2 women reflect on how ‘get ready with me’ videos are affecting their self-esteem

Written by Zeynab Mohamed

When self-improvement is reduced to one type of routine – and shared by people with seemingly limitless resources and time – it can become a measuring stick to judge our lives against.

On more mornings than I care to admit, I’ve started my day by watching other people get ready for theirs; doing their make-up, making breakfast and chatting to the camera, all before I’ve managed to get out of bed myself.

Crisp, white linen sheets, perfectly foamed matcha lattes, elaborate journal entries, intent-laden meditation and a guaranteed stream of supplements – the morning routines I scroll through online are dense with activity and wellness.

Its own genre of social content, the rise of ‘get ready with me’ (often shortened to GRWM) videos has snowballed online. On TikTok, the hashtag #GRWM has over 42.2 billion views, while #MorningRoutine has over 442.7 million. Exacerbated by the pandemic, these videos encapsulate the current zeitgeist: our preoccupation with self-improvement and the burgeoning desire to present our most authentic selves. 

Authenticity, the act of being real, is a neatly packaged term that’s used liberally online. But, what does it even mean to be authentic in the era of filters and push notifications reminding us to ‘be real’? Sold as a different type of content to the curated, heavily filtered tropes of the early 00s, get ready with me videos straddle the space between a true reflection of our lives and the aspirational, performative content we’ve come to expect on social media.

For viewers, these videos can offer a form of escapism from reality. Louise, 25, a self-described TikTok over-consumer, shares that she avidly consumes daily routine videos to motivate herself to make changes in her own life. “As someone who works in retail, my hectic schedule doesn’t afford me a daily routine. I’m intrigued by how others lead their lives and use it as a sort of determination to be more organised.”

Many people like Louise see a morning routine as symbolic of having their life ‘together’. From stability in their mindset to adequate wealth and optimal health.

In Louise’s mind, while she knows that these videos are far from realistic, it’s what they represent that’s important to her: “These videos act as a drive to push me to be more conscious of how I’m living my life. Yes, I don’t have the time and I don’t have the bank account to afford the luxury of a glorious 12-step morning routine, but I can still implement some of the steps to make my morning routines feel less hectic.”

For others, curated, feed-ready morning routines aren’t the positive, impactful content they might appear to be. 

Alisha, 22, tells Stylist: “I get sucked into watching hours of these types of videos only to feel bad and almost inadequate because my daily routine couldn’t look more different.”

“I’ve spent so much money on gadgets and ingredients only to have them rot away in over-stuffed drawers and cupboards,” she goes on to say. “When I think about the money and time I’ve wasted on trying to replicate these routines and not being one step closer to the ‘perfect’ one, it makes me so sad – and angry with myself. Let’s be honest, with the cost of living crisis, I can’t afford to splash out money on an expensive matcha set to make tea I don’t even like.”

As becomes clear to me the more I watch, these videos subliminally idealise the time and financial freedom needed to live in the way that they present themselves. This fixation on daily routines creates an insidiously high bar for what life ‘should’ or is ‘meant to’ look like. More than a sequence of actions, these elaborate ‘authentic’ regimes are not an attainable reality for most people.

“When we don’t feel good about ourselves we can often be tempted to look to others for inspiration, there’s nothing wrong with that and we can definitely find some good tips and ideas from others,” explains psychologist Nova Cobban. 

“The key is to meet yourself where you are right now, which is difficult to do when you are watching someone online whose life is nothing like yours. We are effectively sabotaging our own efforts to find something that works for us when we base our success on how we measure up to others. It also lets us off the hook when we fail to achieve the same results and allows us to go back to our same thoughts of not being good enough. Those thoughts are not true, we’ve just given ourselves an unsuitable starting point.”

Offline life doesn’t afford the luxury of endless leisure time, financial aid or über-flexible work schedules, and that’s without taking into account childcare, stress, medical conditions and, honestly, mental health. While online life seems to be a blank canvas to live out a perfectly curated lifestyle, it’s not an attainable reality for the majority of the population.

This belief, that the entirety of your whole, complex and specific authentic self can be squeezed into a five-minute video, seems logically impossible. A meticulously manufactured and digitally conveyed life is, at its core, a performance – often one that’s been enhanced for our eager consumption.

The next time I stumble across a seemingly flawless, ease-filled morning routine online, I’ll remember not to be absorbed by the façade of having (and doing) it all. And, while I tend to press snooze multiple times before I’m ready to finally get out of bed – with messy bed hair and pyjamas that have seen their fair share of coffee stains – my authentic morning routine is my own truth. Perhaps not camera-perfect, but realistic nonetheless.

Main image: Getty

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