Editor-in-Chief Hailie Pentleton discusses the reality of the #ThatGirl trend.
If you’re a chronic over-worker like me, you might have found yourself scrolling through #ThatGirl TikTok, desperately searching for the secret ingredients for self-love and success. Do smoothie bowls and organic shakes lead to academic success? Will early morning rises and earth-toned workout sets unlock eudaimonia? Well, yes, and no.
Being “that girl” is all about having your shit together. She is the clean-eating, always-reading, ultimate girlboss that, admittedly, many of us aspire to; a perfect, Pinterest princess. On TikTok, she is (usually) a conventionally attractive white woman, who starts her day at 5am, completes her to-do-list before the morning is over, carefully creates low-calorie colour-themed meals, all without a single hair out of place. Each snippet of her sunny morning is serene, aesthetic, and soothing. Content like this is intended to be motivational, and it can be. Sometimes all you need to get out of a slump is that kick-up-the-arse that seeing someone else living their best life gives you. However, the issue I have with #ThatGirl is that, for most people, it is an unsustainable way of being. Living a healthy lifestyle is an attainable goal, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s never half as pretty as TikTok influencers portray it to be. The thing about having your shit together is that you don’t have to package it into neat little dymo-labelled boxes. Sometimes it’ll be all over the floor, up the walls, spread across five different notebooks…I realise this metaphor could have been a little more tasteful, but take my point.
"Being 'that girl' is all about having your shit together."
Aesthetics do, of course, motivate us. There is a direct connection between appreciating beauty and experiencing happiness, as is evidenced by Professor Abraham Goldberg of the University of California, who found that people are happiest when they are surrounded by beautiful things. Feeling beautiful and appreciating beautiful things often allows us to feel calm, reflective, and safe. When we feel happy, we feel hopeful, and are more likely to pursue things that continue to make us feel happy. But beauty alone does not deliver long-term happiness; focusing solely on how things look to other people deprives us of so many of life’s other pleasures. And spending half an hour making yourself feel guilty because your Friday morning is less Ruby Granger and more Fleabag does nothing but waste time (time you could have spent doing that yoga routine you’ve had bookmarked for three days).
This trend also mistakenly treats productivity as synonymous with hustle culture; asserting the false notion that to be successful you have to be busy all the time. But as one #ThatGirl influencer @glowupjenner states in her bio, taking care of yourself is productive. If being that girl is about being the very best version of yourself, then you don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds on workout clothes, you don’t have to limit yourself to eating fewer calories than your body needs for the aesthetic, you don’t even have to get up before six: you just need to listen to your needs.
"...taking care of yourself is productive..."
Of course, listening to your needs can be hard, especially after such a tumultuous year-and-a-half of never knowing what the next day holds. Trends like #ThatGirl are started with good intentions, offering an ideal to aspire to as we try to drag ourselves out of a year-long slump. Knowing that there is an entire community of women with the same ideals as you can be encouraging, but as is the case with most wellness-based internet trends, we have to differentiate between the reasonable and the unattainable.
Clean-living, carpe diem content can help to spur on some motivation, but you don’t need it to become your best self. Hold yourself accountable, yes, but don’t hold yourself to the standards of an ideal that eclipses your own reality. Make your bed, but let yourself make mistakes too, and remember that there isn’t a single person who truly knows what they’re doing.
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