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Who is #ThatGirl? The TikTok trend promoting work hustle culture, wellness, and self-care in one ‘demotivating and toxic’ package

June 1, 2022, 10:43 AM UTC

Wake up early. Eat well. Work hard. Exercise.

With more than 4.3 billion views on TikTok, the #ThatGirl hashtag presents users with a slew of content encouraging viewers to “become that girl”—that is, one who works out, journals, and eats a healthy meal all before their day even begins.

The idea is to encourage viewers to be the best version of themselves possible, physically, mentally and professionally.

However, many of the videos pushing TikTok users to transform into “That Girl” imply that it can only be done if they conform stringently to a set of specific habits, which usually come in the form of an aesthetically pleasing checklist-style morning or evening routine.

The majority of “That Girl” videos appear to be made by young, upper-middle-class white women.

Rebecca Lockwood, an entrepreneur and author of The Female’s Handbook: Step Into Your Personal Potential, told Fortune that while it could seem empowering and motivating to be “That Girl,” the trend could be quite damaging for some young professionals.

“When we don’t meet our own expectations and internal perceptions of what we should be, who we should be, and how we should be, it can be quite demotivating and toxic,” she said. “This trend could potentially be setting unrealistic ideals of what success should be. It’s quite possible that people may be attempting to meet these ideals and then feeling very let down by themselves and negative if they do not.”

Lockwood said people should instead be striving toward their own personal values and goals.

“The ‘That Girl’ trend could be creating the notion of searching outside the self for meaning and removing perspective because [the goals] are not personal to each individual,” she said. “Success means something different to everyone, and when we are not meeting our own version it can have a detrimental impact on our mental and emotional health.”

Jacqueline Hurst, a life coach and author of How to Do You, told Fortune that the lifestyle “That Girl” content touts is generally impractical for people with full-time jobs and other responsibilities.

“It’s unrealistic—when they say to be ‘That Girl’ you have to get up before 8 a.m., do your exercise, eat fruit and vegetables only—it’s quite funny, really. Who does that?” she said in a phone call.

“I’m sure that there are some things in some of those videos that might be good to be reminded of, like it’s good to be someone who can go for a walk in the morning—but what isn’t good is the perfectionism around it, that you’re not a good or perfect person if you don’t check every box.”

Hurst argued the standards of productivity promoted in “That Girl” videos are distorting ideals of success—and could actually be damaging to some people’s capacity to get things done.

“Just because someone’s thin, it does not mean they’re successful,” she said. “Just because they’ve got 4 million viewers on TikTok, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re successful. They might be successful in that area [but not others]. You decide what success is, not someone on TikTok.”

She added that the trend fails to encompass a rounded approach to success that understands it is human to deviate from one’s goals.

“These stringent, tough rules are just not healthy,” Hurst said. “Loving yourself is not ‘get up at 8 o’clock, make sure you journal, make sure you meditate, make sure you do yoga.’ When you’re nice to yourself, you get a lot more done.”

Dr. Stephanie Baker, a sociologist at London’s City University, told Fortune that the “That Girl” trend builds on an established history of self-help discourse in the U.S., but “succumbs to the same issues as the beauty, fitness, wellness, and happiness industries.”

“While many people find such content helpful, self-improvement is presented as an ongoing pursuit requiring constant devotion,” she said. “There will be many who feel these videos create pressure to conform to unrealistic standards.”

Fortune contacted numerous “That Girl” video creators but received no response.

A spokesperson for TikTok was not immediately available for comment.

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