Musings

Do You Have Main Character Energy?

By: Jen Shoop

First, a note! Magpie will be undergoing a major glow up in the next week or two, and the site may be temporarily unavailable at some point during this time. We will be back up and running with a new look (but the same far-flung mix of posts, toggling between the freighted and the frivolous) in short order! I have wanted to shorten the name from TheFashionMagpie to Magpie for years now and cannot wait to introduce you to the new nest. In the meantime, should you encounter it, please pardon the dust.

There is a phrase floating around the Internet these days — “main character energy.” The New Yorker captured it as follows: “[Main character energy] describes any situation in which a person is making herself the center of attention, the crux of a particular narrative, as if cameras were trained on her and her alone. The term can be used appreciatively, acknowledging a form of self-care—putting yourself first—or as an accusation, a calling out of narcissism: a person dressing too extravagantly for a casual event, for example, is trying to be the main character. Main-character moments are those in which you feel ineffably in charge, as if the world were there for your personal satisfaction.”

I feel conflicted about this concept, and the way the New Yorker captures it, too. Specifically, I do not feel the use case binaries suggested (“appreciative vs accusatory”) are adequate. And I do not think “main character energy” presupposes that “the world is there for your personal satisfaction.” Main character energy can be about self-empowerment. It can be about unhooking from the expectations either we or those around us have foisted upon us. It can be about creating distance between ourselves and the irrational actions of others. For example, I have been in relationships in which I have needed to remind myself that I am a whole and complete person, and that I am entitled to feel however I feel, and that I do not need to sublimate my feelings out of deference — and in that context, channeling my own “main character energy” has been a mode of self-empowerment. I can feel myself consciously draw inward and re-anchor myself. I can work up the courage to define a boundary, or express disagreement, or reject unfairness. This also applies to workplace scenarios. I am thinking specifically of a few instances earlier in my career when I would shy away from asking a colleague for something, or for asking for another round of revisions from a contractor, even though these requests were well within reason. I did not want to seem overbearing or demanding. Sometimes, I reckoned, it was easier to just take those items on myself. Main character energy says: “No! I am not responsible for someone else’s work!” or “I am paying this person for this task we’d agreed on — I should not accept something half-done because I don’t want to be a nuisance!” Thinking even further back, as a pre-teen, I wallflowered. I conformed to my friend group. I played the sidekick — a word that triggers me because I once had a boss who consistently forgot my name and instead called me “the sidekick” openly, to other staff. But we will save that indignity for another post. As a pre-teen, I think the shrinking violet vibe is fairly normal, but still — I wish I had known how to tap into main character energy. No, I do not want to play the Ouija board at Norma’s house because it scares me and I’d rather watch movies with Samantha. Yes, I have a bucket hat and braces, next?

There is a great lyric from Harry Styles’ most recent album (which is just a delight, from start to finish) in which he sings:

I’m on the roof, you’re in your airplane seat
I was nose-bleeding, looking for life out there

What I mean to say is:

We cannot let ourselves sit in the nosebleeds our entire lives. We have one wild and precious life: let’s get down into the arena, if not up onto the stage. If you need a hype soundtrack, listen to Beyonce’s Renaissance, which is, essentially, an ode to main character energy.

It may also help to remember that most people are playing the starring roles in their own lives. Why should anyone be made to feel like the supporting actor? Playing the main character in your own life can permit you to feel how you truly feel, change your opinion, your hair, your job, or lean into your charming idiosyncrasies with a bit more abandon.

At the same time.

Is there anything more upsetting than someone who thinks everything happens to them, personally? I have sat through too many awkward situations in which I have thought — “But this is not about you!” I am sensitive to this (I think) to a fault. Sometimes I withhold too much because I do not want to crowd someone else out, or I qualify my own experiences by saying “it’s not a patch on what you’re going through, but…” Still. Being the main character does not mean we cannot sit in empathetic silence and let another person have her soliloquy. And sometimes, our lives do revolve more about someone else — a child, an unwell parent, a friend in need — and that can be a beautiful and important sacrifice. But you can remain the main character in that narrative, too. It’s your life. It’s happening now, and to you. Your lead role has simply changed description.

What say you, Magpies?

Do you have main character energy? How do you feel about the concept?

Post-Scripts.

+Similar sentiments here. Carpe diem!

+Nothing changes if nothing changes. (Carpe diem, again!)

+One thing I love about my husband: his openness to joy.

Shopping Break.

+Barbour lookalike at Target!

+Speaking of coats: just found this Alex Mill coat, which has been SO popular and selling out in the neutral color, in last season’s chic brown, on sale for under $100. It’s in my cart!

+Am definitely in the mood for a chocolate brown top to tuck into classic fit denim — something like this or this would be perfection!

+OMG — Westman Atelier just launched a new skin tint…can’t wait to get my hands on this! Their foundation/concealer stick remains the GOAT and I’ve loved basically everything they’ve ever released!

+I ended up ordering this shoe organizer for myself (still somewhere in the middle part of organizing my clothes/closet) and it truly is incredible. You can stow a ton of shoes in there, and it’s very sturdy and thoughtful designed — you can reposition the velcro to fit the exact width/shape of your shoes. I am using this for out of season shoes, or shoes I don’t wear as often.

+This ditsy floral sweatshirt for girls is so cute.

+I live for these folders. I love to use them to keep papers/forms protected in my purse, and also to send in forms to school, to keep medical records separate for my children, to corral parts of applications, etc. I honestly could not live without them. Every now and then, I go on a rampage and go through all the paper on my desk, on our kitchen counter, etc, and sort them into these (after tossing or shredding the vast majority).

+Such a fun necklace. I would pair it with chocolate brown!

+I have a great pair of joggers from Target similar to these from two seasons ago that I still reach for 90% of the time. Going to try these in the chic cream color.

+Main character energy pants.

+A perfect mother-of-the-bride dress.

+My children love activity sets like this and this — I keep buying more and stowing in my closet for Church, travel, etc.

+This remains one of my favorite dresses ever — now out in an adorable fall gingham.

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4 thoughts on “Do You Have Main Character Energy?

  1. I think it’s important to be the main character because it is your life but how to become this and live amongst the other main characters is the lesson many don’t learn. I can definitely relate to FOMO and the influencer who posted that video came to learn that sometimes to live an authentic life doesn’t mean posting incessantly about it. At least that’s my take on the New Yorker article. I think especially for girls and women it is really hard to to be the leading lady when you feel you’re lagging behind. And it takes time to build and develop the confidence so that you dont think everything is all about youand not take it personally. Think Julie in Julie/Julia or Kate Winslet’s role in The Holiday. There is something satisfying in being able to be happy and to have others see you happy, confident, and living your best life. It just takes longer time to get there for some.

    Re the line on being called a sidekick, it reminds me of this coworker I used to work with who always said ‘hey you’ to the women because he never knew our names.
    And on a completely different take that line in Tootsie where she calls out Ron on calling her darling, sweetie, etc but that she has a name, Dorothy. Probably one of the best parts of that film. Would a woman have the confidence to do this or only if we dress up to play the part? Because Dorothy after all isn’t who we think she is.
    Do we need to play the role in order to be ourselves? To pretend until we believe it?

    1. Thank you so much for these thoughtful musings — my mind also went in several different directions the more I thought about the concept of “main character energy.” I have been sitting with your question about “playing the role in order to be ourselves” — fascinating.

      Thanks for chiming in here.

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