The Pressure to Glow-Up In Lockdown

Plus, the damaging effects to your mental health.


We all know the damaging effects social media can have. The Advertising Standards Authority (UK) has recently made moves to regulate social media advertising, and Instagram has removed face-altering and skin-whitening filters from its platform. But even with these changes, certain pressures still remain. The latest: being fitter, healthier, and prettier by the time the pandemic is over.

I live in the UK, and we're currently in lockdown number three. At the beginning of the first lockdown last March, my Instagram feed was jam-packed with 5k runs, banana bread, and Zoom party screenshots. Overall, pretty positive.

But I've noticed a slow change in attitude. Sure, with no set deadline to the end of the pandemic in sight, we're all a bit fed up. But I've seen a rise in passive aggressive posts encouraging others to transform themselves in some way during these times. Each post has the same essence: "You’re in lockdown. You should have more free time than ever. What's your excuse?"

For one, I've been inundated with sponsored fitness Instagram posts. Of course, we all know that maintaining a level of fitness is a great way to take care of yourself. But often, these posts involve a TikTok-inspired dance video with background text telling you to download the app in their bio to "flex on your ex" and get a "flat belly". Maybe the app is the best fitness app on the market, and will give you muscles of steel overnight. But should I want to get fit to "show up" an ex? Should my ultimate fitness goal be a flat belly? And are these ads being ramped up to cater to an already anxious lockdown audience?

It doesn't stop at fitness. A rise in Zoom-related cosmetic procedures adds to an already worrying narrative. It seems as though being constantly faced with our own reflections on video calls has damaging effects. Although we're all staying apart, we're as insecure as ever.

So, why is there an expectation that we all should come out of lockdown/restrictions/this Covid madness looking better than ever? My opinion is that we're all looking forward to a fresh start post-pandemic. It seems like a similar mind-set to the annual "new year, new me". But this "butterfly out of a cocoon" idea isn't feasible for everyone- particularly after most of us have spent the last [insert length of pandemic here] stressing about the virus, home-schooling kids, and working from home.

By all means, if you're going to enter the post-pandemic world with a six-pack and glowing skin- well done! You deserve to feel good about yourself. The point is that pressure for unattainable perfection shouldn't play a part in decisions about body image.

In times like these, just getting through can be enough.