My Failed Attempt at Becoming 'That Girl' During the Pandemic
On the surface, the TikTok trend that promotes self-improvement seems harmless, but the lifestyle promotes burnout and materialism.
It was March of 2020. I just learned that I had to leave campus and complete my coursework remotely for the indefinite future.
Before this point in my life, I was on the go. Whether spending time with friends, attending events or class, I always had something on the agenda.
What was I supposed to do with all this newfound free time? At the time, I formed a “schedule” that consisted of sleep, Zoom meetings and binge-watching TV every day. But I needed to make the best of my time at home. I needed to make changes toward becoming my best self. I needed to be “that girl.”
Depending on your TikTok algorithm, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the “that girl” trend. “That girl” is a boss bitch—she wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning to go to the gym. She then returns to her pristine, aesthetically pleasing living space to make herself a green smoothie and an açaí bowl for breakfast. Her meals are healthy, and ordering takeout is a sin in her book.
“That girl” has a capsule wardrobe full of sustainably crafted pieces that are somehow still trendy and fit her toned body like a glove. She’s the best employee at her cushy tech job, she’s organized and even makes time for journaling and skincare at the end of each day. She’s in touch with her mental health and maintains healthy relationships. Through the lens of social media, “that girl’s” life is perfect. The lifestyle attracted me, so I committed to making the necessary changes toward self-improvement.
I Tried Being “That Girl”
I was at one of my lowest points in mid-2021. As mentioned earlier, I spent most of my time in bed ruminating on past mistakes. But then, I saw TikTok videos about “that girl.” They inspired me, and I became hellbent on making the lifestyle change. However, that change probably didn’t last more than a week.
Being “that girl” is about taking small steps toward a larger goal, beginning to form small habits that eventually lead to a big lifestyle shift. With that philosophy in mind, I started getting up at 8 a.m. each morning to make myself a reasonably healthy breakfast, most likely eggs and toast. I got back into yoga, started going to therapy and listened to motivational podcasts in my free time.
I stopped taking midday naps, read more books and made an effort to spend more time with my family. Having a nice living space is a huge aspect of the “that girl” aesthetic, so I even began redoing my room, spending way too much money on Wayfair. To many people, these changes may seem frivolous, but they were some significant changes for me. Before the pandemic, my time spent at home was strictly for rest and relaxation. I wasn’t used to stimulating my mind and body within the confines of my four walls.
While my experience helped me get more active, creative and become more of an intellectual, I’m sure there are more life improvements that I could’ve made, but I was in a transitional period in my life at the time. I just moved to rural Georgia a few months before the pandemic began, so I was dealing with a bit of culture shock. Compared to the Midwest, where I’m from, the change of pace and the increased emphasis on God, guns and patriotism was off-putting to me.
My mindset just wasn’t in the right place. Whenever I went out, I was hyperaware of my surroundings, preoccupied with what people thought about me. That anxiety, that behavior, wasn’t becoming of me, someone who was on a self-improvement journey. “That girl” has healthy relationships with herself and the people in her life. So clearly, I had a lot more work to do in the mental health department.
Out of the changes I made successfully, did any of them stick? Well, yes and no. I still go to therapy and listen to podcasts religiously. I’m a lot closer with my family than I was pre-pandemic (as I’m sure many people are now). I’m a lot more self-aware of what I eat and how it affects my body.
But now that I’m back attending school, I’m limited in how much time, energy and money I can invest into living a healthy lifestyle. That experience taught me that I am and will always be "that girl"; as long as I’m doing the best I can and striving for better, all is well. I believe the trend has peaked, but every time I see a “that girl”-style post on TikTok or Pinterest, I’m reminded of the gripes I have with the trend.
There Are a Lot of Problems With the “That Girl” Lifestyle
“That girl” overly promotes wellness and stresses the fact that women need to have their shit together. This is an impossible standard to meet. The trend is reminiscent of the hustle culture we’ve been seeing more and more of these days. We all know that it’s good to be productive, but overproductivity leads to burnout and mental health issues.
Hustle culture preaches that if you work hard enough, you’ll be successful. This school of thought distracts from class disparities or other socioeconomic factors that may prevent one from succeeding. “That girl” content is aspirational capitalism repackaged for Zoomers.
The “that girl” trend is rooted in privilege. Sure, influencers preach that anyone can be “that girl,” but the content they produce suggests otherwise. If I were to search for the term on TikTok, I’d see nothing but thin, white, conventionally attractive, young women. No matter how far I scroll, I wouldn’t see myself represented.
The trend also feels very upper-middle class. It’s all about women having the resources to work flexible hours, make healthy meals and have the ability to do a skincare routine with quality products. All of this stuff within itself is a privilege. It also comes across as materialistic.
“That girl” is yet another wellness trend that encourages women to buy stuff and work. I believe that this trend is on its way out because people get tired of seeing the same types of content on their feeds. Also, women who pursue this lifestyle realize how unsustainable it is not only for their wallets but for their mental health. I think that this trend will come back around in another 10 years or so, under another catchy name. Because we’ve seen this happen before with other trends.