main character illustration by Veronica Chen

Why You Should Live With Main Character Energy

The phrase is popular on TikTok and it's a good concept — here's why you should start romanticizing your own life.
September 29, 2020
10 mins read

In another internet trend, Gen Z has coined the term “main character energy” to positively describe themselves or others. Main characters are enigmatic and interesting and maybe troubles befall them but they’re clever and figure out solutions. Main characters are rebellious and one-of-a-kind and badass and cool. Main characters are our heroes and role models.

Often accompanying the phrase online is the popular TikTok sound created by user @danielle_carolan that says:

“You have to start romanticizing your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character. Because 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. So take a second and look around and realize that it’s a blessing for you to be here right now.” The audio has been used in more than 4,000 videos, both seriously in wholesome montages of main characters at the beach with their friends or jokingly in clips of not-so-glamorous scenes, i.e. someone’s dog unleashing a load.


Take a second and listen #fyp #foryou #aesthetic #lovelife #drone background song: @hannah_harpist

♬ A Moment Apart – ODESZA – Ashley Ward

While it originated as a meme, the idea of thinking of yourself as the primary character and romanticizing your own life actually has cognitive benefits. Here’s the 101 on romanticizing your life and a few small ways you can feel like the hero of an ‘80s coming-of-age movie.

What really is “romanticizing”?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “romanticize” as “To talk about something in a way that makes it sound better than it really is, or the belief that something is better than it really is.” Romanticizing is the act of idealizing someone or something. It is easy for us to idealize somebody else’s life when social media only shows the good parts of it. We see their beach pictures and wish we looked like them or we see their pictures with friends in their dorm room and wish we had a friend group like them or we see their cool outfit-of-the-day post and wish we had their aesthetic. When we’re not shown the negative, we’re led to believe that the negative is non-existent and we may even put this somebody else on a pedestal for the things they have that we want.

So, why should I romanticize my life?

The adverse effects of social media are worth mentioning due to their role in the toxic side of romanticizing other people’s lives. There’s a fine line: Romanticizing someone else’s life can go too far and lead to feelings of mediocrity and even jealousy. Self-romanticizing, on the other hand, is a positive thing: You live your life to the fullest, you appreciate the little things and you start believing that you’re at least a few of those treasured adjectives — clever and enigmatic or interesting and badass.

When you think of yourself as a main character, you think of your experiences as the plot of a story. Sure, you face obstacles but crying over the break-up is just the focus of Chapter 8; you’ll be over it by the end of Chapter 9. Thinking of your life as though it’s a novel may sound trivializing, but it can be comforting to remember that some problems are much smaller in the grand scheme of your life even if they feel big at the time. Moreover, when you reflect on the previous chapters of your life story, you’ll find it encouraging to see all that you’ve overcome. And you’re a round character, so you’re constantly learning and evolving, which is pretty great too.

Romanticizing your own life means appreciating the details. We watch day-in-the-life vlogs and when the YouTuber does something as mundane as going through the drive-thru to get an iced coffee, we can’t help but think, “Wow, look at them. They’re so aesthetic” — except it isn’t as exciting when we do the same. Perhaps it’s because we don’t have the lo-fi music on in the background or the cute montage of the coffee after, as dumb as that may be. This sort of vlogger mindset is present in many of the TikToks using the original sound: short scenes of life with a side of aesthetic music.

While we don’t need to have editing skills to romanticize life, it’s the mentality of the vlogger or the montage TikToker that is so desired. This sort of documentation of what is seemingly ordinary focuses on the details we overlook. Being able to drive a car to buy a coffee is a blessing on top of a blessing. Maybe it isn’t so much thinking of your life as better than it actually is, as it is appreciating your life for what it is and the many privileges you have, no matter how small.

How can I romanticize my life? 

Take photos and videos of things you’ll want to remember. Acquire that vlogger mentality; document the beauty in your everyday life, capture funny moments with friends or even take a mirror selfie when you’re proud of a certain fit. It’s important to reflect on history and it’s nice to reminisce about good memories. Be careful not to overindulge in the past, though. It’s easy to romanticize the past, especially when the present isn’t so great, which can become a form of escapism. The goal of romanticizing is to appreciate the present and as cliche as it sounds, live in the moment, not evade it entirely, even when it gets tough.

Make playlists. What coming-of-age film is complete without its bomb music? Build the soundtrack to your life on Spotify to make you feel as dramatic as a music video, even if you’re just driving to the grocery store or walking to class. Maybe add J. Cole’s “Love Yourz” for a self-reflective bop.

Wear what you want. You’re the main character, you might as well dress like one. Part of thinking of yourself as the protagonist is boosting your confidence. People are called main characters because of their iconic style or vice versa, and actual main characters are praised for their style. Appearing the way that you want and the way that you’re most comfortable is a definite self-esteem boost.

Make the most out of the little things. To see your life through the rose-colored glasses, you have to put them on to notice the things you take for granted. Oh, and those glasses look great on you, by the way. The most important part of the idea of romanticizing your life is appreciating what you have. You only have one life and maybe it is the ideal. Love yours.

Sarah Gudenau, Oakland University

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Sarah Gudenau

Oakland University

I am a second-year student with a junior class standing pursuing a B.A. in journalism with minors in Spanish language and digital media production at Oakland University.

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