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Main Character Syndrome

  • Opinion

By Kristi Greenwood, BA Japanese

‘Hyper-individualism’ is the concept being promoted under the disguise of ‘self-care’ by influencer after influencer online. The inherited belief is that being kind doesn’t get you anywhere. A sign of this belief system is the rising popularity of YouTuber TheWizardLiz teaching us how to be more confident and to live by the “whatever I want goes first” lifestyle. Despite the alarming echo of the belief that ‘nice guys finish last’, this hyper-individualistic approach to life is also detrimental on a larger scale to creating a more tolerant world, overcoming the loneliness epidemic, and living happier, fulfilling lives. 

This is all a symptom of late-stage capitalism. On a macro scale, as a society, we wish to live in a more tolerant world and dismantle capitalism. Yet, on a micro-scale and in moments of self-reflection, we preach about putting ourselves first, to ‘f*ck being kind’ to live by, ‘they don’t serve me, therefore I should cut them off’. This epitomises the hyper-individualistic mindset, one which capitalism thrives off and one which states that you should prioritise being in competition with your peers rather than collaborating with them. Yet, all this leads to is a more isolated, consumer-driven and unfulfilling life. 

I think that we all implement this belief when we first start university. We see everyone as a threat and fall into the pattern of holding resentment toward our peers, viewing everyone as our competition. We believe we cannot succeed if other people are succeeding. But this is detrimental to the foundations of society. 

Most Western philosophy upholds this idea of looking at life as an individual. Of being self-focused. The belief that you are the ‘main character’ clashes with other conscious minds as you realise that you are not achieving the best grades, that you do not have the most alternative taste in music, and that you don’t have the most politically ‘unique’ take on a topic. This desire to differentiate oneself from other individuals creates constant clashes and a never-ending dilemma within our lives. It’s a flawed belief system and way of approaching life.  

When we are so preoccupied with ourselves, we forget about the people behind the products we are consuming. Racing to keep up with fashion trends, yet only 2% of all garment workers worldwide are paid a living wage. Upgrading your phone with every new iPhone launch, fuelling the ongoing exploitation of the people of the Congo. How do we justify our need to consume, over labourers and human lives? Stepping back, we can reflect and recognise that our perpetual anxiety and need to consume in justification of ‘defining ourselves’ is actually harming millions of people worldwide. In light of this, we can begin redirecting our money and energy elsewhere to consume less and do so more ethically. Our right to buy and consume does not justify the exploitation of labourers.    

This hyper-individualistic mindset also feeds the ongoing loneliness epidemic and mental health crisis in the UK. In 2022, 49.6% of Britons reported feelings of loneliness. The black-and-white approach to life and collective lack of nuance are contributing to this epidemic, a mindset which is leading you to live an unhappy life. Natural selection rewarded our ancestors for collaboration and forming relationships with each other. The individual would not survive and our genetic makeup evolved to adjust to this, causing us pain in times of loneliness, just as our stomach would growl in times of hunger. Forming connections is ingrained in our biology. 

No matter how unique we think we may be, we are all the melting pots of the world. We are all alike. Every aspect of you has been moulded by another person. Every laugh you’ve echoed has imprinted on your soul. You are a creation of all the people you’ve met. As said by Chuck Palahniuk, “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”

“We are a mosaic of everyone we’ve ever loved and we should embrace this humanness about us.”

We are a mosaic of everyone we’ve ever loved and we should embrace this humanness about us. 

Photo caption: The individual (Credit: Gwydion M. Williams via Flickr)

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