What is a Girlboss?

You’ve probably heard the term Girlboss before, regardless of whether you’ve been actively involved in corporate America. Maybe you picked it up from the popular Netflix series or the podcast and book that inspired it. It’s possible you saw it plastered across the front of a t-shirt at Target, or maybe you watched a Girlboss TikTok about “girlbossing too close to the sun.” Perhaps you even aspired to be a Girlboss at some point in your career. Whatever the reason, the term has been pervasive since the mid-2010s. But what does it actually mean to be a Girlboss?


What Does it Mean to be a Girlboss?

Being a Girlboss is likely to mean different things to different people. It can simply describe a woman who is successful in her career. Since the idea of success can take on many meanings to various people, the word Girlboss provides similar ambiguity. Women from the C-Suite to front-line employees have identified with girlbossing. It was also a trendy term among women running their own businesses.

GirlBoss BurnBook Girlboss Movement

Who Coined the Term “Girlbossing”?

The word Girlboss is primarily attributed to Sophia Amorusa, who founded women’s fashion retailer Nasty Gal. In 2014 Amorusa published an autobiography that focused on her adventures in business called #GIRLBOSS. There is a good chance that the term Girlboss existed before Amorusa released her autobiography and subsequent Netflix series, but she is often credited with coining the term.


Is Girlboss Culture Problematic?

When I first told my husband about my idea for this blog, his initial reaction was, “I don’t like the term Girlboss.” I realized that I had agreed with him immediately but maybe not for the same reasons. Earlier in my career, I had eagerly clung to the idea of Girlboss and all the power I believed it commanded. As I grew professionally and personally and gained more experience, I realized that being a Girlboss was fundamentally flawed, and I would never be able to meet its impossible standard.

The idea of a Girlboss is excellent in theory. What could be better than women finally having agency in their careers? I absolutely love the sound of a glass ceiling shattering. The problem is that I’ve never heard it enough to be satisfied, even though we all followed the doctrine of girlbossing. I, among many other faithful female colleagues, had bought into the philosophy of Girlboss hook, line, and sinker. We believed if we acted more like men and were unapologetic and (occasionally) inappropriate, we would command more respect. We would be admired among our peers, make a ton of money, and never again would we have to fear that dreaded “b” word being whispered behind our backs.

No amount of hustle can murder misogyny. Like a lot of millennial women, I learned that the hard way. It’s unlikely that Amoruso had ill intentions when she named her book, but buzzwords can have far-reaching consequences. Many people would argue that Girlboss culture is toxic.

Even Sophia Amorusa felt relieved when the popular Netflix series Girlboss was canceled because she thought that the series had turned her life into a caricature. This twist of media didn’t bode well for the term when Netflix decided to make a mockery of the creator for entertainment. What does that say about our culture and the future of Girlboss culture? Nothing good.

GirlBoss BurnBook Realism of Being a Girlboss

What Does Gaslight, Gatekeep, Girlboss Mean?

The saying “Gaslight, Gatekeep, Girlboss” was originally a parody of the phrase “Live, Laugh, Love” that originated on TikTok and became a popular meme.

The definition of gaslighting is the practice of twisting reality to ensure the victim begins questioning their sanity. Gatekeeping is the belief that one can keep others from reaching opportunities vital to success. These words being made synonymous with Girlboss did not do more damage to the Girlboss movement because the damage had already been done. The “three G’s” instead highlighted the toxicity of Girlboss culture.

Girlboss culture goes beyond the scope of career success and into the more nuanced territory of getting ahead by whatever means necessary. Rather than supporting female empowerment in the corporate world, Girlbosses were expected to step on and over whoever they needed to in order to get ahead. This philosophy often included pushing aside and impeding opportunities for other women in pursuit of climbing the corporate ladder.


What Does it Mean to “Girlboss Too Close to the Sun”?

I’ve seen this one a lot on TikTok. While I don’t presume to speak for all women, many use this unique phrase to describe classic burnout symptoms. It’s likely that most of the women in these videos, like many of us, feel duped because they bought into the Girlboss ideology. Now they are burned out from the hustle of Girlboss culture and probably feel cheated. Burnout isn’t sexy to anyone, which means it could never be a part of the Girlboss philosophy. Instead, it’s a nasty surprise to anyone who tries to follow its core values.

