• Carolyn Anderson Shepherd

How to be That Girl when you're not

Have you come across the TikTok 'That Girl' trend yet? If not, you likely will at some point soon given that it's currently in the top 50 things searched on Pinterest.

The basis of 'That Girl' is a person of any gender who has their life together in a very insta-worthy way. They eat only healthy foods, get enough sleep, are both physically and mentally healthy and are successful in their endeavours. Naturally this comes with a “sustainable clothing brand” comfy wardrobe of neutral colours and natural looking make up.

This is achieved by following a morning routine that sets you up for a productive day, starting with getting up an hour earlier and apparently not starting your day until lunch time, or 10.30 at the earliest. Because that's something everyone can do...

Snarkiness aside, the items listed in the multiple That Girl checklists floating around every site are not entirely ridiculous, it's just the way that they are presented that has the air of ick so I thought I'd have a bash at the That Girl items for people who actually have to do shit with their time.

These are all set out in chronological order and you have to do them all before you start your day.

a woman lies sleeping in a bed while she reaches out and turns off an alarm clock that's going off at 7am
7am? She's having a laugh, you need to be up at 5 for this

Get up an hour earlier and don't start your day with your phone

Firstly some of us already get up in the dark and an hour extra of dark doesn't have the same light and bright and early appeal of the That Girl aesthetic. However, if getting up an hour earlier would get you some 'me time' or make your day run smoother I'm all for it, just remember to go to sleep earlier to compensate. Starting your day gently rather than at full force is definitely better for your stress levels.

I start my day with my phone, unless I don't feel like it, however I DON'T check emails and I don't reply to messages until later. I don't doom scroll or visit sites that stress me out or that will require me to comment on anything. Reading or watching soothing videos is a very positive phone use that gets you a good dopamine or serotonin hit that helps you be more productive and less stressed for the day ahead.

A huge fat blond staffordshire terrier lies on a freshly made humans bed as if he owns it
My made bed with Booboo on it! The duvet cover came from a thrift shop in Orkney

Make your bed

So I don't care about housework, but I really love getting into a made bed in the evening and I see it as an act of self care to me to make my bed in the morning. I don't have a fancy bed so it's pretty much just pulling the duvet on straight but it still makes me feel good. Definitely recommend.

Drink a big glass of water

Now here's the thing. This comes directly from diet culture and often is combined with the phrase “it'll kick start your metabolism!” And we don't do dieting round here, this is a no diet zone always and forever. And while I know that switching to tap water is great for the planet and your budget, it's not something to force yourself to do if you don't feel like it. Being hydrated is really good for you but everyone's water need is different and it doesn't have to be water, and it doesn't have to be the minute you get up. I start the day with a nice cup of tea which is warm and soothing in my tummy until I feel like eating.

In all honesty, I don't drink water. At all. I am one of those rare people for whom water has a taste (and smell) and it is not good. I do actually want to try a bit more though and I'm hoping that I get one of those metal canteens that keep water super cold for my birthday at the end of the month so I can fill it with ice. If you've got any recommendations for brands please let me know!

Do your skincare routine

a small brown bottle lies on top of a soft cream coloured reusable wipe on a wooden table strewn with rose petals
Bottle of rosewater I use every day with a reusable wipe

Which always comes with a million bottles of expensive stuff of course.

My husband starts every day with a face full of cold water. Has done forever. Is a complete stranger to moisturiser. Doesn't understand how I can start the day without it. I on the other hand am absolutely horrified at the idea of water touching my face first thing in the morning.

Something I've learned about skin care on any part of the body is that it's not just about the products but also how you apply them and the ritual of doing so. Slapping on some Olay before the school run because you think that's what you should do isn't the same as sitting down and taking 5 minutes to use a couple of products you like the smell and feel of and feel good about the product itself. Before I started Venus in Stars I used to be a real devotee to premium skin care and I realise now it wasn't about the product being amazing, although some are really good, it was more about the feeling I got from using that brand which in turn made me use it more consistently too. And that's OK. Making a 5 minute or longer mindful ritual of spending that time on yourself can have a lasting 'feel good' effect, but don't feel you have to do it first thing in the morning.

Oh and huge tip – if you are at home all day and your skin is in need of some care, whack on a face mask while you're working or going about your day. I find it great when I've got really angry skin.

the same fat staffy is in middle distance in a lush forest surrounded by tall pine trees and ferns
Enjoyable movement up the forest

10 minutes of meditation then exercise and yoga

It's often 30 minutes exercise and 30 minutes yoga too haha! There goes your extra hour.

Something that has been radically life changing for me is discovering that exercise comes in many forms and it really just means movement. Not just that, but you don't have to do stuff you don't enjoy! Not ever! Adding some movement into your day does make a big difference to how you feel but 30 minutes of “exercise” in the morning is not it. Nor is it sustainable.

