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Our Obsession with Becoming ‘That Girl’

I wanted to be that girl.

The girl who always dressed nicely and seemed confident in her body. The girl who only ate home-cooked meals and worked out multiple times a week. The girl who excelled in school and had her personal and professional life planned out. The kind of girl you would meet once and never forget; the kind of girl who represented everything you wanted to be and more.

Originally promoted as a trend to empower girls, the ‘that girl’ aesthetic soon transformed into a demanding set of requirements centred around clean-eating and working out. Scrolling through numerous TikToks with the #thatgirl tag, it became clear that each video focused on at least one of the following: minimalist makeup, journaling, healthy snacks, yoga, organic food, workout clothes and open books. While some of the TikToks were posted by girls who had already achieved the ‘that girl’ aesthetic, others were posted by girls documenting their journey to becoming ‘that girl.’ None of the videos are particularly problematic on their own, but when combined, they promote the idea that perfection is both attainable and necessary.

Walking the blurred line between promoting healthy living or diet culture, becoming ‘that girl’ has itself become an issue. In theory, it’s a trend that encourages cooking your own meals and exercising a few times a week to benefit your physical and mental health. In practice, becoming ‘that girl’ requires posting about your improved lifestyle on social media. The performative aspect is what makes the trend particularly dangerous: instead of encouraging a healthier lifestyle for the sake of the individual, it encourages a healthier lifestyle for the sake of social media. For example, many of the #thatgirl TikToks involve a “What I Eat in a Day” section, which glamourizes disordered eating behaviours. These videos often portray meals that are aesthetically pleasing, reinforcing the high degree of perfectionism associated with becoming ‘that girl.’

Nearly all the videos under the #thatgirl tag were posted by influencers with a slim body shape and Eurocentric features. This not only promotes the thin body ideal, but also contributes to cultural whitewashing – both of which have two major implications. First, for those who don’t have Eurocentric features and who don’t perceive themselves as thin, achieving this lifestyle is impossible. Second, for those who have Eurocentric features and who perceive their bodies as thin, this lifestyle invalidates their mental health issues and insecurities because they are already two steps closer to becoming ‘that girl.’

Coming to terms with the reality of this trend, I no longer want to be that girl.

We can recognize the importance of prioritizing yourself and your own well-being, but a line must be drawn between doing something for yourself or for a trend. Appealing to diet culture and our desire for perfection, ‘that girl’ is a symbol of unrealistic social expectations. Activities such as reading, working out, journaling, and eating healthy must be integrated into one’s life sustainably. Becoming ‘that girl’ for yourself means prioritizing your health; it should not mean attempting to live someone else’s life. Instead of completing a series of actions in the hopes of reaching an end goal, it’s important to remember that self-development is continuous – there will never be a step-by-step checklist to immediately improve your well-being.

Shayla Bird

McMaster '24

Shayla is a second-year Integrated Business and Humanities student at McMaster University. In her free time, she enjoys playing the violin, making Spotify playlists, and drinking matcha lattes at her local coffee shop!
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