How to avoid ceding and fulfilling a supporting role in your life.
Originally published August 16, 2021 on psychologytoday.com
- It is often appealing to make other people the central characters in our story.
- But if you’re ceding your role as a protagonist to a supporting character in your life, you risk losing your authenticity.
- The people who live their lives authentically are the least likely to look back on it with regret.
Are you the protagonist, central character, and star of your life? Does your story revolve around you, or do you delegate static roles to other people in your life, such as a parent, partner, child, or friend?
Just like in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text, if you cede your role to someone who is a supporting role, you lose the agency to reflect on what you would authentically do in any situation. As a result, you’re changing your behavior based on the needs of whomever you put in the role of protagonist.
It is often appealing to make other people the central characters in our stories because it deflects attention and ownership of behaviors away from ourselves. One downside is the supporting characters become the ones who enhance the main character’s experiences through their guidance and encouragement.
Melody Beattie talks of codependent relationships and speaks of subserving oneself to another’s needs. Codependent individuals find and secure their worth, purposefulness, and drive by serving the needs of others and, by doing so, delegate the role of being the main character in their narrative to others. They take on the role of a supporting character in their own life story and lose sight of their authenticity.
I stress and encourage my clients to feel more comfortable being the protagonist, even though they are reticent to accept the responsibility of being the director of their story. So, if you fall into that category, I’ve put together four simple techniques to help you become more comfortable in controlling your narrative.
1. Choosing your path
It may challenge you, but choose your path wisely and pick a path that feels true to you. Make your decision based on the best information available. Be true to your choices even in the event they require you to change course. By doing so, you will keep the protagonist’s status in your narrative.
2. Weathering others’ discomfort
Others may deter you from your path because it infringes on someone else’s path. Understand and trust they can adjust their narrative if it’s important to them. Or they may feel you’re at risk of a misstep, and they want to rescue you from that potentiality in advance. Remember, you are authoring your authentic story. Be careful, and don’t let supporting characters revise your story.
Research shows people change course multiple times throughout their life span, so be compassionate with yourself during times that require course reversals. Believe you can cope and persevere with the patience and frustration tolerance it requires when your course changes. Don’t yield or merge into someone else’s life story because your story becomes challenging.
4. “Not knowing”
For a true and organic trajectory to unfold, you must allow for periods of “not knowing.” It’s an important part of adapting and integrating changes into your life as you mature. Being rigid about your original life plan inhibits your ability to remain the main character. Even if you’re not always sure of the next step on your journey, believe you can offer yourself guidance, perspective, encouragement, and purpose.
We only have one life to live. Shouldn’t we be the central character and live our life authentically? People who live their life authentically are least likely to look back on it with regret. It’s OK to have supportive characters in your story—just don’t cast or assign anyone to play you.
Chelle Stein, (April 8, 2018) “Main Character vs Supportive Characters in Story Development,” Think Written
Melodie Beattie, (October 25, 2016) “There’s No Shame in Being Co-Dependent,” Melodie Beattie
“17 Remarkable Career Change Statistics To Know (2021), June 25, 2021, Apollo Technical