“Based on the videos that are trending, I hear a need to exercise personal freedom and choice,” says therapist Sierra Hillsman, LPC, NCC. After years of being restricted by pandemic realities and living in hyper-vigilance due to concerns about their personal health, people (especially young people) are ready to “create memories without being told what to do. or how to do it,” she says. Cue: A wild vibe of simply acting on what feels right or right in the moment.
“We are seeing a real shift away from normalities, formalities and traditions in exchange for an embrace of individuality, independence and novelty.” —Alexandra Cromer, LPC, therapist
Posed as both an alternative to “hot girl summer” (because the wild person supposedly cares less and sows more chaos) and an extension of it (since both tendencies call for people to being the most authentic and fun themselves), the ethos of feral girl summer” can also extend beyond a rejection of life in the age of the pandemic. “I believe we are seeing a real shift away from normalities, formalities and traditions in exchange for an embrace of individuality, independence and newness,” says Alexandra Cromer, LPC, Ambulatory Therapist at Thriveworks .
Below, the therapists discuss why they suspect the wild girl summer has picked up so much steam so far, as well as the pros and cons of kissing a full-blown wildfire.
Why the Rise of “Wild Girl Summer” Makes Psychological Sense
Although the pandemic continues, it may be more urgent than ever for it to end (even if that’s actually far from the truth). “Those who indulge in the wild girl summer clearly say, ‘No more’ [to the restrictions]. Whatever happens, happens, and I’m going to live my life regardless of the outcome,” Hillsman says.
For Cromer, it also indicates that this “recovery of personal agency” would take root on TikTok and spread from there. “The platform is [a space for] independent thinking, different opinions and alternative lifestyles,” she says. “It allows for self-expression and then allows people to bond on the baseline of ‘Oh, I feel that too. “”
Part of the reason so many people have seemingly felt the wild energy, however, may be in response to opposing tendencies that too found their place on TikTok. “Wildgirl Summer could be seen as a rather direct nihilistic reaction against trends surrounding health, wellness, and the culture of hustle,” says therapist Beth Henderson, LMSW.
For example, think of TikTok’s “that girl” aesthetic, which is usually the person who wakes up early, drinks a green juice, hops on a matching workout set, and goes for a run before noon (aka the antithesis of the wild person). “Capitalism says if you tap into those chakras, buy that bag, post that TikTok, etc., you will achieve happiness – but this wild trend seems to reverse that, claiming that my capacity for joy is already within me,” says Henderson.
In a way, there is both hope in this energy and despair too, depending on how you view it. Either positively reject “traditional, uniform, or restrictive cultural patterns” in order to live and be happy in your own way, Cromer says. Or, perhaps, you’re jaded by the country’s persistent capitalist machine to the point where you’re burnt out and feel like there’s “no future with the current structure of society,” says Henderson, causing you to abandon all attempts at diligent planning and following the rules for a reckless (wild) life.
The potential pros and cons of going totally wild
Because being wild in a social phenomenon sense is often synonymous with being yourself, without restriction, there’s definitely a positive side to embracing this energy, Cromer says. Feral girl summer rejects societal pressure to act in certain ways or engage in particular practices and instead suggests it’s okay to be an “unedited, unfiltered version of yourself,” she says . “It fosters a narrative of self-acceptance and empowers people to recognize their worth as whole individuals.”
Namely, if your intention to embrace the wild energy is to experience the “liberation [by way of] greater self-awareness or to develop a deeper connection with yourself, then it’s a journey worth exploring,” says Hillsman. But, if you’re jumping on the wild train for less vibrant reasons, “like resentment, revenge, regret, or fear of missing out, then it’s probably best to reconsider,” she says.
That’s largely because acting on those instincts without caring about your future self or others could have dire consequences, which you’ll eventually have to deal with, Hillsman says. With that in mind, it’s important to consider the state of your sanity before you go totally wild. Hillsman suggests asking yourself, “Are you fully present with your thoughts and emotions throughout these experiences, or are you using…reckless behavior as a form of escape? Are you embracing this trend by being aware of your emotional state, or are there just things in your life that you find uncomfortable to deal with right now? If you suspect your responses fall into the latter camps, then perhaps the wild vibes are misguided, in your case.
To be clear, however, none of the experts are against having fun and feeling free; they’d just rather you find that carefree release in a way that doesn’t lock you into a totally wild future.