Don’t let the silly little name fool you. There’s more to this wellness trend than TikTok fame.
It’s a fairytale as old as time: Girl meets boy. Boy dumps girl. Girl gets delusional and ends up Valedictorian of Harvard Law School.
Now, you might be thinking, “Did I just read the abridged plot of Legally Blonde?” but consider, for a moment, Legally Blonde as less of a movie and more of a pop culture parable. Beneath the endlessly quotable lines (“I object!”), enviable costumes (Elle Woods’s hot pink courtroom wrap dress), and the Jennifer Coolidge of it all lies a timeless story about the power of self-belief.
Much like Cinderella and The Princess and the Frog before her, Elle Woods is straight-up delulu. Her aspirations are outlandish, and her self-confidence is unprecedented. Who else would dream of shooting a law school application video lounging in a sparkly pink bikini? Remember that Playboy bunny computer scene? She's delusional for sure, but that might not be such a bad thing.
Elle's journey from sorority sister to hot-shot lawyer proves that in life, the line between genius idea and delusional daydream might actually be more of a circle. After all, the movie ends with Elle on stage in a cap and gown (the modern Princess tiara), living happily ever after. The moral of the story: Dream big — no matter how delusional you might seem to, say, an evil stepsister or catty classmate named Vivian.
The Season of Delusion
Still unconvinced about the power of delusion? TikTok would like a word. With roots in K-pop standom (“delulu” is often used to describe fans’ admittedly far-fetched romantic fantasies about their pop idols), embracing delusion has now become a worldwide movement.
Last August, Creator Moses Wong declared, “Delulu is the solulu,” in a bizarrely comforting, wisdom-filled 17-second speech on TikTok, thus setting into motion a chain of events that even the most delusional wannabe influencer couldn’t have predicted. The video went viral. Like, mega-viral. It’s racked up five million likes, 40 thousand comments, and more than a million shares in the interim — not to mention half a million follow-up posts, related hashtags, and subsequent duets.
Turns out, delululu has legs, and today, self-delusion as self-improvement is less of a hashtag and more of a mandate. Scroll the “For You” page, and you’ll find advice about how to delulu your crush into your boyfriend, besties documenting their mutually assured delusion, and an embarrassment of half-ironic, half-earnest wordplay about delulu making dreams come trululu. In short, unlike most other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trends on the app, delulu is still going strong.
Everywhere, it seems, people are embracing their delusions and finding unexpected success in the process. At just over a month into 2024, it’s still the season of delulu when new-year-new-me promises abound, and overly ambitious projects reign. The only question is, will these delulus actually come trululu? The science, believe it or not, points to yes.
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss a trend like delulu as no more than The Secret repackaged for Gen Z. After all, didn’t we already do this during the great manifestation boom of 2016? It’s true; Zoomers do have a penchant for rebranding the mundane with a cute nickname. If downtime is now “bed rotting” and fresh air is a “hot girl walk,” it’s only natural to assume that confidence would get a quirky little TikTok makeover as well. But there’s far more to delulu than its delightful, begging-to-be-riffed-on name.
The power of “fake it ‘til you make it” confidence is very real. In 2022, a study at Stanford University found that when participants simply mimicked a smile, they felt happier. Research also shows that just the appearance of competence at work (talk about delulu!) can help you get ahead. Plus, a positive mindset is proven to increase your happiness and resilience long-term.
Apparently, we could all benefit from a delusion or two. And the experts agree. “Positive thinking and optimism can have various positive effects on mental well-being, including reducing stress, improving coping mechanisms, and enhancing overall resilience,” explains Heather Hagen, MS, LMFT, Executive Clinical Director of Newport Healthcare.
Going delulu can even provide some much-needed new perspective on life. “There is a freedom in stepping away from overthinking and negativity that allows room in our lives for more positive, open-ended beliefs,” she says. “When we let go of playing small, our world can hold more intention, more resilience, more perspective.” Just make sure you don’t take things too far — delusional thinking in the extreme can be a mental health red flag. “It’s important to maintain a balance between optimism and realism,” stresses Hagen. A healthy mindset addresses “both the positive possibilities and the potential challenges in any situation.”
