When I first started seeing the 10-year challenges pop up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I raced to look back at photos from 2008 and laugh at how silly I looked then compared to now.
“Ha ha!” I thought, “I was a mess back then, this should be fun!”. But then I scrolled through my Facebook photos and found that actually, I was skinnier and ~looked~ happier than the photos I see of myself now, where I have put on weight and put less emphasis on my appearance.
My initial reaction was of sheer disappointment. Ah shit, I’ve really let myself go, haven’t I?
But then I thought about it.
I remembered that back in 2008 I had just started University, was drinking like a fish and was let’s say…dealing with some shit. I wasn’t confident at all, despite the smaller clothing size and the cooler hair (I dyed it quite often back then – red was my fave, the blonde was a mistake). Although I had lots of “friends” around me, many eventually disappeared at some point in 2009/10.
Back then, my self-worth was not a priority at all. Luckily, I was doing well in my studies despite not particularly caring about them. My priority was what alcohol I was going to pick up from the local Iceland to enjoy that night, and making the arrangements to have as many people over as possible for pre-drinks. That version of myself is one I don’t really recognise anymore – in spite of the regular Facebook memories posts that pop up to remind me of what I now deem as my “youth”.
Sure, back in the day I did have fun. A lot of fun. But I also had some pretty shitty times too – and not just from drinking too much vodka, or the night I drank gin for the first time and cried like a baby.
It’s funny when the moments that feel so small and insignificant back then shape you later on. That’s the real glow up, pals.
Whenever I see a glow up post, it always seems to be about appearance. Someone lost a bunch of weight, or just learned more about fashion and knows how to dress in a way that makes them “glow” with confidence. I love that, for them. That’s aces if that’s what makes them happy.
But my glow up is different.
On the surface, you might look at a photo of me from 2008 and one from 2018 and think that basically I just got old. But actually, there are much more important things that have happened beneath that surface.
First and foremost, my mental health has become a priority. Maybe it’s because self-care wasn’t really “a thing” back in 2008, but really I think that back then I just didn’t give a shit about my wellbeing. I was happy to just carry on, business as usual, and never take a step back and look inwards at what was going on.
Now, my emotional intelligence has seen a significant improvement. I listen to how I feel, and I react. I learn. I grow. Gone are the days when a Woo Woo cocktail from the local 90’s club was a form of catharsis. Instead, I have therapy and journaling, and I’m finally learning to look after myself as well as I looked after others. There were people who I cared more about than myself who most definitely didn’t deserve it.
Another glow up I’ve noticed is my confidence. I’ve never been particularly confident – being petite and often overlooked growing up meant that when I did get attention from someone, I craved it and it became like a drug to me. As I’ve got over I’ve done a 180 and now prefer if the attention is elsewhere.
I’ve changed from being desperate to be heard to being keen to listen. It might sound like a simple shift, but it fundamentally changes your mindset.
As a teenager (even though it really was my late teens back then), you feel invincible. It’s an odd psychological battle of not caring at all and caring too much. As an adult, you become more aware of who you are and what you want to do to make sure you’re the person you want to be. With that comes the confidence I’ve seen in myself in the past year or two. I am more certain of who I am, and I’m happier with it.
That’s not to say that the need for self-improvement isn’t there. There are things I want to work on, things I am trying to work on. As soon as we come to terms with the fact that we are our own grandest project, the sooner we can lay the foundations and build upon them to feel more sure of ourselves as we develop.
For me, “glowing up” is less about the pounds you’ve shed or the fact you can dress fashionably. It’s more about how you’ve grown emotionally, the things you’ve been through and conquered to better understand who ~you~ are and what makes you the awesome person that you are. Don’t feel like that person just yet? That’s OK, there’s always time to work on yourself.