“You have to start romanticizing your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character,” begins the viral Tik Tok audio by Ashley Ward. From sunset strolls to late-night drives, many people are sharing their main character moments on social media. But there’s more to romanticizing your life than just the pretty videos on your feeds: psychology and philosophy tells us that thinking of your life as a “story” can actually make it more fulfilling.
Your Life, Your Story
Human beings are natural storytellers. Whether it’s writing a book, presenting a TED talk, or simply catching a friend up on the episodes and dramas in your life, there’s rarely a day without a narrative. In fact, most of the things you do, see, think, and experience are transformed into a story in your mind, whether you share it or not.
Scholars across disciplines agree that there’s a type of identity formed by the integration of experiences into an internalized and evolving life story. This is known as “narrative identity.” For French philosopher Paul Ricouer, humans make sense of events in their lives by ordering them into a coherent plot and assigning them significance accordingly. In other words, they think about everything they experience as the story they will tell about it in the future.
Framing your life as a story has been found to impact your health, happiness, and future prospects. For American psychologists Dan McAdams and Kate Mclean, thinking about your past, present, and imagined future as part of a story provides individuals with a greater sense of unity and purpose. Michael White and David Epson developed this idea into “narrative therapy.” In this type of therapy, the patient is encouraged to be an expert in their own lives and assess their personal values. They are then encouraged to ‘author’ a more positive story about themselves and their lives according to these values.
These ideas might seem miles away from a trend poking light fun at Gen-Z narcissism, and narrative therapy is a lot more complicated than a couple of Insta reels, but the central point here is that thinking of your life as a story can help you take charge of the narrative.
Love the Little Things
Crucial to the trend is the idea of romanticizing your life and appreciating every peaceful, joyful, and picture-perfect moment. As the audio goes, if you don’t “life will continue to pass you by. And all the little things that make it so beautiful will continue to go unnoticed.”
Seeking all the little joys can cultivate a greater appreciation for the small things and gratitude has been found to have a huge amount of wellness benefits. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests that practicing gratitude regularly can reduce anxiety or depression. Other research indicates it can decrease stress-related illness, improve relationships, and enhance optimism. Just like a gratitude journal, an image or video compilation can act as a diary of all the things you have to be thankful for.
You’re the main character and the world around you is there to embellish and serve your plot, so take notice of it! Imagine you’re the author and you want a full description of every chapter, or you’re the director and you want to capture the essence of every single scene. As for life’s messy moments? Flaws just mean there’s room for character development.
Being the protagonist
You can feel a little more like the protagonist in your life by doing those blockbuster, bestseller, main character things. And no, I don’t mean the fright, fight, and thrill scenes. The point isn’t to mimic the main plot, but to embody that main-character energy by inviting more moments where you feel an ineffable control over your life.
Here are some suggestions:
- Take yourself on a date. To the cinema, for coffee, a meal out, or to catch some live music. No main character strays away from going alone.
- Be overdressed for an everyday errand. Main characters dress for themselves and no one else.
- Drag out a chore and do it with style. Dance around the kitchen whilst you cook, say hello to passers-by as you walk the dog, clean and sing karaoke at the same time. There’s never a dull moment in the “starring role.”
The world’s your screen, you’re the director, and it’s time to start writing yourself the best plot possible!