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How to Glow Up

The back of a person, staring down at several mirrors which are labeled by years. Many people feel the need to constantly improve their appearance, but accepting the way you look now is the key to personal confidence. Illustration by Pearl McNames.

Content Warning: This article discusses topics such as dietting, eating disorders and fatphobia. 

Summer has come around faster than we could have ever imagined, rearing its beautiful tanned head and its hair blowin’ in the wind. This time of year, we find ourselves preparing for the excessive sunshine, planning weekend vacations, and shopping for swimsuits. It’s the season that signifies freedom, fun, and new adventures. But for many people, this time of year holds a double edged sword. As I scroll through social media, I catch phrases like “hot girl summer” and “the perfect summer body”, which seem to be everywhere on the internet, and so many young women are caught up in the web of negativity and insecurity these concepts create.

It’s no secret that social media has played a negative role in consumer self esteem, including, but not limited to, young women. Messages like these can also be seen in magazines and on television. Our daily lives are filled with outside influences, telling us what we should look like, what we should wear, and who we should be. Workout routine videos claiming to give you the “perfect hourglass body” and makeup tutorials that will make you look like Madison Beer intoxicate our minds and at times can seem inescapable. 

This reinforcement of unrealistic beauty standards has shown up in mainstream media since before many of us were born. Some of the first movies I watched, such as “Cinderella,” and “The Princess Diaries,” portray a homely, supposedly “unattractive” girl transforming into a beautiful woman because her appearance was changed. And only after that transformation, were they found to be attractive. These movies, books, shows, and magazine articles all push forward the narrative that women must become more physically desirable, whatever the cost may be. 

In the summer, it seems there is an inevitable pressure to conform to this idea of the “summer glow up.” This usually manifests itself as an over the season appearance or mentality change, or excessive working out and dieting before the summer begins. However, it is not limited to any one season. It doesn’t matter the occasion, there’s a constant pressure, put heavily on women, to continuously improve their physical appearance and it is completely normalized. 

In the recent 2022 Met Gala, Kim Kardashian shared how she lost 16 pounds in a matter of weeks in order to fit into a dress. In an interview with Vogue, she said, “I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein,” Kardashian continued on to say, “I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict.” 

This idea contributes to toxic, unattainable, eurocentric beauty standards, as well as overall fatphobic ideals. So many of these physical glow ups are often only attainable to certain body types and suggest that weight loss is necessary for beauty. Pushing forward this narrative causes not only a negative body image, but disordered eating, chronic exercise, fatphobia and unrealistic, non-inclusive beauty standards.

There’s an unhealthy narrative that when one loses weight or changes their appearance in some way, they are deemed as more worthy or mentally progressed. When Adele lost weight, mainstream media didn’t outright celebrate her new body, but instead talked about how much she had “improved” and “progressed.” This pseudo-validation points to the disgusting and transparent objective that mainstream media associates weight loss with self worth. When in reality, this association is blatantly wrong and contributes, not to self love and improvement, but instead to businesses and profits that can benefit off of the market of weight loss. 

As summer rolls around, it’s important to recognize that so many of these pressures to improve our appearance are not beneficial. These pressures only benefit those who profit off of weight loss marketing. Your body is yours, and that doesn’t need to change for anything, whether that be a season, an event, a person, or even an inner monologue. There is no milestone that you need to surpass regarding your appearance in order to be worthy of self confidence and joy.

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