Our generation has become slightly obsessed with the notion of “glowing up.” Whether it be changing ones physical appearance or acquiring a new job that allows for guacamole to always be an option at Chipotle, the “glow up” essentially is a status symbol for 20-somethings that could measure personal growth.

But news flash: the “glow up” doesn’t magically happen, nor is it something that one can fake. An authentic glo’ up, in my opinion, doesn’t happen without experiencing a little bit of life –you know, those moments of stress, loneliness, despair, worry, loss, and even heartbreak.

Essentially, in order to truly glow up, you’ve got to grow up.

Thanks to social media, personal growth can take place in real time and with many observers. We have the option of sharing precious life moments within 140 characters or a 10-second video clip—inviting family, friends, and strangers to absorb the world from our points of view. And while social media has made it easier for us to keep up with one another, I’ve learned that it’s the inner work done offline that makes sharing those extra special moments worthwhile.

Personal growth can be observed by others,

but only truly defined individually.

My 27th birthday marked a necessary turning point in my personal growth. Not only did I come to the stark realization that I was entering my late twenties, but I started to become much more aware of my personal space, energy and the people and things that inhabited them both. I started asking myself questions like, How am I investing in myself on a daily basis? What things am I saying to myself that are really true? Are there things (and people) I need to let go of in order to become a better me? Until that point, I had experienced a few life plot twists (losing jobs, dealing with a terrible roommate, cutting off a few toxic friends…) but I was pretty resilient during those moments and kept it moving. But for year 27, God had a totally different plan in mind.

Last year presented a plethora of struggle moments that challenged me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. At times, I found myself frequently running in the direction of fear, doubt and uncertainty. Absorbing these feelings usually left my confidence and self-esteem bruised, and negatively affected the way I spoke about myself to others.

And while I could label my moment on the struggle bus as procrastination, I later learned that I was experiencing what I like to call a transitional shift. This season of uncomfortable, raw honesty pushed me to deal with truths that I had secretly been avoiding for a long time. With help from family, friends and therapy, I was able to identify things I needed to change, improve, and (most importantly) let go in order to level up.

A year later, I’m able to look back on that experience overwhelmed with gratitude, and more aware of how to better manage the next time I find myself on the front of the struggle bus. Growth in any facet of life is never supposed to be easy or comfortable, but it will make you appreciate your glow up so much more.