If you often find yourself putting your hand up for additional tasks at work, or providing a helping hand to the people in your life, it may be time to reconsider your priorities.
Proliferated by TikToker @padzdey, the term 'villain era' isn't as dark or ominous as the name might suggest, but refers to a shift in a person's priorities as they reject the societal pressure to always play nice.
Now, hear us out. Being nice can be positive, and kindness never goes astray. But where it becomes a problem is when we start disregarding our own needs and feeling stifled. The emotional labour of keeping everyone around you satisfied is the ultimate energy drain. And whether it's with friends, family or in the workplace, the burden of being pleasant and polite, often leaves us (particularly women and marginalised genders) feeling exhausted, all for the sake of keeping up with the pressure we've imposed upon ourselves. Worse still, this often sets a precedent for what others can expect of us.
Enter: your villain era.
The movement isn't a call to start being an asshole, but according to @padzdey, it's simply about asserting boundaries, communicating our needs, and prioritising them. All over TikTok, users are celebrating the shift, reclaiming their time, energy and mental bandwidth and focusing on themselves. The name plays on the idea that many of the narratives in book, TV and film that we've grown up with frame prioritising yourself as an inherently negative trait, often pigeonholing the 'villain' of the story as someone that's selfish and disagreeable when in reality, people are much more complex than simply being 'nice & good' and 'bad & difficult'.
But what she goes on to note is that the change can be a shock to people in your life, as you're changing the expectations they've come to have of you. “I think what unfortunately happens is that when you’re a people-pleaser, [the change] isn’t often well received by the people around you because it is such a drastic change in your behaviour,” she explains. “Folks around you might start to feel like they aren’t getting the same you that they used to get out of the relationship and as though their needs aren’t being met.”
Empathy is a two-way street, as most people don't even realise that they have high expectations of you, or don't realise the emotional toll of being their therapist, and can be taken aback when you start implementing boundaries. But ultimately, the people who care about you should support you putting yourself first. “I think some people will understand and really be happy for you that you’re doing this for yourself.”
In some instances, your changed priorities and behaviour will result in some friction, but it can also show you who your real friends are. “Sometimes it’s — and I don’t think it’s rooted in maliciousness — I do think that sometimes a lot of fallouts can happen because of this,” she says. “Because suddenly now there’s a disconnect, right? What someone may be used to, they’re not receiving anymore, and then comes in being perceived as a villain.”
The name might throw people off, but entering your villain era is not about trading in basic human decency for immorality, but about acknowledging your need for your own wellbeing. You’re not a bad person for sticking to your guns or wanting more space and time for yourself. You can be there for the people in your life, while still nurturing your own needs.
In fact, it’s the only real way to live a life that’s truly our own.