May 19 2023 – Delikate Rayne

Whether you're a heavy social media user or not, you've probably heard or came across references of the term 'Glow-Up'. Simply put, to 'glow up' means one has to go from ugly to beautiful or visibly transform their appearance for the better. First depicted in movies as the 'ugly' girl transformed into the cool girl, this was stereotypically accomplished by removing her glasses and braces, and giving her a trendy hairstyle and outfit. Now in modern times, you are able to swipe and see the term used to appeal to beauty standards as a way to express how far a person has come up physically -- be it drastically losing weight or owning trendier outfits and clothes. However, is glow-up culture doing more harm than good?

Unrealistic Beauty Expectations

While glow-ups can be encouraging to viewers looking to better their lives, the effects of the trend may have a more harmful impact than it intended. Social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are common places to find transformation trends and challenges like the '24 hour glow up challenge' that is popularized on YouTube. Along with that, many influencers and celebrities are known for their 'glow-ups' (ex: the Kardashians) and, whether they meant to or not, have set and confirmed beauty expectations for society, which can negatively affect the mental health of onlookers who don't fit the beauty standards of a modern world.

'Ugly to Beautiful' Message

The message behind a glow up is to go from ugly to beautiful. Many people have fed into the notion by presenting their glow ups on social media and sending the message, sometimes even unknowingly, that their former self was not good enough, our sources say. "They usually do this by deprecating what they looked like, and who they were, before the glow up took place," perfectly explained by Shameeka Voyiya at Her Campus. This betrays an unsettling idea that certain appearances are deemed valuable and others inferior.

Too Much Focus On Physical Appearances

Glowing up isn't problematic when done for the right reasons. As humans, we should always strive to better take care of ourselves and become our greatest versions, physically and mentally. However, when you think of a glow up, you don't think about the mental aspect of it. Even in the comments section, you can find individuals glorifying or devaluing another person's physicality, blindly giving the 'glow-up’ hashtag an apparent freedom to comment on other’s appearances and physical changes-- which should have never been okay.

Even now, as many of us are stuck at home, many have felt the pressures and urge to get more done. Seeing others post about accomplishing their goals online during quarantine has become a popularized trend, often referred to as a 'quarantine glow-up'. While it can be great to be productive during this down time, people should not have to feel pressured to do more, as it is not a vacation but, for many, a fight to keep their heads above water ---- as many are being laid off, suffering from the loss of income, and even having to work from home with their children.

While glow-up culture is intended to be empowering, like many other trends on social media, it also has the potential to become toxic harming one's mental health and self-confidence. It blindly sends the message that who we are now is not enough and that we should be doing more. To 'glow-up', we would have to admit we were ugly and not attractive in the first place, and well, that's just not the case.

Source: Her Campus, The Teeming Mass, State Press, & Utah State University
Photos via Pinterest & Marie Claire Australia