Escaping/Finding the Self

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Emma Landsburgh


The desire to escape oneself is increasingly prevalent, especially with the rising number of trends that promote the “better self”. The #thatgirl has seen an influx of people wanting to emulate the lifestyle all in the hopes of fitting in, gaining confidence and escaping their selves. It is liberating to perform a new desirable self who can be anything you want to be. Why do we feel this overwhelming pressure to conform to these qualities that others deem desirable, rather than embracing our true selves? The #thatgirl offers an escape to reinvent a person’s identity. A #thatgirl lifestyle leads to pressures focused on perfection and wellness. Therefore, due to these pressures it is very easy to lose oneself as the escape the #thatgirl offers completely alters one’s life. Especially when the #thatgirl is a figure conjured by the social media space, the existence of the #thatgirl ignores the unpredictability of life. The escape to the #thatgirl identity leads to a loss of self as it is impossible to be a #thatgirl. 

The #thatgirl trend has spread throughout TikTok as daily vlogs show people reading endless books, working out, eating breakfast, and living a cleansed lifestyle. Social media feeds are filled with breakfast montages, journal sessions and workouts. Of course, this is all through the medium of social media, which is normally always performed. It appears through a highlight reel where snippets of a life are shown. However, this doesn’t stop us from wanting to escape ourselves, to be the #thatgirl. The partying lifestyle, early nights, working out, stylish clothes and clean living are so easily promoted online. It has become a prominent online aesthetic. It’s understandable why people are easily drawn to the #thatgirl trend and want to abandon their self to emulate this way of living. It presents an idealised way of living, where they eat clean, are working out, always have fresh bedsheets, fresh flowers in the vase and sun streaming in the window. The strive to be like the #thatgirl leads to a route for escape. That life can be like that for everyone, which it just can’t be. It isn’t as accessible as it appears through the TikTok feed. 

Many trends have arisen to provide a formula to become the #thatgirl. The 75 hard challenge shows how people are driven to escape their own selves, to push themselves to the limits. The premise of the 75 hard challenge is basically to reinvent yourself into the best version. The basic principles are to follow a diet, work out twice a day for 45 minutes, drink 4 litres of water, read 10 pages of non-fiction, and take a 5-minute cold shower. All of these must be maintained for 75 days, if the streak is broken you have to start again. Although, there is the alternative, the 75 soft challenge. Both are very intense and are not maintainable, yet TikTok is filled with people’s attempts to escape their old habits to ‘renew themselves’ through the challenge. However, this desire to escape the usual pattern can set a person up to dangerous and obsessive habits. Therefore, the desire to be the #thatgirl puts a strain on the way a person carries out their life. 

The obsessive patterns that are introduced by the #thatgirl can lead to a loss of self. The desire to escape never truly goes away and can become more intense at specific points. Due to these phases, it is easy to end up feeling like the escape has led to a loss of sense of self. The concept of the “better self” is a made-up concept. As a human being perfect constantly is impossible. It is an unfair standard to hold oneself to. Waking up early and drinking green juice will not be the source for happiness. It leaves a lot of factors out of the equation for people to feel happy and confident. It introduces a sense of performance as people strive to be a #thatgirl, that doesn’t even truly exist outside of the ecology of social media. As the #thatgirl doesn’t truly exist, then it is easy to lose a sense of self and direction. How is a person to become a figure that cannot be maintained? Identity and sense of self should be fluid. A person should not feel the need to be restricted to constantly emulating this desired ideal of perfection 24/7.

It’s overrated to be the #thatgirl. One should not have to fit into a binary of identity and personality. A person is multiple things and will feel lost when trying to restrict themselves into the box of the imagined #thatgirl. It is impossible to be the #thatgirl constantly. One day a person will want a lie in, a takeaway, to miss a workout or a journal session. To stop being ourselves is to put a stop to the full experiences. The good, the bad and the ugly. So, when feeling loss of self, people have to be kinder to themselves. Whether that is falling into goblin mode endlessly watching Married at First Sight in pyjamas and with a bag of Doritos, having a lie in or falling behind in class. Either visiting art galleries, studying, going out to restaurants, writing, creating art, etc. Simply, doing what a person loves will lead a person back from the escape to again finding their self. 

The attempt to escape oneself leads to a sense of loss, especially in the case of the #thatgirl. The #thatgirl is a 2-dimensional figure that is impossible to emulate constantly. It is a figure that offers a sense of escape, a route to the “better self”. However, the “better self” cannot be constantly maintained. Life in many forms and aspects will get in the way of the rigorous and set structure of the #thatgirl lifestyle. Therefore, to come back from the loss of self, people have to abandon that goal of perfection.


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