time to reassess what is really going on.

"I think, of course, taken to an extreme, it can create other consequences," says , licensed clinical psychologist.

Think of it in terms of the "main character" metaphor. "Sometimes people have mental health difficulties, because they feel like they're the main characters in everyone's story," Martin adds.

How to maintain quality main character energy

  • Don't overdo it. There's a difference between making everything about you and giving yourself "me time." "It doesn't have to be something as indulgent as a spa," Martin says. "Main character energy is preserving your boundaries. Main character energy is taking a rest when you need it. Main character energy is saying no when you want to say no and advocating for yourself."
  • Remember to be the main character in your story – not someone else's. "I find that sometimes people really do want to be the main character in everyone's story and want everyone to like them," Martin says.
  • It's OK to self-reflect. If someone calls you self-absorbed, consider whether that person has a point or is projecting their own insecurities. "All those different factors should be looked at when really kind of working through and figuring out what meaning we want to make from that comment," Charlotin says.

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