If you're a regular TikTok user, you're probably familiar with the "that girl" lifestyle—a perfectly curated montage of daily oat milk lattes, open books, minimalistic skincare, and matching workout gear. With an aesthetic marked by neutral tones and an emphasis on wellness, "that girl" on your For You Page effortlessly has her life together.
She’s meditating, eating healthy, and saying her affirmations—all while eschewing any negative energy that comes her way. She wakes up at 5 a.m., drinks one liter of lemon water every day, and journals regularly. She’s simply the best version of herself and wants to help you be better as well (but only if you live life just like her).
Despite appearing harmless at the surface level, this motivational content might be more dangerous than it seems. While it’s great to wake up early and drink green juice if doing so makes you feel good, the narrative that being “that girl” is the best way to be happy and healthy promotes toxic productivity.
Take the “that girl” morning routine for example. Under this model, you’re expected to make your bed, work out for an hour, journal, plan your day, meditate, and cook yourself an aesthetically pleasing (but low–calorie) breakfast—all before classes or work—in order to be considered successful.
Holding yourself to this rigid standard of productivity leads to defining your self–worth by how much you're able to get done. This content leads viewers, especially younger ones, to equate constantly being on–the–go with internal peace. But doing tasks like Pilates and journaling are inherently meaningless if they feel like they’re part of a checklist you have to complete before you’re the best version of yourself.
Furthermore, treating yourself and your lifestyle like a never–ending self–improvement project is toxic. We shouldn't be expected to work around–the–clock to "better" ourselves—striving for an unattainable standard is known to lead to burnout, self–hatred, and even eating disorders. Sometimes, we have to accept ourselves for who we are that day, even if we aren’t quite the picture–perfect "that girl."
As a matter of fact, "that girl’s" daily routine is hardly an authentic or realistic depiction of an influencer's everyday life—even if it claims to be. "That girl's" lifestyle is defined by its visual appeal. We see little about how she actually feels and how genuinely healthy she is in her minute–long TikToks. Instead, we can only focus on how she looks. And to make matters worse, those who embody the "that girl" aesthetic are overwhelmingly white, thin, and privileged, adhering to Western beauty standards.
Simply put, the “that girl” lifestyle provides a one–size–fits–all approach to health and wellness, demanding perfection wrapped up in aesthetic packaging. But the reality is that we can’t always be the girl who wakes up at 5 a.m. and does yoga every day. Instead, we need to treat ourselves gently when working on self–improvement—and to know that our journey isn’t always going to fit into an aesthetically pleasing TikTok.