5 Mental Tricks for Getting Over Yourself

#2. You Only Demand Freedom for Yourself

When the all-important protagonist is inconvenienced, it's an emergency situation, because the whole course of the movie has been thrown off. There's a garbage strike and a couple bags have piled up in the protagonist's kitchen, and thus she or he is likely to go as far as petitioning for the abolition of organized labor so it can never happen again. Unions are inconvenient. Bike lanes will add seven minutes to my commute. That other political party only says stuff I disagree with, it serves no purpose. When you're the protagonist, it doesn't matter how many of those irrelevant, two-dimensional Other People are served by something -- if it inconveniences You, it's fundamentally wrong. The point, however, is that as a society you can't have freedom without other people doing things with it that you disagree with. You want to live in a world that excludes everything that doesn't aid in the protagonist's journey, and everyone else almost hopes you get it because you getting what you think you want would be the most brutal comeuppance of all. Either everybody has freedom or nobody has it -- including you.

#1. You Think You Have to Do Everything Yourself

The most exhausting part of being The Protagonist is that you're contractually responsible for saving everyone else. Scan the credits -- if there's a disaster nearby, it's not Bison Wrangler #6 who's gonna leap into action, it's the person whose name is on the poster. The protagonist must be constantly primed to rescue others, whether or not it's someone else's job, whether or not it's anyone's job. There's been a terrorist bombing, but not to worry, you've got this. Your friend's just lost a couple of family members, but it's gonna be OK now because you took immediate action and wrote her a chipper little song about how she should cheer up -- a song that in no way recognizes the depth of her feelings because you fucking don't see other people as people (it's better if I don't link to this one, but the site I found it on rhymes with "freddit"). And nobody just needs your support or for you to listen, they're instead problems that need solving. Nobody is talking to you just to vent, nobody is talking to you because they're in a bad place and just want to be treated like a normal person by someone -- they're all talking to you because they need you to fix them, and it's the protagonist's responsibility to fix everything, because nobody else is capable. Otherwise why would there be a protagonist?

You potentially mean well, but you can only do so much good when you don't respect the three-dimensionality of others. When all you have is a knight complex, everything looks like a damsel in distress. And when you fail to act in the face of disaster, goddamn do you feel guilty. You could have done something, but because the hero didn't act, it all went to shit. When the world is centered around you, its weight is on your shoulders. But the final point here is that it doesn't have to be. Life doesn't have to be Starring You. It would be way less stressful (and more helpful) to be in an ensemble cast, for instance. Or you could take a step back and fall into a supporting role (you could even be the coveted "And"), helping others on their journey in a way that recognizes their top billing in your life. You might even find yourself finally happy, because much like in The Truman Show, the protagonist only starts his life when he stops being responsible for the happiness of millions. When he reflects on his role, breaks out of the narrative, and sails off to become a person just like the rest of us. When he gets over himself without even realizing it.

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Winston Rowntree

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