*soulTHINGS: Geek To Gorgeous Inspiration From Awkward Years Project




Deena Marie<br />Then: 13 years old, 8th grade, in Salt Lake City, UT<br />Now: Professional actress, online personality, and model residing in Salt Lake City, UT</p><p>I got to know Deena through our mutual friend, Daisy. The more I got to know her, the more I adore her. And the more you get to talk to her, the more fun things you learn about her! Did you know she got to interview the last six American Idol contestants last season (2012-2013) for the Ford Fiesta Movement?! She’s full of life and a smile that lasts for days. Here’s her story:</p><p>"My awkward years were from fourth grade through the middle of eighth. I remember feeling pretty sad through the first half my eight grade year. What a hard age! You’re struggling to find out who you are, what makes you feel comfortable, what your identity is and going to be.  I had a sense of not feeling like myself, but not knowing who that self was yet. I had braces, I was just learning to do my makeup and while I loved makeup clothes and fashion, I kept getting it wrong. The wrong styles, the wrong fits, trends I should have just steered clear from. But if everyone was doing it, I told myself I had to, too.  I didn’t think I had another option.   </p><p>"I wanted to feel good in my skin, and I wanted to stand out but I didn’t know how. That spring my braces came off, I suddenly started looking more like a teenager and not so much a preteen and that’s when things really started to change. Not only physically but I started to find myself as well. It had a lot to do with finding the right circle of friends, activities I was enjoying outside of school as well, discovering what I found fun, and how I liked to dress.  </p><p>"I soon discovered my own personal style and path was not like anyone else.  </p><p>"I definitely marched to the beat of my own drummer in my wardrobe, with my friends, in school. Getting the first taste of embracing who I truly was at the core came the next year in ninth grade. What a difference a year makes! And I began to learn that tuning in to who I was, finding where I was comfortable and felt most like myself made me confident. And in feeling confident, I felt attractive. That became far more important than trying to fit into the wrong molds.  </p><p>"One thing I’ve absolutely loved about growing older, is you learn how the outside doesn’t matter one bit. We aren’t what we look like, or how we dress. Last year I shaved my head to experience first hand how I was not defined by my hair. My hair, my clothes, my height, my weight to not define who I am as a person.  </p><p>"It’s an endless journey, tuning in to find my truth, figuring out who I am at my core, listening to my heart of hearts. It’s so true that the most important pilgrimage we will ever make is within our own selves. The more we connect with our essence and sink into ourselves, the more our confidence radiates outward.</p><p>"I don’t claim to be done, I have days where I feel like I look great, and others where I feel like I look terrible. Just like we all do. I will always be a work in progress.  But I enjoy the journey more each year."<br />

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!  More at Awkward Years Project.

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