patranila's legs in a tub on a balcony overlooking the sea

You’re Doing Soft Girl Era All Wrong


This morning, a friend dropped a link in our group chat with an op-ed from Essence Magazine, I’m Sort Of Starting to Regret My Soft Girl Era and immediately my curiosity was piqued. As I read it, I knew that the writer had approached her Soft Girl Era in a way that was unsustainable at best and financially disastrous at worst. But the real issue is that Soft Girl Era has been widely and wildly misinterpreted, especially for Black women.

On socials, ‘soft girls’ are going to Pilates, making morning matchas for themselves and their moneymaking men, journaling, shopping, and of course, making videos about it all. Then there are spa treatments, luxurious vacations, and lazy days poolside with floating charcuterie boards. It’s a life free from stress or worry or work of any kind. With the exception of the video making, of course.

patranila's legs in a tub on a balcony overlooking the sea

And therein lies the rub. Soft Girl is not to be confused with Rich Girl. The Essence columnist writes about how she spent a Year of Yes (a la Shonda Rhimes) in Soft Girl mode and she has the receipts to prove it. She shelled out cold hard cash for a plethora of convenience services and swiped her card for any and everything that appealed to her. That’s cool if you got it like that. But she went into debt financing her ‘soft life.’

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing soft about owing a bunch of money, with interest.

The Soft Girl Era Origin Story

This brings me to my issue with the way the Soft Girl era is being sold to us. To me, the Soft Girl aesthetic was an outgrowth from what happened to the world in 2020. The pandemic hit and we all realized we’d been running our lives in ways that were not ultimately beneficial for us or our families. (I’m speaking specifically about Americans because everyone doesn’t live this way.) The hardships and sacrifices we tolerated in the name of making money and building careers came into stark relief for many of us and we didn’t look upon it with kind eyes.

Then, add the social awakening and worldwide uprisings surrounding the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others that created a perfect storm for Black people, Black women in particular, to say hold on a minute. I have to take care of myself.

We witnessed Maxine Waters reclaim her time, Amanda Seales jump on her trampoline, and Sarah Cooper depict our then president as the utter idiot he was. Meanwhile, there was the rise of the Karen, nonsensical black squares on Instagram, pledges from all manner of corporations to address their own biases and profiling, the disappearance of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben from grocery store shelves, and let’s not forget the relentless buffoonery of All Lives Matter. White ‘allies’ came to Black women looking for answers and education. ‘Help us fix this,’ they said. ‘We’re listening,’ they cried.

In return, Black women gave a resounding no. ‘Figure it out yourself’ was our message. With breathtaking seriousness, Black women were collectively reclaiming their time, recalling their energy, focusing on themselves, and for once, not racing to save the world from itself. ‘Save yourselves,’ we said. Respectfully.

And that was the beginning of what we’re now calling the Soft Girl Era.

Soft Girl Trickery

But of course, any movement must somehow be commodified and commercialized and thus, Black women’s self care, which emanated from a soul-deep place, became ‘give yourself a facial and have a soak in the tub.’ While those beauty and body care activities are certainly part of true self care, when you make it only that, you’re on a road to trouble. For someone with the means, at-home spa treatments are bound to become real spa treatments and vacations, and all manner of money spent ‘making things easier’ for yourself. All cool, if you can afford it but it still misses the point.

In her Era of Regret, the op-ed writer chides herself for ‘being lazy’ because she outsourced tasks that she didn’t want to perform herself. That laziness label is deeply troublesome for many reasons that I won’t go into here but suffice to say, resting, relaxing, and not doing everything yourself is not lazy. It is the very basis of self care. Black women in particular have been conditioned to do all the things, for all the people, all the time. We are often last on our own to-do lists if we appear there at all. Lazy? Tuh!

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.

~ Audre Lorde

Doing It and Doing It Well

With the basics of self care handled, the Soft Life for Black women runs much deeper. It means setting down the heavy loads that we carry all too often. It means breaking generational patterns that make a mule out of you. It means saying yes to yourself and what you truly want and need while saying no to others’ demands on your resources. It means not picking up the slack left by the mediocrity of others. It means fighting your own battles while letting others fight theirs.

Patranila in her Soft Girl Era, sleeping with a cashmere sleep mask

Sometimes that calls for a luxury vacation but more often than not, it means making sure your relationships serve you, making sure you take care of your health, which incidentally, is separate from taking care of your body. Taking care of your health gets conflated with ‘looking fit’ but looking fit is often unconcerned with your hormone balance, your cholesterol levels, or your mental fortitude.

Embodying your Soft Girl Era involves setting clear boundaries for what you engage with online and IRL, who has access to you, what labor you’re willing to perform, and what you expect for your life and from those in it. Have you secured enough resources: financial, mental, spiritual, or relational to sustain you?

Living in your true Soft Girl Era is to lavish yourself with your own attention and that part, doesn’t cost a dime.

Next Up: Why Not Me? Halle Berry and the Seattle Seahawks


  1. This article was EVERYTHING! Thank you for so eloquently breaking down the true meaning of “soft girl” era!

    1. patranila says:

      Thank you! I’m so glad it resonated with you.

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