The highs and lows of TikTok’s rising ‘breakup glow up’ trend

While the act of ‘glowing up’ after a breakup can be considered a flex, it is not as glamorous as it seems on social media.

Noreen Shazreen

Probably the coolest cat lady you’ll ever meet.

Published: 20 September 2021, 12:58 PM

As a member of Gen Z who loves scrolling through TikTok aimlessly for several hours a day, I recently discovered multiple videos showing users who were devastated after their breakup and eventually blossomed into a happier, healthier and more confident version of themselves.

Rather than putting sad songs on loop and eating a whole tub of ice cream to cope with their sadness, these individuals strive to bounce back from their breakup by improving themselves mentally and physically. 

Whether it’s through changing their style, adopting a healthier diet, or working out in the gym regularly, breakup glow ups have become a TikTok trend in which users flex how much they have evolved since their breakup.


A breakup glow up typically shows one transforming into a more confident version of themselves by changing their appearance and style. PHOTO CREDIT: HTET HTET NAY AUNG


On the surface, becoming productive and improving one’s physical appearance may seem harmless. However, this behaviour can also lead to other problems when people start to glorify the breakup glow up. 

As someone who has never gone through a heartbreak, I decided to speak with a few youths to get their candid thoughts on the post-breakup glow up phenomenon.

Glowing up helps one improve their mental and physical health

One of the main reasons youths jump on the trend is that glow ups can help relieve the emotional pain of a breakup through self-empowerment. 

Victoria Tan, a polytechnic student, shared how it helped her move on from her breakup, which happened in 2019.

She said: “I first learnt about the trend earlier this year and thought that it was a healthy coping strategy that helps people get through a breakup. It’s a healing process where I learnt to love myself and do the things that make me [feel more confident].”

The 19-year-old had seen several such videos on TikTok, and found it fascinating to see how much one can alter their physical appearance after a breakup. 

“I’ve tried things like cutting my hair, colouring it and even did piercings to improve myself… These made me feel more confident as compared to exercising because it was an immediate change that I could see and show others,” she shared.


Victoria has experimented with multiple piercings and different hair colours to enhance her physical appearance and feel more confident. PHOTO CREDIT: VICTORIA TAN


As her breakup happened before she enrolled in polytechnic, she also worked hard to achieve her goal – ensuring she would do academically well in school.

Although Victoria has experienced a glow up and strived to better her physical appearance, she thinks that youths should not be pressured to succumb to the trend or feel pushed to change themselves if they do not want to.

She said: “You don’t need to try to be a better you. You’re great the way you are. But if a haircut or a trip to the spa makes you feel like a boss, then go do it!”

Glowing up after a breakup doesn’t happen overnight

While taking steps to enhance one’s physical appearance and mental health are always desirable, breakup glow ups are often glorified on social media, making them seem fun and appealing – all of which are far from the truth.

Htet Htet Nay Aung, a 20-year-old polytechnic student, believes that youths should understand the true nature of the trend and realise that it is not as glamorous as the Internet portrays it to be.

She said: “I think the trend is great as it focuses on empowering yourself and others who may be going through the same thing. However, I think it’s important for TikTok users who follow this trend to understand that the glow up doesn’t happen right away after a breakup. 

“There are a lot of tears, anger and grief that you have to go through before you can even reach that stage to take care of yourself.”


While Htet believes that the trend encourages self-empowerment, youths need to realise there are other negative aspects to breakups, which can be painful and traumatic. PHOTO CREDIT: YUVRAJ SINGH VIA UNSPLASH


Although Htet believes that the trend can benefit youths positively, she thinks that the overly positive nature of the trend tends to obscure the fact that people sometimes need more time to grieve and drown their sorrows.

She said: “Being positive is great, but it can be overrated sometimes. We, as human beings, are complex, and we don’t have a switch that goes from sad to happy with all the problems gone and lessons learnt. 

“I think one thing that has helped me is to speak kindly to myself and take the healing process slowly.”

Glow ups can occur at any time, not just after a breakup

While youth like Victoria is certain that the breakup led to her glow up, others believe that it can happen at any time.

“I just happened to glow up after the breakup. Even if I was not in a relationship, I think I would still have glowed up,” said Sakthi Kumar, a 19-year-old polytechnic student.

Unlike most people who feel hurt and angry after a breakup, Sakthi was relieved when he ended his relationship. 

His breakup became the catalyst for his mental development. He now no longer feels anxious to point out the red flags he was experiencing from his partner if he encounters them in the future.


Sakthi believes that breakups have nothing to do with glow ups and that he would have experienced one no matter if he was in a relationship or not. PHOTO CREDIT: SAKTHI KUMAR


He said: “Your glow ups shouldn’t be because of an external factor. It should be something you realise within yourself. 

“I wouldn’t want to say that I glowed up because someone else let me down and failed me. If you glowed up, it should be something you notice and want to improve in yourself.”

Although it doesn’t hurt to better ourselves mentally and physically after a breakup, it is clear that giving ourselves time to grieve and reflect is also part of the journey to glowing up. 

The trend could perhaps be a fun approach to show how much people have transformed since their relationship ended.

While it is harmless to follow such a trend, learning to heal our wounds and taking the time to grieve is probably a more helpful step to feeling better after a breakup.

“Heartbreak doesn’t last forever and time heals all wounds. But if you need to do anything to feel better, just do it, as long as it’s not harming you in the long run,” Sakthi said. 

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