Written By: Magdalena Styś
With the rise in popularity of self-care, a new genre of content took over social media: “transformations”. There are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to reposting the most impressive glow-ups found on the Internet; particularly in late August and early January, lifestyle YouTube is flooded with “Glow up with me for the new year/new academic year” videos. While those glow ups do sometimes include improving your mental wellbeing by doing things like taking walks, journaling and talking to loved ones, they are usually primarily appearance-focused: common tasks related to a glow up include getting haircuts, exercising, learning new makeup techniques and doing skincare.
Just the fact that those videos and accounts, based on the idea that we should improve our looks to start new chapters in our lives and that we are defined by our fitness levels or the trendiness of our haircuts, get so much attention, is concerning. But what I find even more worrying is the fact that those “crazy transformations” are not the result of things like haircuts and weight loss — but the fact that people in the pictures simply went through puberty.
Let me make something very clear: if you’re 13 years old, you probably don’t look like a supermodel. Furthermore, no matter how many meals you’ll skip and how many skincare products you’ll spend your allowance on, you still won’t look like a supermodel. I’ve fallen into that way of thinking before: I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, so I started doing what I thought would make me “prettier”, when in reality, all I had to do to look better and more mature was growing out of being a preteen. But there was no way for me to know that — I kept seeing pictures of girls who sort of looked like me transform into insanely beautiful people, and I wanted the same spell to be cast on me. I failed to realize that those girls didn’t just start doing their makeup, but they went through puberty. And that mindset isn’t just present on the Internet — recently, I heard a high school student talk about an “insane glow up” her friend had, just to find out later on that they last saw each other at the age of seven. Our obsession with beauty forces children, especially girls, to feel like they need to be cute from the moment they can walk, and then by the time they can read, write, and multiply numbers, they should look incredibly beautiful.
At this point in my life, I’m trying not to view myself through the lens of my appearance since I haven’t been put on this planet to look pretty — I’m here to read books and annoy my friends. But if you’re around my age or younger and you’re concerned by your appearance, don’t worry. Your face and body will probably change 1000 times during the next 5 years, and all you can do about it is sit back and observe, and do whatever the hell you want to do in the meantime.