What Is The 'That Girl' Aesthetic On TikTok?

You know her: she's all over your TikTok feed with her kale breakfast smoothies, aesthetic morning routine, and her daily hot girl walks. She's funny and relatable yet still aspirational in the way her lifestyle seems just out of your reach. Most importantly, she's not a celebrity or mega-star influencer you would know; the appeal of "that girl" is that she's a normal person like you. And in a world overloaded with brands and influencers who always seem to be selling the next quick fix for your love life, your body image, or your mental health, "that girl" seems to offer a more attainable way for the average person to get their life together and start living their best, well, life.


With more than five billion views on TikTok alone, the "that girl" hashtag and trend encourages women to totally reimagine how their life could look different with a few workouts, journaling sessions, and a structured 5 a.m. morning routine — and it shows no signs of slowing down. So, what are the defining hallmarks of the viral trend that claims to be encouraging women to become the best — and most productive — version of themselves? And is the "that girl" aesthetic just another way for women to try and achieve an unrealistic beauty standard?

Who exactly is 'that girl,' anyway?

The "that girl" trend is characterized by its similarities to other aesthetic lifestyles, like the "clean girl" or "off-duty model" aesthetics. "That girl" is a #GirlBoss who puts in the work to have the life of her dreams while also embracing the mantra of slow living and letting things play out as they will. Yet, she maintains that you, too, can be just like her if you try hard enough and follow her simple routine. "I feel like the idea of aesthetics became popular during quarantine because people longed for some type of constant," content creator Joie explains in a tweet. "Following a particular aesthetic makes life somewhat easy. You wanna be like this person, dress, talk, and follow this routine and you'll be 'that girl'."


And the timing of this trend couldn't be more divine. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive hand in shaping the $4.5 trillion wellness industry, which includes the rise of online therapy, digital wellness coaching, at-home fitness, and more. This shift has not only influenced consumer behaviors but also dramatically informed the type of content users consume — and the influencers people aspire to be like. And although each creator claims to have her own secret for what creates the perfect balanced lifestyle, the "that girl" trend seems to have a very strict set of rules for what success actually looks like.

Is the 'that girl' trend actually toxic?

For all of its popularity, many are quick to point out that the creators who dominate the "that girl" trend all seem to showcase a very particular type of "that girl'" to aspire becoming. As noted by Betches, "that girl," through all of these portrayals, fits into one archetype: a thin, white woman with money. These patterns of privilege help paint an unrealistic view at how 'attainable' this lifestyle actually is. The more money a person has, the more time they can typically devote to journaling and exercising, for example. Plus, they can afford expensive grocery bills to supplement this lifestyle.


In addition to the inaccessible lifestyle these videos portray due to lifestyle and income differences, other experts point out that this trend can be damaging even for those who do have the means to maintain it. "If we feel like we can't keep up with all the people on our social media feeds who appear to be living their best lives, it can make us feel like we're underachieving and we're not good enough," Dr. Roberta Babb, a registered clinical psychologist, tells Stylist, "This can have a major impact on our self-worth, and may even lead to anxiety, depression or unhealthy coping strategies like disordered eating and substance abuse." 

So, while it may be fun and even inspiring to consume this type of content, experts agree that too much of it can distort your self-perception and impact your confidence.


How to become your own version of 'that girl'

So, where's the middle ground? While TikTok might have you believing that you need to be an early bird to embrace the 'that girl' lifestyle, it's not necessary. In fact, these types of drastic and sudden changes to your lifestyle can lead to burn–out more often than not. "My attitude surrounding my day-to-day life is a bit more neutral now. If I get a bunch of tasks done, great — and if I don't, I trust that I've done what I needed to do to take care of myself for the day. The shift in mindset has made me live in the moment more, and really listen to what I need," writer and recovering 'that girl', Sophie Grieser writes for The Interlude


There are a lot of good habits and lifestyle choices that you can adopt from many of the 'that girl' videos that will honestly, have a positive impact on your life. As noted by The Everygirl, a few accessible and simple ways to adopt the 'that girl' lifestyle without going overboard include checking in with yourself, nourishing your body with food and water, as well as regularly indulging in self-care and rest. But more importantly, it's crucial to keep the conversation going around how this trend can encourage exclusionary behavior and focus on finding real solutions for creating a space where everyone feels encouraged to be 'that girl' –– in whatever way it means to them.