‘Awkward Years Project’ Reaches Out To Kids With Images Of Happy Adults

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6C8686675-autumn.blocks_desktop_medium__1377352559_142.196.156.251At first, the “Awkward Years Project,” rubbed me the wrong way. After seeing the guest submissions, I’m kind of in love with it.

Utah, graphic designer Merilee Allred was a self-described “queen of the nerds” when she was in high school, what with her frizzy hair and large glasses. But now she is an adult with a flatiron, contact lenses and makeup and she wants kids to know that one day, they’ll be able to straighten their hair, get rid of their glasses and become conventionally good looking, too. I’m joking. That was my first impression.

“I was bullied and teased over how I looked,” Allred, 35, told TODAY Moms when recalling her tween and teen years.

“I was probably one of the tallest in my class so I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was clumsy, and because I was shy and very quiet, I couldn’t stand up for myself so I think I was just an easy target.”

So she started the Awkward Years Project. It’s a blog that invites adults to post before and after photos; one as an awkward teenager and another as a stunning adult. She claims it’s “not about boasting ‘look how much better looking I got,’ but gives people the chance to take pride in who they are and how they survived those years.”

At first I thought, Seriously, is this progress? Is this helping kids with their self-images, or just making it very clear that happiness is directly related to how attractive you are? Then I looked at the guest submissions. In picture after picture, adults look radiant and happy. It’s not about what is conventionally good looking. It’s more about, Hey, I had a hard time in high school too and now look at the smile on my face! The “about” page describes it pretty well:

Remember the years between being a cute kid to the awesome person you are today? I’m talking about your awkward years. I want to share a collection of people sharing their most awkward years and show how great of people they turned out to be. To all of you who are struggling out there, and those that love before & after portraits, this project is for you!

There is something nostalgic and wonderful about it. I might submit a photo, too.

(photo: Awkward Years Project)