That girl and her toxic development

When a trend of self-development and improvement called the “that girl” trend rose to popularity in May 2021, it soon became many young women’s downfall.


Isabella Tisdale

The “that girl” trend encourages self-development and improvement but can become overbearing to some young women.

Wake up at four in the morning, put on your expensive monochromatic workout set, go to the gym for hours, and get coffee from your local coffee shop. Then return to your clean minimalistic apartment to work your small business job where you are your own boss. This is a dream that many chase, but few are able to make a reality. So why are so many people straining their bodies, mind, and wallet to reach these standards? It’s simple, they want to be “that girl.”

To those unaware of what being “that girl” entails, let’s travel back to May of 2021. With many people staying home due to COVID-19, more people had time on their hands than ever before and the trend of overall self-improvement arose. This sprouted a trend of being “that girl,” wearing slicked-back ponytails, a Lululemon workout sets, and always having an iced coffee in hand. “That girl” is always productive and never diverts from the healthy meals that she made at home with all the organic groceries. Working from home allowed for more productivity for some but as the world slowly returns back to normal, being “that girl” becomes increasingly more difficult than it already was.

The Money Mess

Fashion is one of the biggest factors of the “that girl” trend. Popular clothing stores include Lululemon, Set Active and Zara. These brands are not only very expensive but the ethicality of many is commonly questioned. Lululemon leggings alone stand at around $100 and Set Active’s sell at about $70. These prices are not affordable for most and this sets an economic divide on who can be “that girl.”

Many of these brands are considered “fast fashion” or may be made in ways that are similar to those of fast fashion. Fast fashion has detrimental impacts in the environment due to the fast pace that which items go in and out of style. When it is more difficult to afford the “that girl” lifestyle many turn to Shein, a popular fast-fashion brand. Shein markets itself as a “real-time fashion company.” This means they can catch up to new trends with a turnaround rate of 5-7 days. But, as many know trends don’t last long, this is prompting an environmental crisis due to the affordability and the hastiness of clothing production. 

 Zara is known for its poor working conditions after a rat was found sewn into a woman’s dress in 2016. Workers get paid 3.50- 4.75 dollars a day according to impACT international. These make the clothes unappealing to those who look closer into the environmental and sociological impact that has on workers. But some will look the other way if this negative impact will positively benefit the “trendiness” of their closet. 

Access to healthy food is an epidemic that plagues the United States and the world. “Just eating healthy” is not as simple for those living in poverty or in food deserts. Food deserts are communities that are not close to grocery stores or other shops that can supply a diverse range of fruits and vegetables. Communities in these food deserts usually get food from gas stations or other small convenience stores that lack food that is not heavily processed and packaged. Health does discriminate, those with low income are exponentially more likely to have to deal with pre-packaged and sugar-filled food. This can make it even harder for a person to be “that girl” simply because they can’t afford it. This along with many other reasons makes money a barrier for those wanting their dream life.

The Physical Toll

Get up at the crack of dawn every morning and head off to the gym. Getting the summer body is all that’s on your mind. Run a few miles like it’s nothing and lift heavy, spend hours in the gym before the sun even rises. But that can’t be the reality for most people. Between school, work, and everything in between, it is near impossible for busy people to get the time to work out every day. Rest days are also essential for anyone to be successful in working out, without one any results or consistency that could come can be lost.

Without a rest day, muscles, joints, and other important structures do not have adequate time to repair themselves. People may also become mentally exhausted and more prone to making mistakes while training. ”

— Medical Today

Only eating clean every single day is a goal many young men and women set for themselves but the reality is it is rarely attainable. Many people spiral into eating disorders or disordered eating. This is due to many people being over-restricting and without the help of a professional like a dietician, barely anyone can stick to their harsh goals. Meal prepping is a common practice for those who are trying to lose weight and eat clean. It can make it hard for anyone to divert from their everyday routine due to “needing” to eat the food they have prepared in their fridge. But living life on the food’s schedule is not a life well-lived. 

The Mental Toll

The term toxic productivity has gained traction on social media recently due to a growing understanding that just because someone is productive does not necessarily mean it is good for them. Emma Wagner ‘24 shares her feelings on toxic productivity, “I think [toxic productivity] is a big issue among students, myself included.” 

 “Everyone has the same 24 hours” is a common phrase used by influencers. This is a backhanded way of saying “no excuses” but when the average American works for almost 9 hours a day, We really don’t have the same 24 hours. Those aspiring to be “that girl” but work an office job, go to school, or have any other extracurricular activities can feel as though it is impossible. 

Emma Gayle is a TikTok influencer who shares her recovery from an eating disorder on her account @Emmasgoodvibes. She documents her ups and down on the app to make those who are recovering feel less alone. She says, “When I started my obsession with becoming that girl I loved it and it genuinely changed my life.” This is common among girls who are new to the lifestyle, it is easy to start but gets so addicting it can be hard to stop.

I have the tendency to go all or nothing and take everything to an extreme. So I did not balance living. ”

— Emma Gayle

Influencers have begun calling out the inconsistencies of the “that girl” trend on social media as well, especially on TikTok. The truth is, the “that girl trend” is a highlight reel of everyone’s best moments and a hideaway from their worst.