Scrolling through TikTok one afternoon, when I should have probably been doing something else, the all knowing algorithm directed me to a specific niche that I hadn’t hinted at in my online shopping cart, or asked Siri for. The people were beautiful, their clothes chic. The words I began to see over and over again were: “Hashtag villain era”
As I continued to scroll on, in my PJ's and salty plantain chip covered hands, I too wished to enter this “villain era”. Should I create an alter ego?  Maybe my wardrobe needed a revamp? Most definitely, but should my new cause be turning into a villain? What even was the villain?
 As I purged my closet, and donated the things that didn’t seem as evil enough to Goodwill, I realized that number one, I couldn’t do a black winged eyeliner to save my life. Number two, there was something about every villain era video I watched, that really spoke to me. An air of confidence in each creator, I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but also wanted to embody.  
During a time when I was feeling insecure and quite unsure of my place in the world, I couldn’t help but doomscroll  into comparison mode. Ultimately I decided to put the phone down, and dive into my own emotional work. I couldn’t transform my lack of confidence through relying on the external world to validate my existence. Thus began my real and very  uncomfortable journey to find my inner villain. To find the self conviction I’d lost, and build myself from the ground up once more. 
Through journaling and self reflection, I saw glimpses of my childhood. Growing up as a once shy only child, I had few friends, and became empathetic to the wants and needs of others. This empathy, though well warranted, was constantly displaced. I often said yes when I wanted to say no, I laughed at my own expense, I worked when I should have rested. Although I’ve always had a strong sense of self, large parts of my reality became an enmeshment of others' projections and expectations.  
This pattern of behavior not only transcended into my adulthood, but caused a full blown rebellion. I became angry, impulsive, and shut down at the slightest trigger. As much as I wanted to come into my full self,  I continued  to never recognize the person I saw in the mirror.  So, in an effort to heal, I embarked on the long journey of befriending my rage, and channeling it into other areas of my life that wouldn’t lead to self-destruction, but aid in self-expression. 
The first step was to set firmer boundaries. This was an arduous task for me, and emotionally taxing. These new boundaries came at the expense of friendships, lifestyles, and comfort zones. It was unsettling, and I constantly felt like I was doing something wrong. Still, I knew that at my core I wasn’t an unkind person, and had to learn the difference between being vile and being self-assertive.  I understood that if I continued on this path of self negligence, that I wouldn’t even have a self to come back to.  Everytime I began to enforce a boundary, the inner child in me who was yelled at in class, or picked on and felt that she needed to stay passive, heals. 
The second step was to start feeling so comfortable in my own skin, that anyone who came along and tried to challenge these boundaries, wouldn’t trigger me into a spiral of self deprecation. This step was a little easier, when I became cognizant of the unfortunate realities of womanhood. I wasn’t alone. Oftentimes in our society, when a woman chooses to stand up for herself, she is labeled villainous or excessive.  No stranger to the impact of labels myself, I unfortunately realized that there was no escape from this reality while existing in this patriarchal paradigm. I figured, that if  I get called a “nasty woman”  in the process of either challenging the status quo, or upholding my boundaries, so be it. 
With this new self awareness, I slowly began to enter into my own version of a villain era. A little less glamorous than I thought it’d be, but nonetheless I was becoming a version of myself I began to love. I was okay with being the villain in another person's narrative, as long as I was the hero in my own. 
To become the so-called villain is due largely in part to becoming comfortable with life transitioning into a new season. To become the unapologetic, confident version of yourself isn’t an overnight occurrence, I am still a work in progress. This new era does however, require you to take the courage to see yourself clearly, and the strength to start. The villain you wish you were, is waiting, buried underneath a period of healing and introspection. It is most definitely more multidimensional than your algorithm can even predict.  
So, if you’re ready, welcome to the dark side.


McKenna Kelley