Why TikTok's “delusional girl” trend and the power of escapism is so appealing to women — particularly women of color — right now.
The most repeated phrase in my group chats throughout 2021 and beyond remains, “I'm running off of spite and delusion.” I've personally uttered some iteration of that line nearly every week since the beginning of the pandemic. Whether they’re in regards to the impending doom of an unnecessary social interaction or simply being confronted with the never-ending tasks of being an adult, my self-delusions keep me afloat. It’s why I’ve embraced the new “delusional girl” TikTok trend that encourages escapism, particularly for Black women.
The word “delusional” is usually used negatively, but it’s time to reexamine what it means outside the context of mental illness, especially at a time when our mental health is fragile as hell.
“This is just your daily reminder that being delusional and lacking self-awareness makes for a way happier life,” says Aliyah Tianna, one of my favorite lifestyle influencers — and a woman who is clearly on to something — in a recent video. “Highly recommend.”
Tianna is far from the only TikToker espousing delusion as a coping mechanism. The concept appears to have originated with TikTok user @vzusvzus, who posted a brief video in January of herself rapping about “delusional girl” to the tune of the hit song “Material Girl” by Saucy Santana. Since then, the video has garnered more than 1 million views, and the sound has been used for countless other TikToks. Meanwhile, the hashtag #DelusionalGirl has taken on a life of its own, with Black women speaking on the power of manifestation, being a little self-involved when necessary, and creating moments of beautiful chaos.
For Tianna, delusion has become an inviting space where she gets to shed the weight of the world from her shoulders. In this space, you can actively choose not to “sit and wallow in terrible energy,” she tells me. “If I put on my rose-colored glasses and go on about my day everything ends up working out.”
In this way, being a little delusional is a call to action, imploring us to zone out, romanticize, and escape as necessary so we can keep pushing through the reality of our everyday lives. Yes, taxes need to done and deadlines loom, but we deserve to be irrationally selfish for an hour if need be — even if that means taking ourselves on whimsical picnics or taking a full 30 minutes to learn a TikTok dance in the middle of a workday from time to time. My friends and I have heeded the call willingly.
“The key to life, the reason why I be having so much fun is because I’m delusional af,” TikToker Kierra Lewis says in one video, referring to the importance of manifestation of success and happiness. Lewis’s advice is, essentially, you have to dream big — and ignore anyone who tries to shut you down. This isn’t an endorsement for conjuring the scammer energy of Anna Delvey and Elizabeth Holmes; their big dreams were based on lies and still got them far. It’s an invitation to wade in the waters of audacity that marginalized people are so often banned from.
A mild vibe shift toward delusion is appealingto me. For much of my life, I was taught to be humble — to not take up space, and to acquiesce to any room I step into. Those lessons left me shrinking myself for the sake of patriarchy — but being delusional has helped me rise. My delusions have led me to apply for jobs I normally wouldn’t, manifest the lifestyle I want, and convince myself I’m much more confident than I actually feel.
With the right conditions, these notions around manifestation can bring confidence to the lives of Black women and girls who are pushing up against generations who may not understand them, says Jordan Beckum, an Atlanta-based Black woman therapist. “We've never been given the space to dream about our lives,” adds Beckum. “If we can dream it why can't we, I definitely love this trend, now with the right tools whether it be a manifestation, journaling, visualization methods, or meditation all of this can be super helpful.”
Everyone I know is exhausted, working hard, and at times, concocting an illusion of grandeur just to get by.
Perhaps being delusional is a reflection of the socio-political moment we find ourselves in: living through a pandemic, facing the global effects of war, and dealing with rising inflation that has made the cost of living nearly unbearable. Everyone I know is exhausted, working hard, and at times, concocting an illusion of grandeur just to get by.
“Were seeing a lot of younger Black women taking the leap that older generations were scared to take and there can be a lot of judgment with it,” says Beckum about how these trends are opening portals for generations to come.
But for Black and brown people and our queer communities, this coping mechanism is especially necessary and well-deserved. Over the past few years alone, we have seen Black women tormented relentlessly. Everything from Naomi Osaka's mental health to Megan the Stallion’s domestic violence case has been scrutinized to no avail — and those are just the high-profile, celebrity examples. Black women across the board are expected to remain quiet and classy through our suffering, lest we come off as “hysterical.” So, a little escapism to a place on social media where we embrace each other’s wildest selves is more than welcome.
For Tianna and many of her peers, delusion, ironically, provides a new kind of stability. “Everything is okay. I am the happiest, prettiest, richest, and most loved,” she says.
Even the simple belief that we deserve some madness of our own making propels us into living larger; I see it regularly within my circle of friends. I have found myself on FaceTime calls laughing until I'm crying, enthralled and energized by the honesty of my peers’ delusions. Amidst a sea of chaos, create your own. You more than deserve it.