"That girl" Trend: Toxic or Motivational
Updated: Jun 13
“Me on another rant about how being “that girl” really isn’t about spending money, waking up at 5 am, or a specific aesthetic, it’s about developing the best version of yourself”
The 20th “#ThatGirl” TikTok that came up on my for you page
I’ve been dying to do another devil’s advocate blog post since my last one in 2020. Since we are going to into 2022 (or I guess by the time you see this it will be the second week), I’ve been seeing a lot of posts of girls saying “2021 was cute but in 2022” then cuts to more of the common aesthetics of “that girl”. Honestly, the trend fascinated me from the beginning because it reminded me of a combination of the girl boss era, “glow-up challenges” and “hot girl summer” with a wellness approach. On top of that, marketing has been a part of both majors in college thus far, which means that trends are very important for me to keep an eye on.
I know many people on the wellness side do see it more as a lifestyle change, but it’s easier to refer to it as a trend since many people see it as a phase that will be gone (so please bear with me). This trend has been around since April 2021 and so far it looks like it’s carrying on into the New Year. For that reason, and considering that this blog is for personal development, I felt like this would be perfect to talk about.
It attempts to help people live a healthier lifestyle.
Healthy looks different for everyone but the “that girl” trend does have basic advice that doctors recommend regardless. It has things like going for a walk, eating more fruits and veggies, and drinking water. It also encourages things like reading, cutting out toxic people, etc. A lot of the advice is sound but overlooked due to how the content is being presented. I’ll speak about this more in the negative section.
It approaches it as a lifestyle change instead of something that happens overnight.
One thing that I always couldn’t stand about trends when I was growing up, is that things were always in an unrealistic time frame. Content would be like ‘How to glow up overnight”, “Glow up with me for the day”, “Lose weight in a week”, “How to get a thigh gap” etc. Growing up seeing stuff like that was hard because there wasn’t enough emphasis on the things I wanted to change being a process. While there is a lot to critique with those trends, one thing that separates the “that girl” trend from the ones in the past is there is an emphasis that this is a journey. It won’t happen tomorrow but based on how consistent you are, change can happen in a year or even months in some area of your life. It’s about all-around changes as opposed to one insecurity and looks at deeper issues.
It’s inspiring people to look at their daily habits.
Before 2021 ended, I read a book called “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. I know it is one of the more well-known self-help books, but it had good insight. There was this one part that spoke to me and I made sure to replicate the diagram in my journal so I can always refer back to it if I need to. It was about the three levels of behavior change and the different base habits. The three levels of behavior change are identity, processes, and outcome. The level of identity refers to a person changing beliefs. This includes assumptions people make and biases they had. The level of processes is changing your habits/ the system you follow. Lastly, the level of outcome is changing your results, which mostly has to do with the goals you set. From there he showed the 2 diagrams in which he shows how the order of the levels impacts the goal. The first one is outcome-based habits where the order is 1) outcome 2)processes 3) identity. Identity-based habit is the reverse where the order goes 1) identity 2) processes 3) outcome.
This description is really important because when you think about the trend it is more identity-focused than outcome-focused. This part is arguable based on who posted the content but from the ones I’ve seen many talks about who they want to be as the starting point and have a “systems first mentality”.
You are probably wondering “Isn’t having goals supposed to be good?”, the answer is yes but it won’t allow you to feel overall joy since goals can cause you to put off happiness until you accomplish the next milestone of the goal and creates this restricted version of what happiness can look like. When I first read his reasonings I was mind blown because as an a-type person, goals were what drove me. After I read that though it was like a light bulb went off. I accomplished a lot of the things I said I would in my life so far, but there is this sense of emptiness in me after I got it. For the longest time, I thought something was wrong with me and there was this guilt because every time I just didn’t feel satisfied. I always felt like I need to do something bigger to top what I already did which is a vicious cycle to have. “That girl” is a persona, which makes it more fulfilling as opposed to an outcome-focused process.
It can make people feel inadequate (Constant comparison).
I am going to start this section with the counterargument “No one is responsible for your feelings”. Yes, that statement is true. However we experience more advancement in technology and media, and we got more research on how what we see influences us. The trend’s biggest flaw is that because of the imagery used and the people shown, it feels like something to live up to. A person who struggles to do the things common in the trend may have this dialogue: I failed to do these things… why when I attempt to do things my results are not the same? I feel like I can’t compare to these girls and if they are doing all these things with ease then I am weak for not being able to keep up. If I can’t be that girl, who can I be and what should I be?
The dialogue to some may seem dramatic but as a freshly turned 20-year-old, I still remember how I thought in my teens. I’m not saying every teen will think like this but some want to feel like they’re enough and if being that girl makes someone gain a form of approval, they will go to extremes trying to get it.
