'That Girl'—Is She Sustainable?

August 10, 2022

That Girl. She’s always put together. She’s always collected. She is aspirational and inspirational. That Girl is who we all want to be. That girl gets up before everyone else and has a dedicated 5 to 9 before her 9 to 5. Her morning routine is full of rituals that she checks off every morning in a notebook or even an app. If that doesn’t make her dedication incredible enough, she has a different set of tasks for her 5 to 9 after work. How does she do it?

A birds eye look at a desk. A hand is holding a tea cup next to a kettle and a bowl of cereal, another hand is reaching for an open book

The ‘That Girl’ trend first started as a TikTok trend where women would share their morning routines and aesthetically-pleasing daily moments. At first, the trend was just a way to do mini vlogs supporting healthy habits and self-development. However, trends started to emerge; the girls all looked a certain way, had the same routine, ate the same foods, and wore the same clothes. This trend was then joined by the 5 to 9 routine that celebrated productivity outside of ‘productive’ work hours and the 75 hard challenge that pushed the idea of being constantly successful.

Self-development, habits, feeding ourselves nutritious foods, moving our bodies, none of these things are inherently wrong. But seeing the aesthetic video montages and the meticulous morning and evening schedules, I wonder if the ‘That Girl’ lifestyle is sustainable. The entire trend focuses around achieving this extreme level of productivity that utilizes every minute (as I was watching the vlogs from ‘That Girl’ accounts, they were breaking down their mornings in 15-minute intervals!) all in an attempt to become the best version of themselves. However, this regime leaves very little time for life in the ‘lifestyle.’ It can create intense feelings of guilt and anxiety when something throws off the routine. With busy lives filled with responsibilities, family, school, and potentially multiple jobs, it doesn’t take a whole lot to do this.

That Girl’s morning routine starts promptly at 5 AM; after she gets up and makes her bed, she drinks warm lemon water before her caffeine, works out, showers, does her skincare and makeup, gets dressed, reads a self-development book, makes breakfast–something like a green smoothie or avocado toast–and then she journals or meditates. Mind you, she did this all without checking her phone once because she can’t do that until after the morning routine is complete. After she gets back from work, that girl will make a home-cooked, whole foods meal, workout again, usually a ‘hot girl walk’ or yoga, clean her space, read more of her book, write out a to-do list for the next day, do her nighttime skin care, and be in bed by 9 PM so she can get a full 8 hours before the next day.

Phew! It took me an entire paragraph just to get through the habits that girl does just before and after work, and this doesn’t include all of the incredible things she gets through at work or any doctor appointments, hair wash days, weekly or monthly chores, or any of the other things that life throws at all of us. All of these were just things to take care of just for that girl, not including anything she has to do for any children or pets or if she wants to help and support her partner with something. Even just the expectations can be a lot to handle, especially if someone is struggling with mental health issues or has something come up. Seeing people constantly share their perfect routines and lifestyles can get overwhelming, and it can hold a person to an utterly unachievable standard.

I also want to mention what the lifestyle represents. Healthy foods and exercise can very quickly delve into dangerous territories and contribute to orthorexia, which is an eating disorder that finds the sufferer extremely focused on clean eating and overexercise. Just as with any social media trend, there’s an illusion of perfection, and not enough people show their rest days or low-energy days. This can make anyone trying to emulate the lifestyle extremely stressed when something doesn’t go according to plan or they don’t see results. On top of all of this, the lifestyle is also very focused on brands. Women are seen wearing Lululemon or Nike with flashing logos. They have baths with luxury bath bombs. They exclusively shop at expensive grocery stores. They have a gym or studio membership. These are things that are not all accessible to most of us. The That Girl lifestyle is targeted at well-off, thin, white women, and it shows in the videos on social media.

So what can be done? To be truthful, not much. These women are living their lives and sharing their experiences on social media. Unlike some trends, they’re not deliberately trying to be harmful. In most of the videos I saw, the girl specifically would say that this is what worked for her, or it was titled as “my” that girl routine. I wrote this for women who, like me, were initially inspired but quickly discouraged or even frustrated by the trend not being accessible to them. Although this trend can push toxic productivity, meaningless consumption, and potentially harmful eating habits, it was originally designed to better the individual. By taking this simple idea, we can reclaim the trend and apply it in a sustainable way.

Think of how you’d like to grow and take it one step at a time. Building habits is a marathon, not a sprint, however cliche that might be. If you want these new habits to stick, adding them one by one will prevent you from burning out. If you’d like to read more, go to your library and read 10 pages a day before bed. If you’d like to exercise more, pick two or three days to move your body in any way you’d like for 30 minutes; if you like it, you can add more or try new workouts! If you want to start eating healthier, start by swapping out one or two of your weekly meals, so you don’t get overwhelmed with complicated recipes. Remember, you don’t have to do any of this in the trendiest athleisure set or in a sparkling and renovated kitchen with an espresso machine that costs as much as a cellphone.

Improving ourselves is a step-by-step process, and it’s not about attaining a version of ourselves that others think we should have. If your goal isn’t to read more, but you’d rather spend that time painting or learning a new instrument, you don’t need to read just because someone on the internet said that is who you should want to be. Something that’s been hard for me to accept as I’ve gotten older is that I will never achieve that ‘final stage.’ I’ve always rushed myself to grow so I can be that perfect version of myself so that I can start living my ‘perfect’ life. But I will never be that person, I will constantly be growing and learning, and now that I’ve accepted that, I’m happy with it. There are so many things to learn and try. Some things will stay with me in my version of a ‘morning routine’ while others will fade away with the seasons. I personally cannot wait to see what ‘this’ girl does through each one to be happy.

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Photo: THE 5TH on Unsplash

Iga is a freelance writer based in Colorado, but originally from Poland. She follows the vegan, sustainability and zero-waste movements while trying to live a practical lifestyle! When she’s not writing she likes to practice yoga, read, play with her dogs and just be outside in nature. You can find more of her work at her website www.igashmiga.com.


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