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I Tried the “That Girl” Lifestyle For A Week. Here’s What I Learned.

We’ve all heard the narrative of “that girl.” She’s fun, bubbly, and undoubtedly self–assured. She’s sexy, fit, and not afraid to show it. Her life is structured to the last second. It’s near–impossible; it’s…perfect. 

Having seen an onslaught of “that girl” TikToks on my feed, a nagging part of me wondered how authentic these influencers were. To me, all of “that girl” seemed to be one advertised act, coupled with big smiles and a gourmet berry smoothie. 

I doubted the idea, even judging myself when I was about to temporarily pursue the lifestyle I made fun of — but I did it anyway. In hindsight, now that I can acknowledge that creeping curiosity within me, the question of whether the luxurious and diligent style of “that girl” was truly possible. But another part of me was jealous — jealous of this unnamed, faceless “that girl,” who it seemed like I could never quite live up to. But if I pretended, even if just for a little bit, maybe I would uncover some semblance of truth. 

Compiled are the basic “that girl” characteristics I tried to follow, and what I learned (or didn’t!): 

Waking up before 7AM to exercise 

On the first day of my “that girl” lifestyle, I carried an extra dose of motivation with me, which made waking up at the wee hour of 6:30 relatively easy. I took out my light purple yoga mat and cautiously placed it on the middle of the dusty floor (which I quickly realized was in need of a hearty vacuum). Putting on a ten–minute ab workout video from YouTube, I carefully monitored my breathing, tried to take in the bubbly Spanish pop music I had put on, and focused on the leathery feel of the mat beneath my back. By the time the ten minutes were over, my breaths came at an ever–quickening pace, but the slight glimmer of satisfaction at having finished the workout remained with me like an invisible badge throughout the rest of the day. 

The second day was a completely different story. I had gone to sleep at two AM the night before, reading a dense novel for my Russian Literature class. Waking up at seven AM to workout not only felt ridiculous, but downright sadistic, and as a steady stream of sleep–deprived fury invaded my veins, I stopped the workout after seven minutes and gleefully went back to sleep. 

That Monday was the first and last day when I woke up before seven AM to work out. While I respect anyone who has that sort of heightened motivation, I’m the polar opposite of a morning person — I would barely even consider myself a functional human before drinking coffee…Instead, I now do ab workouts and leg strengthening exercises in the afternoons — reaping the same rewards of investing in my body, but on my own time. 

Eating clean 

Confession: I’ve been told by multiple people that I don’t have a sweet tooth, but many sweet teeth. And granted, if desserts were not generally unhealthy, I would relish eating chocolate or cake with every meal. So eating the “that girl” diet — a bucket–load of vegetables, fruits, and other vegan options — was something I lightly dreaded, as if I were removing a small parcel of joy from each day. 

Sure enough, during lunch on my fifth day, I ate a brownie, but it wasn’t because of a lack of self-control. I’ve realized that a healthy diet is somewhat subjective, and for me, this means investing in my physical health by eating a salad a day or something of the nutritional equivalent. However, it also means I invest in my mental health by giving myself some culinary dopamine: chocolate. Rather than pursuing a strictly healthy diet, I pursue a balanced diet and so, I never feel dissatisfied. 

Being productive 

Everyday, I wake up and tell myself that I’ll be productive. And to an extent, I am, but I also believe that the time I enjoy wasting isn’t time wasted. After a few days of eating a quick lunch alone and then continuing homework, I began to feel as though my hasty lunches couldn’t stop the school–induced buzzing in my brain. 

I resumed spending an hour eating with my close friends and continuing work after. This gave me an important pause in a day otherwise dominated by the cold gaze of computers, textbooks, and late–night study sessions. And though being less productive might mean that I sleep less, I can instinctively feel that I’ll reminisce on these in–between moments in college with my friends. 

Clearing my mind by journaling

I’ve always felt that college is a marathon against time, and this aspect of the “that girl” lifestyle only made it worse. From the very first day, taking the time to journal felt intrinsically useless. A very prominent part of me claimed that every minute I spent writing could’ve been more productive. I hurriedly finished my journal entry, blandly observed my messy handwriting, and shut the journal cover with a resolute clap. After three days of journaling, I officially stopped. Although it didn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean journaling can’t be a worthwhile activity for someone who needs the time to reflect on their day through writing.

~~~

There were many other aspects of the “that girl” lifestyle that I haven’t covered. I now stretch daily, brush my teeth to peppy music, and like to start my day by describing three things I’m excited for — all of which mainly began from trying out this pseudo–perfect lifestyle and all of which bring a joyful tinge to each morning. But sometimes I don’t have time to make my bed, or I forget to drink two liters of water or some of the other little nuances of the lifestyle. I commit bigger breaches of the “that girl” code nearly all the time — I get myself emotionally attached to a guy who isn’t good for me, I don’t feel like wearing tight–fitting clothes, or I simply feel emotions which are conventionally “negative,” like sadness or frustration. 

At the end of the day, I just can’t believe in the mindless perfection of “that girl”; while I think she promotes some beneficial concepts, like healthy eating, exercising, and other self–care habits, I also think that everyone’s ideal lifestyle is subjective and individual. By that same token, I believe that an excess of positivity can be toxic: we can’t move forward and learn unless we make mistakes, and we can’t always feel 100% confident within our bodies, our social circles, or ourselves. 

And so, “that girl” is an oxymoron, perpetuating the idea that we should alter ourselves to a one–size–fits–all ideal of productivity and happiness. We’re made up of our failures, our successes, our joys, our sadness. We’re multilayered, convoluted, all our own versions of the emblem and opposite of perfection. 

Gabrielle is a writer for HerCampus @UPenn. She is a freshman at the College of Arts and Sciences studying neuroscience and creative writing. As a feminist, she enjoys writing articles about women's rights and self-empowerment. Aside from writing, she has a weakness for coffee, chocolate, running, and music :)
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