What Embracing My Soft Life Era Really Means

By my definition, the “Soft Life” is based on emotional honesty and the preservation of one’s self in regard to health. It’s done while maintaining a commitment to surrounding yourself with people who love and want what’s best for you in a way that is supportive and respectful of your autonomy, and your human journey.

It’s also a trending lifestyle that started picking up major steam in early 2021 on apps such as Tik Tok and Instagram. Its rise can be attributed to the collective fatigue so many people were experiencing. We were living lives that were nothing more than a conduit for burnout, emotional repression, and self-sacrifice, and doing so in the name of family, friends, partners, and workplaces.

I don’t mean to sound like some pretentious hipster but, I actually started using the term “Soft Life”, or “Soft Girl” before it rose to fame. When I heard it on TikTok, I remember being excited to see someone else using the term because I had already been trying to live it. The ideology behind it spoke to me so strongly, it was asking me to embrace what I’d been taught to hate about myself and as a reward of sorts — maybe I’d begin to love and accept it. Prior to any internal shift, I had always been considered a crybaby due to being a very sensitive child. I would tear up at a moment’s notice, And as a young Black girl that behavior was very rarely met with kindness or understanding. Instead, I was told to grow a thicker skin or else how would I manage? The world isn’t known to be receptive to a Black woman with big emotions, and they were trying to protect me not knowing that they ultimately made me feel ashamed for having perceivably larger and deeper emotions than those around me.

Black person holding baby's breath wearing a Black slip dress

I learned that I had to hide my emotions in order to survive or not make those around me feel uncomfortable, which ultimately made my emotions harder to manage. I built up feelings of shame around them. My skin didn’t grow thicker I just grew older, and as I did I continued to emote, but now I was just actively hating myself for doing so. At that point, I just knew that the way that I was living in relation to my emotions was not working and that I needed to change. I desired a life where I was not only free to feel what I needed to, but one where I was surrounded by people, places, and even jobs that allowed that vulnerability to grow safely.

I started doing my best to preach vulnerability and transparency in all areas of my life, not just to myself but to friends, employees, and lovers. By immediately being open and honest, I created a space where other people were doing the same. I was so invested in curating this new safe and calmer life, that I wasn’t ready for the adverse effects it may have on me. I was going all in, and perhaps I was doing so far too fast. I soon began to realize that, for me at least, perhaps there was such a thing as being too vulnerable.

While on this journey for a softer life, I found myself in a new job where vulnerability very quickly became my strength. Heart, empathy, and connection were the basis of what was — for a while — a very rewarding job. I was freely giving so much of myself in this new position, all in the name of vulnerability, that I failed to realize that not everyone was on the same path as me. It was part of my journey that I hadn’t gotten quite right. My new vulnerability was taken advantage of, and I was beginning to feel used and tokenized instead of free. Ultimately I lost the job, and parts of myself along with it, and at that moment, I felt betrayed by my open softness, not empowered by it.

I had to re-evaluate. I let myself feel everything, but was learning not to do it everywhere or all at once. I had to learn what space and people were actually safe for me to feel. That meant opening up even when it felt hard, and that wasn’t always easy. First, I opened up about the hardships I had been through in the hopes of finding a connection. While I did find some, I also found others who didn’t care and I made it a point to learn from them. I would go into new environments, places, and friendships with those reactions in mind, ready to be wary of those who had them. I created stronger boundaries for the pre-existing people in my life and believed the red flags when I saw them. It was slow and gradual, and I relapsed a lot, but by doing these things it really pointed out where I was safe to be soft and somewhat more importantly, where I wasn’t.

Black person with braids holding Baby's breath.

I’ve been tested, yes, but the trials and tribulations caused me to assess what I really wanted and needed. I realized I was reacting to my own trauma in search of what my inner child lacked, which was a safe space to feel and simply exist. Now I’ve been feeling the closest thing to emotionally free and happy that I ever have in my life, but it’s only because I’ve learned to honor my emotions by being a little more possessive of who gets to experience them.

I’ve never felt more in tune with having a soft life than I do now. The boundaries I’ve created are honored, and I find myself creating more time to be in the moment. The people around me aren’t only supportive of me when I’m being there for them, but provide that support when I need it too. I feel genuinely and deeply loved and supported at my best and my worst, and prior to the work I put in, I didn’t feel that way.

Living a soft life doesn’t mean I’ll live one free from strife or pain, rather I’m living a life that invites those emotions in. It’s from sitting with the discomfort of some of my emotions, creating solid boundaries, and investing in the people and relationships that were healthy, that unlocked the door to a true and genuine soft life. These feelings — security, love, and above all things, peace — are emotions that I never believed I’d be able to feel. Being able to not dislike life, but rather embrace it was worth all the pain it took to get here. It feels nice to finally feel like I have a requited love for life and emotional safety, and be able to truly feel for the first time without complication.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Brittany J.

Black Queer (Biromantic Demisexual) & Anxious | Professional crybaby Writer, performer and photographer Represented by: Jamie Vankirk @ Rainbow Nerds Literary

Brittany has written 3 articles for us.


  1. What a fantastic piece. Thank you for sharing your journey, and all the nuances inherent. Your life philosophy reminds me so much of the work of the Nap Bishop. Rest & vulnerability are paramount, and the white hetero-capitalist patriarchy is always looking for opportunities to take them away.

  2. I too have been on this journey my entire life. Even now in middle age I have to navigate protective boundaries and keep them in tune with peaceful honesty. Luckily, with family and friends the road was long but fruitful. The most challenging piece for me has been making an income and at the same time being kind, real, honest, and working with integrity. Some people get uncomfortable, disrespectful, and even angry when you are a professional and honest/vulnerable at the same time. Reading your story really hit home as I am dealing with an ongoing negative situation from a colleague that came to a head today. Currently feeling too exhausted to continue putting effort into building a bridge with this person who has little respect for me, and feeling too exhausted to start over looking for income security. I appreciate reading this as it definitely reminds me I am not alone in this struggle. Thank you!

  3. Thank you Brittany for sharing your process with such honesty and clarity. 💚This line is going to stick with me for a long time: “I’ve learned to honor my emotions by being a little more possessive of who gets to experience them.”

  4. Aw I love this! It sounds like what I’ve been trying to do too, and I also definitely overcorrected at first and am finding my feet now. Thanks so much for articulating that!

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!