Burnout symptoms can be crippling and should be taken very seriously. It can take months, even years, to recover from burnout. If you find yourself “girlbossing too close to the sun,” you might want to check yourself for the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue or exhaustion that doesn’t seem to go away even with plenty of sleep.
  • Lack of interest in your work or other things that you once enjoyed.
  • Feeling useless or unproductive.
  • Hating your job.
  • Physical ailments, such as headaches, body aches, stomach pain, high blood pressure, or other health issues that suddenly pop up.
  • Feeling more emotionally sensitive than usual.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, and stressful dreams.
  • Turning to food, alcohol, or drugs for comfort.


What Should I do if I “Girlbossed Too Close to the Sun”?

If you’re feeling any of those classic signs of burnout, the solution could be as simple as taking some time off for a vacation. If a break is not enough, start scheduling self-care time regularly.

The key is to get ahead of burnout so that you can consider all your options clearly. The problem is that many women are taught to ignore their own needs for the needs of others, and they will keep pushing forward, often balancing the demands of marriage and motherhood on top of work burnout.

Here are some things to try if you are feeling symptoms of burnout:

  • Schedule self-care regularly, and make it your part-time job.
  • If you need help with this, many great guided meditations can be found on YouTube, TikTok, and app stores for Apple and Android. 
  • Check out Calm on HBO Max, the sweetest ASMR since Bob Ross. You’ll thank me later. 
  • Unwind with your favorite television show. Keep it judgment free. If reality TV or your favorite nighttime soap will help take your mind off work, binge freely.
  • If you have a partner, plan regular date nights.
  • Spend time with your children or your friends.
  • Play with a favorite family pet. Spending time with pets lowers blood pressure and may even help you live longer.
  • Look for support within your organization, such as in HR or your direct supervisor, if you have a good relationship with them.
  • Put yourself first. Do the things that make YOU happy.

If you are still feeling burned out after taking all of these steps, you may want to consider that it’s time for a significant change in your life and your career. I know that this, like all unknown things, can feel scary, but if you are losing pieces of yourself to your job, it is not worth it. There is a world of opportunities if you open yourself up to them. No one can Girlboss if they feel like they are fried.

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The Future of the Girlboss Movement

Many would argue that the Girlboss movement is dead. We have opened our eyes with some help from the often unfiltered Gen Z. I agree with most arguments that girlbossing is toxic as it stands now. I also believe that if we want to make a change, we should make a change. Words have meaning because we give them power. We decide what a term should stand for and how it should impact our lives. There have been many names over the history of time that have been reclaimed by the very people they were weaponized against.

I move that we take this word back. I don’t know how Sophia Amurosa would feel about my suggestion or even how she feels about the state of girlbossing in 2023. By all accounts, she seems to be enjoying an avalanche of success and I am happy for her. She undeniably, and perhaps unwittingly, created something larger than herself.

I know what I want to see in the future of the Girlboss movement. I want to see women supporting other women, regardless of their endeavors. Let’s throw away the idea that being a Girlboss means stepping on other people to obtain success. We should be celebrating and lifting each other up. If we don’t support one another, who will?

According to the “Women in the Workplace 2022” report by McKinsey & Company, women make up 28% of senior vice president positions and only 26% of C-Suite positions. Men still hold the majority of leadership positions, and future statistics don’t look much better based on the mild growth in the last few years.

Girlbosses clearly have a lot of work left to do, and we should encourage love and empathy as we simultaneously affect change. Being cutthroat doesn’t necessarily have to go hand in hand with being any kind of boss. The world is changing, and corporate America must learn to evolve with our culture or risk major disruption. Women should not feel that they have to act like men to get ahead and achieve success, whether as an employee, a leader, or an owner of a business. Women comprise half of the population, and we should feel free to be our divine feminine selves as we navigate the business world. Let’s make that the future of the Girlboss movement.



Founder of Girlboss Burnbook

Hey there! I’m Jenna, the founder of The Girlboss Burnbook. My mission is to support women feeling isolated in their leadership roles. After leaving the corporate world, I realized many women face the same struggles I did. I wanted to create a platform where we could share our stories and empower each other.

At The Girlboss Burnbook, you’ll find helpful content. If you resonate with it, please reach out and share your thoughts. I’m always looking for guest contributors to our blog. Let’s collaborate!

Contact me at info@girlbossburnbook.com. I can’t wait to connect with you!