There are elements of perfectionism, control, and escapism.
The content of the trend embodies perfectionism. Green smoothies, coffee, yoga, weight lifting, running, reading books every day, journaling every day, etc. These things are all done at home too and it makes you wonder if it is possible for people who work a 9-5, people who have a long commute, people who have to work a part-time job while going to school, etc. all while creating content. The truth is that people have the luxury of flexibility to accomplish all those things without all the other things like working, going to school, having a job that requires you to be at the physical location, having a job that’s a long commute, etc. That is a huge benefit. If they have someone to help them make some parts of their life easier it is great but it’s something that should be disclosed. On the outside, it seems like the person is superwoman but truthfully if they let people know they have help and asking for help is okay. That would make it feel more realistic as opposed to perfect.
In addition to that, the content they post along with the advice makes it seem like a way to escape reality. It’s important to love your life and find joy in the little things but you also have to accept the messy parts too. Some days you don’t have the energy to fulfill all your habits, some days you don’t have the time, and sometimes you have to prioritize doing as much as you could as opposed to everything. There is no way to escape the chaoticness of life because it is unpredictable and it’s impossible to expect things to go on your accord all the time. You gotta let go and let things be. Take things day by day because circumstances can change in a snap.
It lacks diversity.
I am going to talk about this more in my take, but some of the things this trend lacks are body diversity (I have not seen as many plus-sized women participate in this but I noticed a lot of times when a person who doesn’t meet the beauty standard tries to talk about health they are ridiculed), ability diversity (people may have either mental or physical disabilities that makes the trend hard to participate in), people who don’t have “glamorous” things, etc.
I don’t believe the trend is inherently bad. I find it motivating in theory, but I also feel like it can be improved in the way it is executed. Whenever I see that girl or even type it on my Pinterest, it’s the same thing. A smaller framed, White woman or Asian woman with a green smoothie, and coffee, in a luxury apartment, doing a home workout (the majority of the time it is yoga) after waking up at 5 am. I am not saying there is anything wrong with those, but I also feel like the algorithm pushes those videos. Even though that’s the majority, I have seen other races and ethnicities doing that girl vlogs too but the algorithm isn’t giving it the same reach. To this day I still can’t figure out the TikTok algorithm but I feel like that’s the main reason that people may view the trend as toxic.
In comparison to the glow-up trends that happened when I was a teen in 2016-2018, it’s more healthy because people have made it clear that the type of changes won’t happen tomorrow. I remember videos like “How to glow up in a Day” or “Things to Do in a Week” to glow up. Those videos were very physically focused and had this added pressure that if you didn’t look a certain way by this time, you were a failure to the challenge. A lot of times those “glow-ups” were just puberty ruining its course with the mixture of more interest in what was the style and what works on them.
I can appreciate that there is more mental health awareness and the foundation of the “that girl” trend: Nutrition, moving your body, education yourself (when they mention reading), cleaning/ organizing (which can fall into the category of environmental), journaling (which promotes emotional wellness), etc. I think what people tend to forget is that they can be that person their way. Maybe you have a job that’s late hours only, maybe that’s what people need to see is another example of how people make wellness work with their schedule. Maybe you are a person with a disability and maybe showing what you do for wellness will help someone with a similar disability or even a parent that has a child with it. If people find that the trend is toxic, the best way to overcome that is by participating in a way that is realistic to you.
I am a creative person with so many interests but have a busy schedule and on top of that, I commute as a college. So being that girl for me would look like improving my time management, so I still get my responsibilities done and still have time for my hobbies because that is what provides me with emotional wellness. Maybe being that girl for me means I work out as much as I could doing things that are fun to me like dancing, creating eating habits that work with my schedules, and easy meals to take on the go so I don’t overspend being on the go, dedicating my mornings to something I love, creating on my commutes, finishing work in between classes so I have more free time at home, making a monthly reading list so incorporate learning about my interests in a way it can balance with school work, etc.
In conclusion, take the foundation of the trend and make it your own instead of feeling pressured to fit an aesthetic. Remember, this is just my take on the trend and how I would improve it.
In the comments I would love to know: Do you love or hate the “that girl” era? Do you think my suggestions would improve the trend? Would you want me to start posting that type of content on TikTok or would you prefer it as youtube content?
Thank you for reading and if you have anything you want to see more of, be sure to comment suggestions or email me. Remember to subscribe to my Youtube channel, and follow my Instagram and Twitter to connect and stay up to date. I am excited about my next blog post so make sure you come back. Until then, there’s a lot more content on my youtube channel. I hope you have a good day, evening, or night.
Until next time,
xoxo Lay 💋