First off, I want to thank my friend Hayley for thinking up this beautiful exposition of raw truths. This is a post to take part in her "Raw Series" that will soon be coming to her new blog. In following the first part of this series from Jacqueline Guelli on this is something I am very happy to share with you all. I am wearing no makeup and I left my hair as it naturally is. None of these photos have been altered, this is all me.

I dedicate this to my family, especially my younger sisters. I pray that they hold their confidence, intelligence and natural beauty close and that they maintain the strength of being gracious to all, even those who attempt to inflict negativity. I dedicate this to my friends, I want you to always see what I see within you. I dedicate this to all those who have ever failed to say something kind and rather chose to say anything but. I dedicate this to anyone reading these words; we are in this together.

My skin, my hair, my quirks and my defense mechanisms... all of the things that I have critiqued of myself, but all of the things that are me. I am nervous writing this post. I fear what people may think, but I am learning to be sure of myself.

Take away the fashion blogger status. Strip away the curled hair and the makeup. Break it down to the clean and bare components of who I am and it's all raw. A lot of people don't know that version, some only take the time to notice the exterior or their interpreted image of me and even further, some people love to hand out labels thinking that they know the truth. But the truth is, I am who I have always been. I don't belong to anyone else, I belong to me. 

I am still that little girl who danced around every room in the house while singing my heart out for my family or anyone who would listen. I am still that girl who sat at her desk in second grade wearing an eye patch and had a lisp from a palette expander. I am still the girl who walked down the hallways of a new school known as "satchel girl" because of the purse I got from my parents that I was so afraid to love for the fear of being labeled even further. I am still the girl who has big dreams. I am still the girl who will stand up for those that are important to me and will always stand up for what I believe in.

I have yet to figure out why our society (and even more so, my generation) has trouble being kind to each other. I am still puzzled as to why there is a stigma to everything, a code of judgement to accompany the lives of others. Let's blame social media. Let's blame Hollywood. Let's blame "mean girl" or "jock" cultures. All of those things may be factors, this is true, but who make up all of those things? Humans. Real people going through real things. We tend see each other through filters. We see others through clips and images, only bits and pieces of our lives. We see one another through the tiniest of pigeon holes so much so that it becomes a boomerang effect onto ourselves. Remember that old saying, "Don't judge a book by its' cover"? No matter how old you get, that will always apply. If we are being real, many of us hope to project a "perfect" or "whole" persona that is accepted among our peers and that is normal. We all in some way care about the opinions of others. Maybe it isn't about completely breaking free of this, but learning that the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to love. Love your mind, your body and your soul and do not let the fear of "missing the mark" keep you from being yourself.

Many times have I sat alone and critiqued myself, too. I have looked in the mirror several times and wanted to see something a little different. A little different why? Because I once allowed for the comments and the labels to seep in. To cover the light of what is true. There are a few people out there that I walk by everyday who tell others of "who I am" with weird glances and lack of eye contact. It's scary that some people think they have you all figured out, but they don't. Not in the least bit do those exerting this kind of negativity in my direction know me. They couldn't possibly know me because I am practically just beginning to know myself. The same goes for anyone else who has ever felt the way I have. THEY DO NOT KNOW YOU. At the end of the day, being a part of the "in" crowd or the "out" crowd doesn't matter! There shouldn't be an either side (this isn't a new concept). It truly doesn't matter, yet we all yearn for belonging. What matters is how we treat ourselves and one another. It's so difficult to realize all of this, to take ownership of our role in it and to step forward in the direction of belonging to ourselves. To care for ourselves in the gentlest ways with respect and consideration and to do the same to our neighbors is what should happen. We need the spoken word that not everything is perfect and it is okay to reveal the imperfect. It's a learning process, but I have faith that we can get there.  

I have frizzy hair. I get acne too often. I get extremely nervous speaking in front of a crowd. I am sensitive. I am passionate. I am defensive. I am intelligent. I am all of the things that others don't necessarily see because we have allowed for and honored a distance between each other in more ways than one. When in reality, I am human, just as you are. When in reality, I am ME and chances are, I am a lot like you.