Find movement you enjoy. It doesn't need to be “exercise”; dancing and jumping around the room to your favourite song, walking the dog, vigorous hoovering (I'm pushing the boundaries of enjoy, I know) are all just as good as doing commercialised exercise; and lots of people really love swimming and going to classes. And a recent study of 11,000 people over 14 years revealed that exercising 12 times a month, so roughly 3 a week, is one of the factors linked to good health outcomes regardless of body type. But regardless of that, because 'healthy' is subjective and not everyone can achieve it anyway, enjoyable movement makes you feel good so if you can fit some in to your day at any point, great!

Regarding meditation, I'm going to refer you to what I said earlier about reading in bed or watching happy videos. In this context it's essentially having the same effect, getting your brain into a less busy more relaxed place. Obviously that's not all mediation is and both it and yoga are definitely of benefit to lots of people, particularly those with trauma or mental health conditions, however suggesting everyone should or could spend 40 minutes on these every morning before starting their day is asinine. If you're interested in more on this topic, The Body Keeps The Score is a difficult yet enlightening read.

looking down into a big bowl with creamy yogurt, lots of raspberries and satsuma pieces
Favourite yogurt with raspberries and satsumas

Eat a healthy breakfast

In the That Girl world this almost always involves some sort of smoothie as well as supplements, plus a beautiful looking vegan (obvs) breakfast that takes a ton of prep. If you'd like a bit of a laugh I recommend listening to the Wine and Crime podcast episode 'New Age Crimes' about the creator of Moon Juice 'Dust' supplements (I haven't finished the episode but that story is very light). And it's not that I think supplements are entirely ridiculous, it's just that pretending health is avoiding food and taking expensive pills and powders instead is not it.

Also you cannot miss out that exercising before breakfast is an old diet industry trope that your body will burn fat if you do this, which is actually less likely than you just passing out (up a hill, in a forest, with no phone signal. Ask me how I know) but hey ho.

If you need to eat in the morning, eat, if you don't like to, don't. But you do need to make sure you eat sometime.

You can take away from this item a couple of good things though. Make sure you eat enough throughout the day, and having some nutritious food will make you feel heaps better than surviving on sugar and caffeine. I've had great success in terms of how I feel by adding a fruit or veg to each meal. I don't mean 'a portion' I mean however much you feel like. Fruit and yogurt (full fat and sugar because it tastes better) for breakfast, or chuck some dried fruit in your porridge or on your cereal. Some tomato in my sandwich. Some frozen veg or beetroot with dinner. Crisps AND an apple. What's important is adding to not instead of. You feel better pretty quickly, and it's a habit that quickly forms and you miss it when it's gone.

There is no morality attached to food, just please make sure you eat.

a thin attractive man looks seductively back at you while washing his hair
Excuse me, how did you get in here?


Shower?? But you did your skincare an hour and a half ago and sweated off most of that good shit you paid a lot of money for! Also if you skin care after shower more of the product will soak into your skin, just saying...

Anyway, here's the thing. Not everyone can or wants to shower daily and that's fine. If you can, you are in a very privileged position. For financial, physical and mental health reasons showering is not always possible and people feel a great deal of shame in that.

But please don't feel shame. You having a comfortable life is way more important than showering every day. And showering is both water and energy intensive so really you're saving the planet.

When I worked in an office I showered every morning out of politeness for my coworkers, now I work at home I much prefer a more leisurely evening shower. I like to put on a podcast which is an ADHD trick I learned from TikTok, use my foot scrub and exfoliate my keratosis pilaris arms then when I get out I at least cover my feet in foot balm if I don't feel like popping on some body butter too. For me, having my feet nice and soft is a bit like when you get a manicure and you just feel fancy haha. It's a great lasting serotonin boost for me.

A woman in a red jumper wearing glasses sits at a table outside. she is writing in a notebook and next to her is a jar of water filled with what looks like flowers or leaves
'scuse me love I think a bit of the tree fell in your water

Journal or make a gratitude list

OMG have we not started our day yet? Sorry kids you'll have to be late for school, mum has to write her gratitude list.

Now I'm not making fun of gratitude lists per se, lots of people find them helpful and if you do that's great. But along with meditation and journaling and exercise this isn't something that you need to do in the morning every morning. In fact I would argue that unless your whole plan for the day is working on the issue you are journaling about, then a much better time to do these things is evening.

Is anyone else old enough to remember TV shows with husbands coming into the bedroom and the wife being in bed writing her diary? Offloading the day onto paper, reminding yourself what you have to be grateful for is a great way to end a day. How many of us struggle to sleep because we're going over stuff in our heads that we're trying to remember for the morning or that we need to think through? Journaling in the evening can exorcise those things and help quiet your brain. I mean it can also make you mad as hell so make sure you allow adequate time for those anger inducing sessions!

Of all the items on the multiple That Girl morning routines, none are completely ridiculous, but the idea that anyone can cram them all in to 'pre day' is absolutely not achievable for most. But we all can take away that spending mindful, purposeful time on yourself at some point during the day, moving your body in fun ways and making sure that you prioritise fuelling your body with food as part of your daily routine are things that will make you feel and function better. Just don't think getting up an hour earlier will make it all fit together for you!

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