Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Adele and the toxic impact of ‘glow-up’ culture

CW: discussion of weight, weight loss and the toxic nature of social media

Most of us are familiar with the term ‘glow-up’ and have seen it in action across different social media platforms. For anyone who isn’t – it refers to the transformation of someone’s appearance in what is perceived as a positive way. ‘Glow-up’ culture has been on the rise recently, but this isn’t all good news. This is a culture emerging from social media sites which encourages individuals to strive for personal improvement, usually regarding their appearance.

This can be a great thing for those who are trying to become healthier, happier or more confident in themselves. However, for many people, this can be discouraging and even dangerous. How beauty standards are portrayed by the media and social media influencers can have a huge impact on self-confidence and how we perceive our appearances and the result many people are trying to achieve is often unrealistic.

Singer-songwriter Adele’s recent Instagram post made front-page news and was circulating across social media, even during the current pandemic. Whereas she normally hits the headlines for the release of her latest albums, this time it’s all because of her looks. Adele’s post thanked key workers who are working hard during this time, but for the tabloids, the focus of the post was her weight loss.

Size doesn’t make a person more or less beautiful

In the picture she posted, we see her standing in front of her house wearing a black mini dress. Her weight loss is undeniable, she looks slimmer than ever before. In the past, she has said that she makes music for the ears and that she has no intention to lose weight unless it is affecting her health. This image suggests that her views on this may have changed and while this is good for her, the way that people are talking about it has the potential to be unhealthy. The image really shouldn’t have received as much attention as it did. It is a big change from her previous appearance, but it shouldn’t be breaking news.

People across social media platforms have suggested that Adele is now more beautiful after having a huge ‘glow up’ which dangerously associates beauty with ‘ideal’ body size and suggests that people who have ‘plus-size’ figures aren’t as beautiful. I’m sure this wasn’t Adele’s intention, but I worry that many people may now be trying to ‘glow-up’ exactly in the way she did.

Choosing to lose weight and doing it simply because you want to is very different from trying to become a certain size based on what people perceive as beautiful. People should not feel pressured to lose weight, as long as they are healthy, just to conform to socially determined ideas of beauty. Size doesn’t make a person more or less beautiful and everyone should do what’s best for them. Beauty comes from within and everyone is beautiful in their own way.

There is still a huge amount of pressure to look a certain way

This being said, even the most confident of people may be struggling, as ‘glow-up culture’ only increases now that we have more time on our hands under lockdown. Building up confidence can take years but seeing numerous social media posts claiming that losing weight is the only way to be seen as appealing can destroy this confidence in seconds. Instead of focusing on how much someone weighs, more emphasis should be put on their achievements and personality.

Although I have spoken about this negatively, as a society we have seen a lot of progress towards being accepting of people of all sizes. More companies are creating ‘plus-size’ ranges, more celebrities are sharing their unedited photos and more of us are celebrating achievements that aren’t associated with our appearance. However, there is still a long way to go. The recent example of Adele shows that, while we as a society have started to move forward, there is still a huge amount of pressure to look a certain way to be perceived as beautiful.

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