Photo by Adam Finkle

Growing up, Marilee Allred moved a lot—from Utah to Texas to Montana and back to Utah.

If being the new girl wasn’t enough, frizzy hair, nerdy glasses and second-hand clothes made grades three to seven hell. “It was easy for me to become a target [for bullies],” she says.

Now, 36, she’s a web designer, former Wasatch Roller Derby girl and has more confidence.

Last April, she mentioned her childhood to a friend who asked for a photo as proof. “I had this idea to hold my picture—kind of a fun before and after,” she says. That sparked the idea for her website, The Awkward Years Project, featuring adults with photos from their childhoods and stories behind them. She hopes kids will relate to the stories and realize how great they are, despite what their bullies say. The average awkward age: 11. 

“We should have embraced our differences back then,” she says. “It just took us a long time to realize we’re great people.”

For more info visit awkwardyearsproject.com.

Back>>>Read other stories in our Jan/Feb 2014 issue.