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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Emerson chapter.

When talking with friends, I’ve often found the term “glow up” often making its way into conversation, whether it be about a celebrity, a person in the neighborhood, or one of us. But with all of these conversations, I’ve often wondered: what exactly constitutes a glow up? What has made these two, little words so popular in today’s culture when put together, and why?

According to Urban Dictionary, also known as my favorite tool for staying on top of the constantly evolving teenage vocabulary of today, a glow up is defined as “a mental, physical, and an emotional transformation for the better.” 

While I do think that addressing a glow up is a way of showing someone is paying attention to another person and I would be flattered if someone told me I had one, I still have a few questions about it. 

When someone brings up another’s “glow up,” what is this saying about the person they are now, compared to who they were before the transformation? When pointing out a transformation of the sort, I think that someone is inevitably showing they have made a comparison of a past self to a current self and decided the current self is superior. 

When this discussion is focused on a mental or emotional transformation, I think that it can be very interesting to see the way someone notices the way another acts differently and for the better. For example, recognizing someone’s new found happiness or energy is a very special form of flattery.

However, when it comes to physical appearance, determining what is considered a glow up seems very different to me. Commenting on someone’s physical appearance means that someone thinks something has made this individual look better than before. What makes this comment a shared opinion between many different people? 

It’s interesting considering the collective agreement by society that someone has glowed up. I believe there are many different aspects of a person that can glow up and I think that at the end of the day, this glow up can only be verified by the person whose transformation is being recognized.

In my opinion, glowing up means moving forward. It means living the life you have always lived, but constantly making it better. To me, a glow up hasn’t happened until you have learned something from the past that has allowed you to move forward and improve. Whether it be a mistake made or a regret, it is learning to accept that and simply finding a way for it to help rather than harm you.

When witnessing other people, I find that a glow up is most obvious in those who are confident about the change they have made. It is the people who have learned from their past and brought it with to become their future self. 

Through my own experiences, I have learned that the only way to truly glow up is for you to believe it. While everything in someone’s life may look perfect from the outside, everything could be chaos on the inside. Some people are just good at hiding it. Glowing up comes from the inside and can eventually make its way to the outside with awareness.

Something that I think many people fail to consider is the fact that no glow ups are permanent. Life has its ups and downs, and we are constantly evolving. There is so much room to keep “glowing up.” Many people in the social media world of today only consider the physical aspect of a transformation, but I think that we can all learn more about each other by considering the emotional and mental sides of a glow up.

So, to answer my own question of “what exactly is a glow up,” I think a glow up is someone’s own realization of the progress they have made in their life and moving forward with that awareness. Once someone realizes their growth, everyone else will see it too, and that’s when the glow up comes about.

Emerson contributor