Rejoicing in the Ridiculous
That fresh point of view can be a powerful motivator, according to delulu fans. “The ‘delusional’ pieces of my life are the parts I want the most to work out, to come true, to finally happen,” explains Barrett McBride, a director’s assistant who has admittedly been “delusional dating” for more than a decade. “I happen to like the idea of what I can be, who I end up with, where I will go? If there’s no hope for a better, cooler life and hotter me to hold on to, then what’s the point?”
For others, living in delulu is just plain fun. “As a drag queen, we are creatures of fantasy with delusions of grandeur being a blessing and an occupational hazard,” says Xie Xie, the CEO of Spill It, a tea-based caffeinated canned mocktail brand, who calls delusion her best accessory. “For any diva or glamazon, a healthy dose of delusion is the currency of bold visionaries. The fantasy can never become reality if you, yourself, aren't willing to be the first person to live the dream as your truth.”
"Positive thinking is seeing the glass half full. Being delusional is believing that you control the faucet. — Harry Hill"
Part of what sets delulu apart from traditional modes of manifestation, like vision boarding and the law of attraction, is its cheeky self-awareness. While corny affirmations might leave you feeling more embarrassed than inspired (just me?), delulu lays bare the inherent silliness in your most outlandish beliefs. In fact, it rejoices in the ridiculous.
“Joyfully delulu public figures are just dreamers who have a good sense of self-deprecating humor,” says Xie Xie. “Delulu TikTok content is entertaining self-deprecation, consumed by a social media dream generation of Millennials and Gen Z-ers, it's like moths to a flame.”
According to Harry Hill, a NYC-based creator whose email sign-off reads “delusional vibes, Harry,” delulu is a sort of umbrella term under which manifestation, positivity, and visualization can live. “Positive thinking is seeing the glass half full. Being delusional is believing that you control the faucet,” he explains.
If manifestation is about making your wildest dreams come true, delulu is about living like they’re already here. And success stories like Xie Xie’s will make you a believer in a so crazy it might just work approach. “The delusion that I could launch my company, Spill It, with no money and no experience was delulu,” admits Xie Xie. “Yet, five years later, I've gone from my kitchen to co-packer in Vermont with a can in my hand!”
Delulu's All Around Us
Entire careers have been built on far less than delusion and a bit of elbow grease. Take Lady Gaga. Who would Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta be without thinking she’s talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not-ever-been-done before? Since the very beginning, the entire project of being Gaga has been built on a bedrock of delulus around fame and fantasy. Asking Cher, a famous vegetarian, to hold your meat purse while accepting a VMA in front of millions? Delulu. Without delusion, there is no Bad Romance, and I don’t want to live in that world. Do you?
In the right context, delusions of grandeur can be downright charming. For every Kendall Roy, there is an Elle Woods, and many of the most beloved characters in pop culture are also the most delulu. Think about it: Would delulu icon Ferris Bueller ever have taken his day off? Probably not without all that magical thinking. And Emily, the millennial generation’s most delulu and unqualified main character, certainly never would have made it to Paris.
Even Edie Beale, the patron saint of delulu and the subject of the cult classic documentary Grey Gardens, could be offered up as an example of the power of delusion. Sure, she spent years with her head in the clouds, reliving her socialite glory days and dreaming of creative success — all whilst willfully ignoring her nagging mother-slash-roommate, the raccoons living in her attic, and nature’s slow reclamation of her family’s mansion. But it made for a good story, and in the end, she became a camp icon because of, not in spite of, her unhinged and delusional lifestyle. The delulu paid off, just maybe not exactly how she planned.
The bottom line? “Being delulu, ultimately, is all about waking up and having the audacity to be yourself,” says Harry Hill. “It’s about asking yourself, ‘What if I fly?’ instead of ‘what if I fall?’” So go ahead. Life is hard; choose delusion. With the impending election, sky-high interest rates, and winter’s inevitable vitamin D deficiency, no one would blame you.
For more InStyle news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on InStyle.