None of us have to be alone in this struggle.
Kierra Mellenthin spends her days looking at bodies and thinking about beauty.
As a photographer, it comes with the territory.
With the new year, Kierra wanted to find a way to break down the walls with which society surrounds the idea of beauty.
In a firestorm of creativity, just six days after her original idea was born, she was gathered together with volunteers between the ages of twenty and forty-seven, women of every shape and size, to talk about how beauty is perceived and how it has impacted their lives.
She called it The Worthy Project.
Kierra asked the women to write down on a piece of paper something that was said to them or a memory of something they experienced that made them feel unworthy.
Portraits were then taken of the women as they held up and shared their vulnerable memories.
Seeing these portraits, it's impossible to deny just how hard society is on women — and our bodies and self-esteem.
There's no denying the fact that if you are a woman in possession of a body (a.k.a. every woman) there are going to be people who feel it is their right to tell you how that body should look, what that body should do, and what they think of something that should be NONE of their business.
Even though I know how hard society is on women, I scrolled through Kierra's images and felt my eyes well with tears.
It wasn't because I was shocked or saddened by what I read (although I was) ... but because it was a powerful reminder of how none of us have to be alone in this.
That message was important for Kierra to communicate to her volunteers as well.
When the first portraits were done, after each woman had shared her hurt, the women were instructed to write a positive statement on a post-it and place it on another woman.
It was a palpable reminder that we aren't alone.
That we are beautiful, and that we are SEEN as beautiful by the people who matter most in our lives, even though it might not always feel that way.
I'm not saying you need to start putting sticky notes on all of your friends with affirmations written on them.
But maybe take the time to tell your friends why you love them more often.
It can only make them feel good, and we need to support that kind of positivity in the world around us.
If society won't affirm that we are worthy just the way we are, then maybe we should take the time to do that for one another.
"Having a total hysterectomy at 31...while trying for another baby."
"Stay fat, I don't like my girls skinny."
Physically repaired, emotionally broken.
"Maybe after this one you should get your tubes tied."
"No one is going to love you."
"You need to eat a cheeseburger."
"I want nothing to do with her!" - my father
"Your top's tight don't you think?"
"I'm embarrassed to be seen with a fat girl!"
All photos property of Kierra Mellenthin, shared with her permission. You can see the whole project on her website and believe me, every last image is beautiful: