My Glow Up Diary: Part 2


A week ago, I decided to punch my woe-is-me mentality in the throat and drastically take charge of my life.

The cherry on my depression sundae was the unforeseen breakup with a guy I adored. It wasn’t that things ended…it was how he ended it that gutted my self-worth. Combine that with my already depression-laden self and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I can’t keep living like that. I decided it was time for a glow up. Eating better, exercising, not being a vampire to sunshine, and a bunch more goals made the list. If anything, it keeps my brain busy.

Getting a new gym membership instead of going to my old gym or working out in my garage was a game-changer. I don’t think Planet Fitness knows that it’s too pretty of a gym to make me pay only ten bucks a month. I’m also kinder to myself with I miss a workout. I’ve been exercising for years, the continuity ebbs and flows with life.

Forcing myself to get dolled up before running errands is a challenge. I’m not a spring chicken; I can’t slap on mascara and look polished. I can’t even say if it’s helped me feel better compared to jeans, a tshirt, unshowered, and no makeup. But I know my younger self would be appalled and how I leave the house so I need to raise the bar, especially since I work from home and no one sees me outside of Zoom calls.

Eating healthy is a struggle for me. My weight isn’t an issue. The concern is that I’m not taking care of myself from the inside out. It’s hard to think of health when you’ve had a lifetime of disordered eating and eating disorders. I’m chugging more water because as much as I hate it, I remind myself how plants wither when they don’t have turgor pressure from being filled with fluid. My skin needs hydration to look plump.

I manage one healthy meal per day, which I guess is better than the days of chips and cookies. Eating healthy is expensive and I’m a single mom on one income. I struggle at the grocery store. Walking in, I tell myself “Time to get some veggies all up in this mutha effin’ body!” And then I see the prices and I tell myself they’ll rot before I get around to eating them so buying them is a waste.

Even worse, I’m an emotional eater. I’m maintaining a relatively healthy outlook (note the word “relatively”) but I still have my moments. Last Thursday was the worst.

I made a new friend and we met for breakfast. I’m small but I’m wide; it’s like taking a rolling pin to a strand of dough. I have a boyish shape with little change in my hips. There’s no hourglass going on with this body.

This new friend shows up in leggings, a tank top, and a form-fitting Lululemon jacket over the ensemble. I look like Gigantaur next to her. How that body made two kids is beyond me. While we’re chatting, my eating-disordered brain obsesses over her microscopic frame.

Is this my “competition” on dating apps? Single women like her who are tiny without being covered in tummy tuck and boob job scars? I shoveled two ginormous pastries out of anxiety.

Later that night, I went for a Moms Night Out with some friends. It was late and I figured a light dinner at home offset the breakfast binge if I had a single drink with them.

We went to a new restaurant in the swanky part of town. Walking up, I felt like I was in Hollywood trying to get into the hippest club without a celebrity by my side. The cars in the parking lot were fluorescent and looked cartoonish rather than standard sedans. I had to laugh when I drove by them, looking for parking in my Honda SUV covered in dings from a recent car accident.

Thankfully, one of the friends made a reservation so we were able to get past the bouncer (yes, a restaurant had a bouncer). The people inside were surreal. Whatever way you’d imagine a hip, trendy restaurant is what it was in real life.

There were young gorgeous model-esque girls in outfits that I didn’t think existed outside of runways. Think sheer lace with black panties and black bras visible. There were older Real Housewives-types with duck lips and overfilled cheeks. The men varied in age but they oozed money out of their pores.

Nearby was a table of women in their late forties to fifties. The cosmetic procedures combined could buy a house. As young as they tried to look, their hair had the telltale sign of age by being dry as hell from excessive blow-drying.

One woman in particular caught my eye. Ultra tan and legs to rival any twenty-year-old’s limbs. Her blond hair was in layers and looked poppin’. Despite having a horrible outfit, she stood out from the crowd. She wore simple blue shorts and a white tank top. This woman could have come straight from cleaning the bathrooms in that outfit and yet, she looked stunning.

My anxiety and self-esteem issues, already triggered by my breakfast encounter, skyrocketed. I inhaled every greasy appetizer my friends ordered. My eyes kept glancing at the Gorgeous Middle-Aged Woman’s table, desperately looking for the secret to her magnetism.

Is this what I’m competing with on dating apps? When Jeremy dates, are these the women he’s hooking up with? If she’s a ten, then I’m a two.

Comparison is the thief of joy and I let it steal any good vibes I accumulated since my personal glow up project. I logged back into a dating app to get the validation I craved from external sources.

That led to three dates scheduled over three days. Ten out of ten, do not recommend. I haven’t gone on the third date yet; I need to cancel, work out, and then stay home with a book.

Something random that’s boosted my happiness quotient is having a playlist when I’m stuck in the car. If I rely on Spotify or Sirius XM radio for music, I’ll hear songs that remind me of Jeremy. Instead, I have a mix of random songs with no rhyme or reason to their sequence as a brain distraction. Pro tip: eighties music is great when making a fluffy, fun playlist.

When I’m at home puttering around, I play the Smartless podcast. It’s hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes. On my own, I have very little humor in my life. That podcast is the antidote when cleaning or getting ready. I’m screwed when I run out of episodes.

It feels trivial to combat the intensity and severity of depression with things like funny podcasts. It’s like trying to end a war by sending Hang In There cat cards to world leaders. My life always has the inner voice of depression. I don’t know if I’m naive to think small changes like upbeat music are the key to battling lifelong depression or if that’s been the secret all along: the little things that make humans happy.

My emotions are a rollercoaster. Again, I don’t know if that’s normal. Is that part of changing oneself and feeling an emotional release? Or am I pretending to pursue a glow up when deep down, I know I’ll end up right back where I started?

It boils down to permitting myself to glow up. I grew up with religious, immigrant parents who laugh in the face of therapy and mental health. It’s so damn hard being nice to myself and doing things that make me happy without feeling self-indulgent.

For example, studies show that getting nice workout clothes makes a difference in performance and self-confidence. I have various shorts and sports bras but I’d love a cute matching set. I can get that for under twenty bucks online.

No-brainer, right? I suffer through a shitty job to make extra cash, I’m entitled to getting aesthetically pleasing workout clothes, right?

But then I think back to the upbringing drilled deep in me and how I don’t need new workout clothes. I want them to feel good about myself and have another excuse to visit the gym. I struggle with feelings of self-indulgence and hedonism.

To experience a glow up, I need to accept frivolously selfish acts. It’s not just to feel good in the moment, but also to break through the martyr mindset. I can justify vanity efforts like Botox because they don’t make me feel good. They don’t make me look good. They make me look less bad. And in the world of tech, aging doesn’t give you street cred. It gives the impression that you’re too old to understand current technology.

Change is uncomfortable. Being kinder to myself is uncomfortable. Not engaging in self-loathing is uncomfortable. Not comparing myself to others is uncomfortable. Not defaulting to my depression MO is uncomfortable.

When I hear “glow up”, I imagine a beautiful goddess emerging into the sunlight like a butterfly exiting a cocoon. I think my glow up is like a troll goblin leaving her cave after a decade, only to get doused in translucent setting powder from a Sephora employee and handed a stack of self-help books until someone eventually throws a graduation cap on my goblin head.

I’m learning that a glow up isn’t about external appearances. It’s fixing all the “selfs”: self-concept, self-esteem, and self-perception. It’s also about learning what it means to put yourself on a pedestal, which feels like I’m tasked with climbing Mount Everest.

And so, the glow up continues.

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