in article about the clean girl aesthetic, illustration of different desk set-ups common to the trend

The Clean Girl Aesthetic Sets Unrealistic Expectations for ADHD Girlies

There's nothing wrong with staying up-to-date on trends, but this one may cause more harm than good. 
December 11, 2022
7 mins read

Most people are familiar with ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and about 4.5% of adults in the U.S. have this mental health condition. However, few people know that ADHD is actually misdiagnosed more often in women than in men. Often, a woman’s symptoms are overlooked or believed to be something else, such as anxiety. Professionals often write off women’s symptoms and believe them to be personality traits, like being too chatty or “spacey.”

If a woman’s ADHD is left untreated, she may appear unorganized in all aspects of her life. Her struggle to stay on top of things may lead to various difficulties, such as not following through with plans, misplacing items or being “messy.” Missing deadlines, low self-esteem and forgetfulness are also common symptoms. Unfortunately, undiagnosed women may also garner the reputation of being a “bad friend” for not being able to remember special dates, such as birthdays. Very Mind Well explains the phenomenon very well: “When you’re not able to do the things that society expects women to do, people may think you don’t care.” There is already enough pressure on women to do certain things or behave in particular ways. Why do we, as women, place even more pressure on each other?

The “clean girl aesthetic” is the new chic phrase for a person who would otherwise be considered a put-together minimalist. It doesn’t actually have to do with being clean. The aesthetic prioritizes healthy daily habits such as drinking a lot of water, wearing makeup that gives off an all-natural or no-makeup look and keeping your wardrobe to a minimum of everyday basics in neutral colors. Other habits include waking up incredibly early for a workout and following a specific schedule filled with tasks throughout the day.

While there is nothing wrong with the clean-girl lifestyle — in fact, it includes some incredibly healthy habits — it requires a ton of self-discipline. But self-discipline and self-structure are not things that come easily to the “ADHD girlies.” The clean girl aesthetic sets unrealistic standards that many people (especially those with ADHD) can’t achieve. According to Web MD, women with ADHD might feel like they’re “always trying to catch up, which can lead to chronic stress and exhaustion,” and trending aesthetics are likely to exacerbate these problems.

In a world with such an immense media presence, it’s easy to become influenced by trends such as fast fashion and aesthetics. While following fads can be fun and beneficial for learning new beauty and fashion tips, it can also be harmful: Getting stuck in trends or trying to turn yourself into someone you’re not can lead to an identity crisis and loss of self.

If you look at the glass as half full, you can imagine how the clean girl aesthetic could actually be motivational for the ADHD girlies. However, if you look at the glass as half empty, you may see that the aesthetic actually puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on women by creating standards that are difficult to reach. It is all about perspective, but realistically, the clean girl aesthetic is unattainable for not only ADHD girlies, but for most people with a busy lifestyle. A full-time student or someone working a full-time job may find it hard to always have a squeaky-clean home. Seriously, where are all these extra hours of the day coming from? Sometimes it’s hard to find time to clean with a 10-page essay due at midnight.

Healthy lifestyle habits should be just that: healthy lifestyle habits. How about we stop categorizing them all in a new, trendy clean-girl-aesthetic box? It’s unrealistic to wake up every day by 6 a.m., make your bed, drink five glasses of water and then carry on with a detailed schedule. Maybe you do this, and if so that’s great — but it’s okay if you don’t. Starting with just a few small habits little by little is more effective and sustainable than trying to do everything all at once.

Someone with ADHD may struggle to keep things organized no matter how hard they try, which makes them “messy” — a characteristic that doesn’t fall into the clean girl aesthetic. Betches argues that many girls believe the aesthetic to be problematic. A true clean girl “has more time and resources than the average person, giving her the ability to live this idealized lifestyle and make it look so easy.” Unsurprisingly, the trend didn’t age well. It is just hard to believe that women have made it this far only to confine themselves into boxes such as clean girls or dirty girls.

But there is always something good to take away from the bad. What if you just took the healthy habits and tips from the clean girl aesthetic, but not all of the accompanying regulations and standards? Of course, you should drink enough water and try to exercise each day, but it’s okay to take a day off. You should want to be a better version of yourself for no one but yourself — and especially not for the sake of current trends and their unrealistic standards. It’s okay to do things at the pace and rate that makes you happy.

Valentina Palomino, SUNY Old Westbury

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Valentina Palomino

SUNY Old Westbury

Hello, my name is Valentina Palomino. I am a student at SUNY Old Westbury. Some of my greatest passions include writing alongside with reading. Nothing better than snuggling up next to a good book!

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