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What Is The ‘That Girl’ Trend And How Is It Toxic?

The Internet’s newest ‘glow up’ obsession

various 'That Girl' TikToks
Credit: amydubeau / TikTok, kaylieesetwart / TikTok

She’s the girl who has her life together. She gets up early, works out, fills out gratitude journals, and eats avocado toast every morning. She’s ‘That Girl’. Over the last few months, hundreds of videos depicting the aesthetically pleasing and perfect routines of ‘That Girl’ have spread across TikTok. However, there are concerns that these videos are much more harmful than they first appear. The promotion of this lifestyle has been accused of glorifying undereating and creating an obsession with self-improvement.

On the surface, the ‘That Girl’ trend seeks to be inspiring. The content revolves around self-fulfillment and achieving your goals. ‘That Girl’ does all the things which make for a happy, healthy, and positive lifestyle, such as eating clean, daily exercise, and meditation.

Credit: amydubeau / TikTok, kaylieestewart / TikTok

TikTok users share videos of their ‘That Girl’ routines or give advice on how to achieve the lifestyle. Some of the advice offered is useful – drink water, sleep more and spend less time on your phone. It’s not earth-shattering advice; it’s the same guidelines given by every wellness guru or doctor. But beyond this basic guidance, ‘That Girl’ TikTokers also suggest ways to promote self-growth. Tips range from cutting out toxic people to making self-care a priority.  

https://www.tiktok.com/@angelxadvice/video/6911758111711776002?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id6960610582824748549
Credit: angelxadvice / TikTok

Whilst helpful and constructive, these recommendations are pushing for an overall transformation of the individual. The subliminal message of these videos is that the person you currently are isn’t good enough and you must change in order to be successful or happy

What’s Damaging About These Videos?

Within this trend is harmful elements that are easily overlooked because of how beautifully everything is presented.  Many of the videos arguably promote under-eating as an ideal, proudly showing that being ‘That Girl’ involves eating a minimal, ‘clean’ diet. The meals shown are tiny, extremely low-calorie, and carb-lacking. Instead of focusing on making nutritionally balanced and satisfying food, the emphasis lies on the food appearing artistic. Most of the meals promoted by ‘That Girl’ TikTokers–spiralized courgette, acai bowls, quinoa – are not particularly filling but are made to look beautiful online. Girls who attempt to follow the trend may end up developing disordered eating habits and an unhealthy obsession with eating only ‘pure’ or ‘clean’ food.

Similarly, the routines shown in the videos endorse constantly being ‘productive’. This rigid standard of productivity leads to people defining their self–worth by how much they can get done. This content leads viewers to equate constantly being busy with being successful.  Furthermore, having a lifestyle that is a never-ending self–improvement project is toxic. Working exhaustively to ‘better’ yourself is an unattainable standard, which leads to burnout and poor mental health.

Credit: theflowergod / TikTok

Of course, most of the girls creating the videos are not attempting to perpetuate the toxic ideas of what the ‘ideal’ woman is. However, the obsession with this trend shows how entrenched society is with the desire to be ‘perfect’ and live up to an unattainable image of success and health. ‘That Girl’ sets a standard that is impossible for most people to achieve without burnout. So, rather than try to be ‘That Girl’, it’s better to strive to have a balanced, healthier lifestyle, where sometimes you are up early and practicing yoga, but other times enjoy sleeping in and some Netflix.

Written By

English student at Queen's University Belfast

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