Glow Up Culture Makes Me Uncomfortable

Odessa Denby
3 min readJul 7, 2022

Have we become our own bullies in our quest to “glow up”?

Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

“I bet you regret being mean to me when I was an awkward pre-teen… because now I’m hot!”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but this is the plot of nearly every glow-up video or post across social media. People talk about some bullying they experienced or an unkind romantic rejection and then show how ‘hot’ they became afterward as if it’s a sort of revenge. Or they show awkward pictures of themselves, usually between ages 11–16 (an awkward time for many), and then say how proud their younger self would be because now they’ve grown up to become conventionally attractive.

They went from feeling rejected by oppressive beauty standards to conforming to and upholding them. Yay?

The lesson many of these seem to hinge on can be summarized as: don’t bully people for how they look, because they could become more attractive later. Rather than: don’t bully people because we are all struggling on this floating rock together and deserve basic human dignity.

Ultimately, we are still linking a person’s value, even our own, to how aesthetically pleasing we are according to a specific set of cultural guidelines. Guidelines that are created to sell us things and keep money in the pockets of a small number of people.

So is it worth celebrating that either you had the genetic make-up all along that enabled you to grow into a conventionally attracted person after you got through puberty? Or that you potentially had to channel a lot of time, energy, and money into crafting the perfect face and body?

As humans, we are often visually motivated. We like to look nice and we like nice-looking things. But I have often struggled with the idea of seeing our physical bodies as some sort of masterpiece that we must labor over to achieve just the right collection of brush strokes. Mainly because we aren’t a vase or painting, we are dynamic living things and change is inevitable. Our bodies will always be in flux, but so much of our idea of beauty is about freezing time for a single moment.

Why is youthfulness considered the most attractive? Because it’s fleeting and companies know that people will spend huge amounts of money chasing it for the rest of their lives…

Odessa Denby

Professional writer and editor, former expat. Conscientious lifestyle and relationships, mental health, and the arts.