Entering Your 'Villain Era': What The TikTok Term Means And How To Start One

Wednesday Addams describes the impact of social networks and digital platforms best when she says, "I find social media to be a soul-sucking void of meaningless affirmation." As far as affirmation goes, perhaps no social media platform inflames greater polarization than TikTok. This social media app is constantly accused of dumbing down communication and exposing its users to content that fuels body dissatisfaction, loneliness, and identity erasure. It's like a funhouse mirror that traps our perceptions and distorts our sense of self whenever we look at the heavily skewed version of other people's lives.

In all fairness though, if you're selective enough to filter what to see on TikTok, you'll realize that there are tons of trends and concepts that reshape our perspectives in a good way and inspire innovative self-affirmations that help us boost self-worthiness. And the "villain era" trend is one of them. If you often find yourself on a desperate quest to please others at the expense of your personal well-being, it may be time to enter your "villain era" — an invitation to stop being a pushover and start taking control of your life. 

What does 'villain era' mean

Popularized by TikToker @padzdey, the term villain era refers to a shift in a person's thinking as they renounce the pressure to strive for the validation of others. As @padzdey puts it: "You're probably unknowingly entering your 'villain era' right now; I think for a lot of us chronic people pleasers our villain era is literally just us asserting our boundaries – you know, expressing and really communicating our needs and prioritizing ourselves, often for the first time."

For people who have been people-pleasers their whole lives, going from selfless to self-aware might make them come across as selfish. Imagine: you used to say yes to favors all the time and now you're suddenly saying no to everything, people will be shocked at this dramatic change in your behaviors.

The name of the trend alludes to the fact that pop culture usually portrays putting oneself first as an inherently villainous quality. That's why girls who are not team players never get to play the heroines in feel-good stories. However, the reality is colored with shades of gray, and there's no way you can tell if the person is truly a villain or a hero within 60 minutes of running time. So, the moral of the "villain era" trend is: people will not like it when you stop meeting their needs to start fulfilling yours, so you'll have to tough it out and let people alter the expectations they've come to have of you.

Expect to lose some friends as you enter 'villain era'

Although the trend empowers people to love themselves more, it will definitely result in mixed reactions. Some people will be happy for you to take a stance for yourself, while others who have been accustomed to your generosity for a long time might not take kindly to this drastic shift in relationship dynamics. You might think your determination to reset your priorities makes you a hero to yourself, but in the eyes of those who have come to think of your open-handedness as a given — you have officially become a villain. 

"I think what unfortunately happens is that when you're a people pleaser — that isn't often well-received by the people around you because it is such a drastic change in your behavior. And folks around you might start to feel like they aren't getting the same you that they used to get out of the relationship," @padzdey explains. Your altered approach to relationships may cause fallouts, but it will also reveal the true colors of those around you and enlighten you on the expectations some people have from your friendship. You have every right to stand up for yourself and establish boundaries in your relationships; doing so in no way, shape, or form denotes that you are an "antagonistic" or "villainous" person. If someone makes you feel that your looking out for yourself is not cool, then maybe the relationship you have with the person is purely transactional. 

The importance of saying no

If you truly love yourself and want to enhance your quality of life, learn to make "saying no" a habit. From a biological point of view, saying "no" more frequently changes the way our brain processes information and responds to different circumstances, giving us more autonomy over our decisions and boosting self-confidence in the long run. Learning to say no to what we don't want to put up with is helpful in raising low self-esteem and preventing us from overstretching our mental bandwidth, which has a considerable impact on our mental health.

Saying no more often also helps us practice setting boundaries, which ensures that our relationships are built on mutual respect and care. You might think that respecting boundaries is a basic courtesy, but many people don't know that. Sometimes, it's your job to teach boundary violators how to not overstep the boundaries. Whether it's a pushy friend asking for too many favors from you or someone asking questions about touchy matters such as reproduction and marriage, it's not acceptable. Or perhaps you've been a target of jokes that stereotype or dehumanize your race or sexuality. All are examples of boundary violations. If you're always feeling confused and fed up around a person, it can mean your boundaries have been violated. If you let other people walk all over you just because you don't want to come across as "uncool," you're setting yourself up for a draining, doomed-to-fail relationship. 

How to say no

At the end of the day, at the heart of it all, entering your "villain era" by learning to say no to what is not in your priorities is to be kind to yourself. This is not to encourage a self-centered or divisive mindset, but to help you put your time and energy into the people and things that really deserve your attention.

Saying no can be difficult. If the thought of saying no stresses you out, it may be easier if you do it via texting rather than face-to-face. If you have to say no in person, a direct and polite "I'm sorry, I don't have the bandwidth for that right now," or "I wish I could help you out but that just doesn't fit with my schedule" will do. If the person keeps pushing you, it's okay to dismiss them with a default answer like, "I'll think about it and get back to you."

To sound more convincing, try to come up with a more detailed excuse explaining why you can't comply with the request. For example, "I cannot stand in for you because I have some reports in the pipeline and my boss wants them by tomorrow." Offering alternative solutions like "This matter is outside my circle of competence, but Jane is an expert on this matter so why don't you ask her to give you a hand with that?" is also a great way to say no without sounding like a villain.