scorecardBeing 'delulu' in work and relationships is all the rage. A therapist explains when the mindset can help or hurt you.
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Being 'delulu' in work and relationships is all the rage. A therapist explains when the mindset can help or hurt you.

Julia Naftulin   

Being 'delulu' in work and relationships is all the rage. A therapist explains when the mindset can help or hurt you.
LifeScience4 min read
  • On TikTok, some people say they're being "delulu," short for the word delusional, to reach their career and relationship goals.
  • Being delulu is similar to manifesting, but it might not always be the best approach to reaching your goals, a therapist said.

If you've been on TikTok at all over the past three months, you've likely noticed the made-up word "delulu" taking the platform by storm.

Reportedly conceived in 2014 by Korean pop fans, "delulu" is shorthand for the word delusional and was initially used as a way to describe extremely wishful thinking, like the idea that you could end up dating your favorite international pop star. Online, delulu's meaning is distinct from "delusional," a term used in clinical psychology to describe someone who has a belief that they are seeing, hearing, or otherwise experiencing something that is not rooted in reality.

Almost 10 years after its creation, delulu has morphed into an internet catch-all term to describe someone's behavior, whether to endorse it or disapprove of it, Mashable reported. People use the word to justify a decision like double-texting a love interest or to hold out hope for a long-awaited promotion.

On TikTok, the hashtag #delulu currently has 3.2 billion views, with users often making videos and writing comments that "Delulu is the solulu," shorthand for the word solution.

The term is often used in light-hearted banter, but applying a delulu mindset to your career, love life, or other personal goals and relationships can have serious consequences, Amelia Kelley, a therapist who specializes in trauma and gaslighting, told Insider.

She said that the delulu trend is reminiscent of the concept of manifestation, where someone intentionally shares their dreams and goals, thinking that the practice will bring them closer to making them a reality.

"I do think it's important to give credence to our desires and to be open to the possibility of them happening," Kelley told Insider.

Like manifesting, being delulu could be a way to help us get excited about life's possibilities and strive for our goals, Kelley said. But leaning too far into the concept could also have the opposite effect, making us hyperfocused on what we don't have, setting us up for disappointment or poor treatment, or making it harder to feel grateful for where we are right now.

Insider provided Kelley with three situations so she could explain how someone could benefit from being delulu in these cases. Then, Kelley explained how being delulu could potentially set you up for disappointment or hurt in those same scenarios, so you can avoid that fate.

Being delulu about a crush

It feels fun to daydream about a crush because in reality, we know so little about them. That curiosity gap can cause the mind to wander in exciting ways, Insider previously reported.

According to Kelley, being delulu about a crush in this way can be worthwhile if you want to muster up the courage to ask them out.

She said that sometimes, people avoid exciting possibilities by making up excuses like, "My crush is too hot for me, so he'd never be interested." But being delulu could help you check those self-criticisms and lead with confidence, Kelley said.

When it can backfire:

If you start to make conversation with your crush and realize they're not available for a relationship, like if they mention their partner, continuing to be delulu could lead to disappointment or frustration, according to Kelley.

Being delulu about a career or personal goal

Kelley said she's personally a huge fan of being delulu about her career goals.

"I'm constantly writing little wish lists of things I hope to accomplish. Some of them are probably a little delusional, and some of them are probably a little bit more attainable," Kelley said.

She said that there's nothing inherently wrong with setting a hard-to-attain goal, so long as your mindset about that goal is reasonable.

Kelley explained that she felt inexperienced at one of her first therapy jobs where she had to work with people with drug addiction. "I was being a little delusional to think that I could just jump right in and do it, but I needed that manifesting mindset to propel my career," Kelley said.

She added that she backed up that mindset by showing up to training sessions to gain the experience she needed to eventually excel in her new role.

Similarly, being delulu a big personal goal like buying a home or moving to a dream city is a helpful exercise, according to Kelley. She said that creating smaller goals, like creating a savings plan or starting to research job opportunities in that new place, is essential here.

"You have to follow the delusion with action," Kelley said.

When it can backfire:

If someone constantly talks about their big dream, but doesn't take any action to make it happen, being delulu likely isn't working for them, according to Kelley.

Avoiding hard truths about a big goal could also cause someone to end up stuck or in a state of self-loathng, Kelley said. For example, if someone knows they lack a certain skill for a job or they only have a goal in order to impress their parents, being delulu won't be enough to achieve the fulfillment they crave, Kelley said.

Being delulu about your relationship

Kelley cautioned against ever being delulu when it comes to your relationships, like giving a situationship or partner the benefit of the doubt when they act in a way that hurts or upsets you.

"True intimacy has to be born from honesty, so I get nervous thinking about people being delulu and giving someone the benefit of the doubt," Kelley said.

She said that it's OK to want to give a partner another chance if they make a mistake, and called that "making room for repair and learning."

But being delulu, where you ignore your standards or avoid expressing your feelings to a partner, your relationships will end up lacking authenticity, Kelley said.

To make delulu work for you, lead with authenticity

Ultimately, Kelley said that being delulu will have the best outcome when you're being honest with yourself.

If you're thinking of taking the leap into an unfamiliar job opportunity or asking your longtime crush out on a date in the name of being delulu, Kelley said to first ask yourself, Is this something I really want?

If your answer is "yes," it means that you're making an empowered decision. But if your drive to be delulu is more related to concerns you have about how others may view you, Kelley suggested reassessing.

Overall, the good kind of delulu will feel similar to going with your gut, according to Kelley.