How “That Girl” Flattens Wellness Into an Unattainable Aesthetic
#ThatGirl is a viral internet trend that seeks to manifest wellness. The clips highlight a metaphorical girl who wakes up early, makes their own plant-based food, works out as spiritual self-care, and "feels" their existence. It is found mainly on TikTok and Youtube. It first appeared on the platform around April 2021; however, it has grown popular. Many content creators share their journey into becoming "that girl" or teach their followers to become her.
The trend borrows many stereotypical wellness tropes, such as self-optimization and hustle culture. It combines it with food purity culture and orthorexia — an obsession with healthily eating. To create a girl-bossing, minimalist queen, who some have highlighted, is the embodiment of a walking Pinterest board.
The allure of the trend is unmistakable. It presents people with a vision of how adult life "should" be. One where you can wake up at dawn, schedule your workout, cook your own food, work, and still make time for mindfulness. #ThatGirl is someone with no issues because her environment symbolizes her internal space. She is optimized, inside and out. As a result, some have commented on how the trend has inspired them to be productive and take better care of themselves.
However, while all of these attributes aren't bad things to want for yourself, the trend also presents an aesthetic of wellness that isn't easy to maintain. Rather than acknowledging how hard it is to be healthy in a society that constantly pressures you to do more, the trend tells people that an optimized and happy life is possible with enough effort. It invokes in women a pang of guilt and shame over not making the best of life. When in reality, the life it presents is a glamorous mirage.
In addition, most of the women represented in this glamorized lifestyle re-brand are thin and white. This centering of whiteness on other women of color suggests that our womanhood could never be "that girl."
In truth, #ThatGirl flattens wellness into an unattainable aesthetic that has an inbuilt hierarchy within it. Rather than wellness being an extension of self-care and self-love, it's shown as a rigid ritual that only a few can ever attain.
In truth, being #ThatGirl sounds hard and unpleasant. Between 6 am workouts, under-eating, and the focus on productivity, I wonder when she ever gets the chance to live her life?
Don't get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with wanting to live a better life. However, there is something wrong with promoting a fixed ideal that doesn't consider someone's cultural context. For this reason, I believe #ThatGirl should be taken with a pinch of salt. Rather than killing yourself for a curated lifestyle, perhaps seek to emulate the distinct aspects you find admirable and make small changes in your life.
It's impossible to present nuanced perspectives in short video content; therefore, people must remember that these videos show a curated aesthetic not true to real life. Wellness should always be person-specific, so don't hurt yourself trying to be #ThatGirl. Life is a lot more complicated than that.