The protagonist. The person Merriam Webster defines as "the principal character in a literary work (such as a drama or story)" or "the leading actor or principal character in a television show, movie, book, etc." In other words, the hero.
We always root for the hero whether they were born a hero or worked their way up as an underdog. But what about the supporting characters? The ones that allow the hero to shine?
We're the protagonists in our own lives and have our own supporting characters. Friends, family members and even acquaintances. Without these supporting characters, our stories wouldn't be very interesting. The hero would have no one to save but themselves — even then, they probably wouldn't be able to save themselves without supporting characters.
We're so focused on being the protagonist in our own stories that we forget to be supporting characters for others.
Being a supporting character doesn't have to be hard. I'm not saying you have to be the sidekick — even though sidekicks are needed, too. Something as simple as smiling at someone else can make their day.
Something as simple as sending that "How was your day at work?" text can lead to a conversation that heals the pain from a difficult coworker. Even better, I bet you'll feel like more of a hero in your own story for helping someone else.
But I'm not saying you should be a supporting character for someone else just to make yourself more of a hero.
You should be a supporting character for the benefit of the other person first. Just because it adds another line to your resume doesn't mean it makes you a supporting character. Just because it doesn't have to be hard doesn't mean you're a good supporting character.
Sometimes the supporting characters are initially ignored. Sometimes the supporting characters are only a part of the story until the hero can stand on their own. Sometimes, as much as it hurts, the hero finds other supporting characters.
Sometimes being a supporting character sucks.
Maybe that's why we don't root for them as much. Maybe that's why we don't want to be them.
Because we scream at the television when the supporting character is ignored, knowing that they can help the protagonist. We feel the sting of the protagonist finding a new supporting character.
We cry when the supporting character dies.
Don't lie, we all felt something when Beth March from "Little Women," Charlotte from "Charlotte's Web" and Mufasa from "The Lion King" die. (And if you didn't feel something, maybe you're just an antagonist?)
Why do we get so emotional over the loss of supporting characters? Because they're that important. Because they're supporting characters that put more energy into being a supporting character than a hero.
Think about where you'd be without your supporting characters and start focusing less of your time on being the protagonist and more on being a supporting character for others.