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When Self Care Becomes Toxic

Introducing “That Girl”

During the pandemic, the internet kept us afloat, entertained and seemingly less lonely during a challenging and uncertain time. While many of us, crushed by the weight of isolation, were struggling to complete simple daily tasks, others made it their life mission to document their self-growth and self-discovery journeys.

Whilst they were reading self-help books and learning how to code, I was numbly scrolling through Tiktok and I couldn’t help but compare my achingly slow days to their astonishingly productive routines.

What I realize now, is that  I was unknowingly witnessing the birth of the “that” girl phenomenon that is now a well-established form of content creation. That girl differs from the it girl in that she is more than good looking and well connected, she is also productive and efficient.

She has her life figured out, swears by a routine that goes as follows: she works out at 6 a.m., she does intermittent fasting and eats aesthetically pleasing (and vaguely nutritious) meals, she keeps a journal and meditates, she reads and works hard and manages to get enough sleep. Whatever she does, whatever outfit she throws on, she manages to look good while also being sustainable.

It’s hard not to want to be her. But being at the receiving end of these Tiktoks, reels and vlogs can be alienating. Although she has a commendable ritual of healthy habits that all of us could benefit from and many of us (myself included) actually do, the “that” girl trend somehow stopped being about self-growth and became a competition of who has their life together and who hasn’t. 

@kaylieestewartfocusing on yourself #motivation #thatgirl #healthylifestyle #healthylifestylechange #fyp♬ original sound – xxtristanxo


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We like to think that we cannot be affected by such fickle trends and that we’re capable of taking them with a pinch of salt. But eventually they crept up on me, at every corner of  every social media platform. That girl and her seemingly balanced, healthy, work-oriented and perfectly planned life lived in my feed rent free. It led me into a spiral of picking my life apart with torturing irrational comparisons and questions, of lamenting over my city not being cool enough to have that organic soy milk matcha latte, and my studio apartment for not being pinterest-y enough; all the while forgetting this was initially a bid for bettering and caring for oneself.

When did the practice of self-care become so toxic? Social media has failed in actually helping us practice self-care and overwhelmed us to the point of feeling defeated.

The act of caring for one’s self was a personal journey, full of trials and relapses, with no rule book or must-dos to it, just some pointers and good advice that may or may not work for you but social media made self-care only valid through visibility and as many of us already know by now, visibility does not equate authenticity. It’s worth saying again that we never see the ugly side of things on these platforms and that we get polished versions of everything including self-care. “Why am I not making progress like her?” Her progress, of course, being her 15 seconds Tiktok montage of her working out, meditating, drinking green juices, lighting overpriced candles and writing her diary entries in her cute bathrobe.

Would it be so far-fetched to say that something is inherently wrong with wanting to become that girl rather than yourself? In a way, Tiktok and Instagram have completely depersonalized the journey of self-discovery and self-growth, which is an oxymoron in itself.

Introspection stopped being about looking from within and became looking at what your favorite social media star eats, buys and reads. Once again, it seems as if we can never win with social media, in the end it always fuels our consumerism and lends us a new set of irrational concerns and insatiable needs. So much for better habits.

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