What It Means To Live A “Soft Life” — And How To Embrace It

How to put a TikTok trend to practice IRL.

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An inherent hardness comes with just being a human being navigating life. So when you first learn about the concept of living a “soft life” that’s become popular on social media over the past year, there’s a sense of relief that comes along with it. The movement is often captured on TikTok in solo date nights, decadent spa days, shopping sprees, and general luxuriating at home or in some picturesque locale. And while indulging in these activities can indeed make life feel softer, lighter, and more well-rounded, it does require some intention, willingness, and work to keep the calm vibes going and keep the stress of life at bay.

The concept is said to have originated in the Nigerian influencer community (its meaning centered around a life of less stress and comfort) back in 2021 before going mainstream. According to an October 2022 article by Jennimai Nguyen for Mashable, the more Westernized idea became a call “for Black women to let go of the astronomical expectation that they do it all. Rather than live a life of stress trying to be a career mogul, a style icon, and someone who’s emotionally available to friends and family 24/7, Black women called for those who have been working way too hard to take a softer approach.”

Like so many social media trends, the idea has since grown and expanded (beyond the Black community), causing a movement of people taking to social media and capturing their efforts for a quieter, more tranquil existence. It’s also been met with some criticism for its “consumerist identity.” In a May 2023 article for Africa Is A Country, writer Désọ́lá says, “What seems to be overlooked in popular discourse about soft life is that the version of soft life so heavily marketed and championed online requires a significant amount of work to initiate and sustain. According to media representations of it, a soft life is fundamentally a costly life, it requires deep pockets and undue labor.”

That said, at its heart and purest form, the general idea of a softer life is not a negative, materialistic, or ill-intentioned one. Delilah Antoinette, founder and administrator of Black Girl’s Healing House, defines living a soft life as “embracing an intentional lifestyle that prioritizes rest and ease while minimizing stress and struggle [...] Ultimately, the biggest benefit of a soft life is generational healing — a powerful legacy to leave for our daughters and beyond.”

So what does living a soft life actually look like in reality? Antoinette notes that it goes beyond material indulgences like bubble baths and face masks (although those things can be a part of it) and is more focused on intentionally aligning yourself with what brings you inner peace and practicing self-love. By investing in these principles, she says, we learn to affirm what we don’t want in our lives, command positive changes, and create the life we aspire to have.

While soft living focuses on minimizing stress, that doesn’t mean you don’t come across challenges because, well, life. “Rather, it provides balance, peace, and comfort while equipping us with the tools to overcome obstacles and promote personal growth,” Antoinette says.

To be clear, said balance and tools are different for everyone. For example, energy healer Tinesha Keith says her version of a soft life means embracing self-care and lots of rest. “It is about valuing one's mental, emotional, and physical health and seeking balance in all aspects of life,” she says.

Content creator Ena Bondurant agrees that the practice of living a soft life runs deeper than the surface. “Yes you can light a candle and put on a face mask, but that is just the bare minimum of a soft life,” she explains. “A soft life is healing, enjoying the journey, and romanticizing the positive and the negative. Healing is the first way I partake in the soft life.”

Set Powerful Intentions

Antoinette says that setting intentions is a powerful tool for steering the direction of your life, which is why this is a starting point and fundamental principle of living a soft life. To do this, she recommends writing a list of the goals you’d like to achieve with specific details. “For instance, if you're aiming for a job that aligns with your ideal lifestyle, set an intention for one that offers flexibility, minimal stress, a high salary, excellent benefits, and opportunities for growth,” she says, and you can do this intention-setting process for all areas of life.

Cultivate Self-Love

Self-love is another significant component of soft living. Antoinette describes it as “the foundation of everything we do.” Practicing self-love will look different for everyone, but one technique Antoinette recommends is repeating positive affirmations to yourself daily and tracking the changes you see in your life. “Remember, the effects of affirmations take time and effort; things that do not align with your words will naturally fall away, leading to personal growth and healing,” she says.

Prioritize Self-Care

Experiencing a softer life is also the byproduct of prioritizing self-care in your everyday life. For Keith, that looks like meditating, journaling, or engaging in creative pursuits. “These activities help me relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect with myself,” she says. Overall, she adds, putting self-care at the forefront of her life has helped her manage stress, reduce anxiety, maintain a positive mindset, and improve her mental and physical well-being.

“My favorite part of a soft life is spoiling myself,” says Bondurant. “Whether it is with a cute date night in, taking myself luxury shopping, or getting in a good workout, it all adds to [the practice].”

Set Firm Boundaries

Soft living is just as much about what you don’t do as it is about what you do. This is where setting firm boundaries comes into play. Learning to say no to things and events that perhaps don’t serve you is key here. “By asserting my limits and communicating my needs, I ensure that I have time and energy for myself, preventing burnout and maintaining a sense of peace,” Keith says, leading her to experience increased self-awareness, emotional resilience, and self-confidence.

Nurture Relationships

The people you surround yourself with can contribute to or deter you from living a soft life, which is why Antoinette emphasizes the importance of cultivating a community of like-minded people who uplift and encourage you. “This involves surrounding myself with positive influences, spending quality time with loved ones, and engaging in open and honest communication,” Keith says of how she practices this soft living principle. “By nurturing these relationships, I create a space for emotional support and connection, which contributes to my overall well-being.”