Understanding Main Character Syndrome: Are You the Star of Your Own Show?

 

by Carolyn Moriarty, LCPC

 

Thanks to the rise of constant self-documentation on social media, a new term has emerged in our collective consciousness: Main Character Syndrome (MCS). But what exactly does it mean, and how can you identify if someone—or even yourself—has it?

 

What is Main Character Syndrome?

 

MCS is an informal term that describes a pattern of behaviors where an individual perceives themselves as the central character in their own Hollywood movie, with others merely making cameos. They assume everyone is invested in their lives and will attempt to make their lives appear as glamorous as possible.

Kim Kardashian is a good example of MCS, but, like, her life is genuinely glamorous and we’re all actually pretty invested in it. Case in point: North West’s starring role as Simba in The Lion King, a classic MCS move made by her parents.

However, MCS more commonly describes individuals who, without valid reason, believe their experiences, thoughts, and feelings are more important than those of others around them.

 

Main Character Syndrome vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Although it includes the term “syndrome,” MCS is not formally recognized as a clinical condition. It should not be confused with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a recognized mental health disorder defined by grandiosity, a continual need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, which typically manifests in early adulthood. In contrast to MCS, NPD features more severe and pervasive traits that negatively impact personal relationships, work performance, and overall well-being on a clinically significant level.

 

Signs of Main Character Syndrome

 

Individuals with MCS often:

  • Continually steer conversations back to themselves and disregard, downplay, or “one-up” the experiences of others.
  • Exaggerate or embellish their own life events to make them seem more significant or dramatic than they actually are.
  • Constantly seek validation and attention through social media posts, exaggerated stories, or attention-seeking actions.
  • Have difficulty empathizing with the perspectives or feelings of others due to a hyperfixation on their own experiences.
  • Believe that their problems or general life experiences are more special and complex than anyone else’s.

 

Why It Matters

 

While most of us may not exhibit full-blown “main character syndrome,” we all occasionally hog the spotlight or become overly focused on our own circumstances. This can manifest in simple ways, such as talking about ourselves without engaging our friends in conversation about their lives. It can also include behaviors like constantly showing up late and making others wait for you.

 

This self-centeredness is something that is worth working on for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Automatically expecting others to revolve around you and your needs can lead to a lack of empathy or consideration for others’ perspectives.
  • Insisting that your ideas or preferences take precedence can thwart cooperation and compromise in collaborative settings like workplaces or group projects.
  • Others may perceive attention-seeking behaviors as arrogant or conceited.
  • Personal growth and development will be stunted if you frequently resist feedback or constructive criticism because you do not see the need to change or improve.
  • Others may feel overshadowed or unimportant in your presence, making it difficult for you to genuinely connect with others.

 

How to Balance the Narrative

 

It’s important to strike a balance between recognizing your own value and being aware of others’ experiences. A good first step is to regularly reflect on your behavior and attitudes. Ask yourself if you are giving others the attention and recognition they deserve. Make a conscious effort to understand the feelings of others and consider their perspectives. Practice encouraging others to share their stories and experiences, and when they do, listen actively without turning the conversation back to yourself. Celebrate their achievements and milestones with genuine interest.

Keep in mind that every person you encounter leads a life as rich and complex as your own. Engaging in self-reflection and forging authentic connections with others will not only make you more interesting but also attract others who genuinely want to get to know you.

 

 

Seeking Mental Health Support

Do you need support in developing a healthier relationship with and others? Consider scheduling an appointment with Chicago Counseling Center. Our therapists can provide guidance, support, and strategies tailored to your specific needs. Meet our team to learn more!

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