‘Being delulu,’ or delusional is the new Gen Z trend for hacking career success


What’s the best characteristic for launching your career during uncertain economic times? Delusion, according to a new Gen Z work trend. Young workers on platforms such as LinkedIn and TikTok are describing how they’re deluding their way—or “being delulu,” as they’ve coined it—into dream jobs simply by believing they can.

The hashtag #delulu has garnered over 1.6 billion views on TikTok and started as a dating trend before becoming a career psychology hack. In dating, it’s a mindset of steadfastly believing that someone could be interested in you even though signs point otherwise. Applied to careers, Gen Zers are tricking themselves into believing they deserve their dream jobs, essentially faking confidence so well that they sometimes actually land their desired roles.

One TikToker claimed that being delulu took her from being homeless to “owning a 7-figure business.” Another said she basically promoted herself by simply pretending she was higher up in her company.

“Another time that being a bit delulu paid off was when I went to a job interview (conducted in my third language) and got the job but likely missed some info at the interview,” the TikToker wrote. “I thought I was ‘just’ gonna be a sales person and then when I showed up for my first day someone asked me if I was the new boss, and I said yes. A month later I was both hiring and training new employees.”

The trend is in some ways an offshoot of the manifestation craze that overtook social media over the last few years. Manifestation is the practice of turning thought into reality, either by thinking aspirational thoughts or by writing them down. On TikTok, where the practice gained popularity, users post videos manifesting everything from immense wealth to specific romantic partners. 

Delulu seems to be taking this a step further by acting out these manifestations in real life. Gen Zers have embraced the delulu mindset as more than a funny TikTok fad, as a valuable psychological tool for professional life. Many people have posted it on LinkedIn as a way to advance their careers.

“As a law professional, you might be wondering, “What advantages could be embracing a ‘delulu’ mindset offer in the legal field?” Selcan Tufan, a paralegal, wrote on LinkedIn. “In the legal world, we encounter complex cases, high stakes, and formidable opponents. Embracing a bit of delusion can empower us to approach these challenges with unwavering self-belief.”

A copywriter posted similar thoughts, writing on LinkedIn that you must “stay delulu or you’ll never get anywhere.”

While being delulu has been framed as a new cheat code to professional success, stripped of its new terminology, it’s just the classic concept of being a confident go-getter. Delulu culture encourages its participants—mainly women—to oversell themselves, shoot for seemingly unrealistic goals, and demand what they want. Essentially, being delulu is acting like an ambitious white man, some say. The difference in men's and women’s confidence levels in professional settings is often cited as a reason for pay gaps and the lack of women in C-suites.

“Women and men have near-identical human capital at college exit, but cultural beliefs about men as more fit for STEM professions than women may lead to self-beliefs that affect pay,” a 2020 Stanford University report found. “We hypothesized that women and men would be paid differently upon college exit and that gender gaps in self-beliefs about one’s abilities, or self-efficacy, would correspond to this difference.”

The study found that cultural beliefs often influenced by gender, specifically, workers’ perception of their own skill level, manifest in real pay and rank gaps. Women’s lower average self-confidence, especially in the professional world, stems from centuries of sexism in work culture, including glass ceilings and workplace harassment. Conversely, men have always felt entitled to chase their ambitions and overhype their qualifications.

The creation of the delulu trend signals that women are still not fully comfortable with owning their ambition and being career-oriented in a traditionally masculine way. After all, the trend is named after delusion, showing that its adherents on some level believe their actions are deceptive or their aspirations imaginary. 

Tufan, the LinkedIn paralegal who wrote about the advantages of being delulu in law, listed four reasons to practice the mindset: confidence in facing challenges, overcoming imposter syndrome, seizing opportunities, and building resilience. She essentially deludes herself into radical self-belief to stay competitive and assured in a cutthroat field. 

While being de lulu is clearly a popular mental tool for a new generation of working women, its name perhaps robs it of its dignity. The word “delulu” implies silliness, but there’s nothing delusional about achieving goals through assertive self-advocacy.

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