Embracing Your #AwkwardYears with @merileeloo

To view more of Merilee’s photos and submit your own, check out the #awkwardyearsproject hashtag. You can also email submissions to her at awkwardyearsproject@yahoo.com.

October is Bullying Prevention Month. To mark the occasion, we’re sharing the story of one Instagrammer who came up with a creative approach to reflect on her own childhood experiences and help today’s kids feel better about themselves.

When a friend asked Merilee Allred (@merileeloo) to see her old, awkward photos, she didn’t suspect it would kickstart an entire photo series and a blog. “I had a hard time wanting to show any of them to her because I was embarrassed of those pictures and my past,” Merilee says. “But then it sparked this idea to hold up my younger picture in portraits as a before-and-after. I realized I wanted to start a project that highlights our awkward years. Since I was teased and bullied, I thought it would be a good idea to raise awareness with it, and, maybe, hopefully help kids currently going through struggles, to let them know that life does get better.”

Enter the #awkwardyearsproject series on Instagram. “When I first started, I asked my friends and family to participate,” she explains. The project started on Instagram, but has since expanded to other platforms. “I only post the portraits I take on Instagram, but on my blog, Facebook and Twitter, I feature my portraits alongside guest submissions.”

Want to learn more about what you can do to combat bullying? Check out the following anti-bullying organizations on Instagram:

To see what we’re doing to fight bullying and harassment on Instagram, check out our Bullying Prevention Resources in the Instagram Help Center.