I consider myself a storyteller. Growing up in theater, you are unknowingly trained in the art of storytelling. The most important lesson I learned from performing is that everyone thinks they are the main character. I know, this sounds a bit narcissistic, but it is not. It is simply the truth. We survive in life by making ourselves the main character, as it should be. I truly believe that this is an important lesson to us all. Why should you make sure you’re the main character in your life?
It’s easier to set boundaries. When I go to set boundaries, I start to think to myself: what would I want a character in a novel to do? Would I cheer the main character cutting off their toxic ex and moving on? I absolutely would. I would root for the heroine deciding to move toward a healthier, more stable relationship. I’d even root for them to go on a whirlwind journey of self-discovery. I give that kind of advice to my friends all the time – why can’t I give it to myself? Simply put – I’m cheering for a redemption story for the main character in someone else’s book. By putting my ex partner’s story to the forefront, I completely remove my own priorities. I’ve placed their needs and wants above my own. By stepping outside my own perspective and looking at my story, I am able to redirect my choices to focus on me and my own development instead of someone else’s.
I can start taking bigger chances. I read a lot of novels about taking chances. They are stories of people booking a last minute flight without a plan, letting their desires lead them on their new journey. Though I’m not ready to book a one way flight without a plan, I can start listing my desires. I used to laugh at bucket lists – I still don’t have one. But I do have a list of things I’d do if I wasn’t tied down to responsibilities. This list, which I think of as a fantasy list, has started looking less like a fantasy lately. While I still take my responsibilities and the needs of others into the decision making process, I’ve started to look at my desires as possible. My fantasy to pick up and move to Thailand turns into planning my vacation time to spend a few weeks backpacking. I’ve stopped waiting to find someone to go with me – the heroine I want in my story chooses to acknowledge her fear of solo travel and embrace it. I’ve started conquering that fear with small steps. Eating dinner at a restaurant by myself feels awkward, but that is just the first start in my journey.
I’m able to give more grace to the people in my own life. Interestingly enough, by refocusing on myself, I am also able to give more grace to people in my life. I’m able to acknowledge that we are all living our own journeys, and they look different from different angles. I am able to see a decision someone makes from their perspective. When my college boyfriend broke up with me, all I could see was the harm he caused to me. There was no way for me to look at it from his side. My own story could only handle seeing the destruction that one decision caused. I was only able to see him as the villain, the person who burned a relationship to the ground and didn’t once acknowledge the scorched Earth. I fully acknowledge that this viewpoint is what was what I needed to be able to move on. Cheering for his redemption as opposed to my healing would have devastated me more than the break up already did. Years later, with time and distance, I’m able to see the situation from a different perspective. I’m able to acknowledge the pain I didn’t realize he was experiencing, the devastation he also went through after our breakup. In a lot of ways, we had become adults together. It also had become codependent and a bit toxic. The loss of that relationship made both of us question our identities without each other. This doesn’t negate the love we had, and still have, for each other. But our stories had to separate. Now, with that time and distance, I can cheer for his story without thinking that the ending may include me.
I’ve started to give myself more love. None of the heroines I root for in stories are perfect. In fact, I gravitate toward stories about people that are seriously flawed yet are compelling. If I am able to cheer for the Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy to find love, I am certainly able to cheer for myself. How am I able to find these redeeming qualities in fictional characters, yet beat myself up for those same qualities? No more. When Meredith acknowledges and apologizes for a decision she made that was informed by her anxiety, I cheer. Look how much she has grown! I root for her on her journey to accepting all of herself, flaws and all. Why can’t I do that with me? By making myself my own main character, I’ve decided to cheer on my own growth, no matter how small it may seem. I no longer want to focus on my flaws and beat myself up over mistakes. I want to acknowledge my issues, work on moving past them, and cheer myself on for every small victory. If I can do that for a character on a TV show, I am going to do that for myself.
Making yourself the main character of your story can be daunting. I was raised to cheer for everyone else in my life. I often joke that I was meant to be a supporting character, the steadfast friend or the comedic relief. But by validating my own experiences and deciding to be my own heroine, I have felt a great shift in my life. It’s not easy. There are days where I gladly take a back seat to other people – and that’s okay. Being my own main character does not mean that I have to be the center of attention all the time. It means, very simply, that I am allowed to give myself the focus in my life. I no longer have to feel guilty for prioritizing myself or my growth, even if it may make others uncomfortable. And it definitely means that I am supposed to cheer for my own journey, no matter where it takes me. Please join me in refocusing your own narrative. It may not be comfortable, but it is surely worth it.