Do you ever feel like your life is one long epic story with you as the main character?
If you’re hesitant: It’s okay to admit it. This doesn’t mean you are selfish or narcissistic. It merely means you are normal. Whether it feels like a saga, a tragedy, a comedy or a horror story, most people experience life to some degree as if they are the protagonist in their own movie.
This is a normal response to the fact that we usually only experience life through our own senses. But of course, given that everyone feels it, it’s also an obviously flawed perspective.
There is no “main character” in life. At best, we’re all just a tiny background character in everyone else’s movie (and part of the main cast in some of them).
Now how can we put these random thoughts to good use?
Stepping Out of Your Character
When you experience life as a story with you as the protagonist, you most likely perceive yourself as the hero or the underdog. I’m sure here are some people around who like to be the villain in their story, but they are definitely not the majority.
The problem with seeing yourself as the good guy in the story, is that you will experience every moment in a biased way. When there is tension between you and another character for example, you will see yourself as the good person in the interaction. When something happens that leads to an outcome not favorable to you, you will see yourself as a victim. Or as someone who’s good intentions got misunderstood / produced the wrong result.
This will lead you to analyze every situation in a very specific way. A way that makes you look good to your self (you are both the “viewer” of the movie and the “lead actor”). Which can sometimes still be an accurate representation of what happened. But many other times, it can prevent you from growing or improving as a person.
What would happen if you looked at these situations and stepped out of your character?
What if for a moment, you looked at life as if the other person was the hero in the story. And you were just somebody the hero was interacting with on their journey. How would you interpret what happened? And what can you learn from that interaction?
What if you re-play some scenes from your life where you felt like people treated you wrongly. But only this time, you watch them as if you were the villain in the movie, and the other person was the hero. What can you learn from that perspective?
Or what if you stop identifying with any of the characters… And simply look at your life as if you are the person watching a movie in which no character is the protagonist, but a diverse cast of characters was having complex interactions with each other?
What if you were actually the director, and you could write the part of the character you previously thought was you. What would you make them do?
These are a handful of ways to look at your own life, that can teach you things about your personality for years. And the reason they are so powerful in terms of personal growth, is that these perspectives have the potential to show you the things you were previously unwilling to see about “yourself”.
Whenever you perceive any kind of conflict or struggle in your life, I invite you to give them a try and find out how you can grow from them.
Stepping Out of the Movie Itself
Just like even though we all perceive it as such, we are not the main character of life, there is a second experiential fallacy to be addressed here:
There is also no movie.
The events we experience in our lifetime don’t have a linear story arch. But in our memories, we organize them in such a way to make sense of our time here.
There is nothing wrong with that. But the downside is that it makes us want to behave in a way that is congruent with our story.
- “I studied architecture so now I have to become an architect”.
- “I always vote for the same political party because that is the kind of person I am.”
- “As a kid, this or that happened to me and now I am doomed to living a life of behaving this or that way forever because I am traumatized.”
These are just a few examples of the ways in which we try to continue our story so that it makes sense.
And while it can be good to have it make sense sometimes (though I admit, nonsense can be a lot of fun 😉 ), it’s important to remain aware of the fact that it doesn’t have to.
Every day, every minute of life in front of you is a completely blank page.
Wherever and whatever you are, you have the choice to be somewhere or someone different the next day.
There is no rule that says you have to be the person you’ve always been. That you have to keep maintaining the same physical, emotional or psychological habits.
Go a little crazy. Be someone else every now and then. See how those different people feel. And then pick the ones you like and keep them. Perhaps blend them into one favorite version of you.
Most people don’t buy a house to live in for the next decades without visiting a few different ones first. Or don’t marry a partner before discovering what they want by being in other relationships.
So how then, would you know which character you want to be in life, if you haven’t tried a few different ones first? 😉