Happy Monday friends! This Monday is very happy indeed {unlike most Mondays} because #RealBloggerBeauty is finally here! I’ve been so overwhelemd and thankful for all the support over the last few weeks, and I can barely contain my excitement to read everyone’s stories throughout the day. If you haven’t heard the scoop before, check it out here for more info. If you’re participating {or even if you’re not!} please share the love & support by visting other bloggers posts so we can have a virtual kumbaya moment, because that’s what it’s all about :)
Please feel free to link up below as well! I’ll be leaving the link up for the next few weeks, so if you feel inspired and want to share your story, please feel free to do so. We’d love to check it out, and share it out too. 
via Natalie Prost Photography {who’s fancy camera makes me look pretty good!} 
My story takes on the very literal meaning of #RealBloggerBeauty, even though I tried to make this project open to anything anyone wants to share :)  For most of my life, I’ve had a very skewed conception of how I looked and how others perceived me, so much so that I was diagnosed with BDD, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder after visiting my fair share of counselors and therapists back in high school.

Back then, I remember so many late nights where I would stay up crying, scared that I would be alone because no one would ever love me. Truly, that was my greatest fear in life. I felt that I had to be the “nice” one of a group of friends, or  the quiet and sometimes witty one, because I’d never be one of the “pretty” girls I desperately wanted to be {ring any bells, I’m sure we had a very similar high school experience!}. I seriously thought that unless others viewed me as beautiful , I’d never meet someone who truly loved me, or be successful in life, or accomplish anything else I wanted to – all because I didn’t feel like I was pretty enough to be worthy of others. I would avoid sleepovers, pool parties, and other social activities because I was afraid I’d feel self conscious, anxious and alone the whole time {which becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, especially in high school.} In a nutshell what it feels like to have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, you easily spiral into terrible thoughts about how you look and scrutinize your real or perceived flaws hours upon hours each day. It was exhausting and managed to damage a lot of my relationships with friends and family. All this because I didn’t fit into my subjective conception of beauty – how the airbrushed models in Seventeen magazine, or Abercrombie & Fitch looked.

In college things did start to get a little bit better. I was able to break out on my own a bit, not having to rely so heavily on always being able to come home or depend on my amazing family for constant support. But it wasn’t totally easy peasy. I would still shelter myself from social events to avoid any potential unflattering situations: staying in while everyone else was out so I wouldn’t look tired the next day, avoiding drinking because I heard it made my pesky under eye circles worse, etc. My tactic of choice for avoiding social situations became hiding myself in a pile of books, which becomes great for your GPA, but a little hard on your soul. I transferred twice, changed majors a dozen more, and finally after 4.5 years said sayonara to school – which felt really good.

 Not until after I graduated did things start to really get better. I finally moved in with Brian after years of dating, and he continued to be nothing but kind and supportive of me. I felt safe and loved, and didn’t feel like I needed to hide myself from the world when I knew I had someone who really did love me and was waiting for me at home after every long day. Ironically enough, starting my own blog & the blogging community has also helped me break out of my shell and feel more comfortable in my own skin. As embarrassing {and sometimes traumatizing} as it is putting yourself out there, I’ve been so fortunate to get nothing but kind and supportive comments from you amazing people :)

I totally get that in the great scheme of things, my problems are small. I have a wonderful family, boyfriend, and life that I’m so fortunate to live. And I totally get if you’re all playing a tiny sad violin from behind your computer screens for me – trust me, I am so grateful for what I have. But in the wise words of the queen {aka, Ms. Oprah Winfrey} – “the struggle is part of the story” – and my struggle has definitely shaped my story throughout the years, for better or worse. It’s important to look beyond the style posts and picture perfect Instagrams to know that we’re all in this little life together. I hope this project and my own story not only helps each other understand one another a bit more, but also encourages you to be a little kinder to yourself too. In a world of constant comparison, it’s easy to loose sight that other people’s lives aren’t always as wonderful as they seem – so let’s all be a little kinder to ourselves, and each other too {the world can always use a little extra kindness, right?}

Again, thank you thank you for sharing your story. It’s so hard to put yourself out there in ways out of the ordinary, but I hope the experience brings all of us closer together. Speaking of being closer together {terrible segway, I know…} those of you in Chicago are invited to a little fete to celebrate the #RealBloggerBeauty project at Rannali’s on June 30th! We’ll be there from 6:30 – 9 mixing and mingling, and a few area bloggers will be sharing their own stories at the event. More details to follow, but we hope to see you there!

Check out the stories below at the blog hop, and don’t forget to share the #RealBloggerBeauty love on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! xx

Katelyn of Katelyn Now  // Elle of Living In Color // Maria of The Style Letters // Morgan of Pampers & Pearls // Laurie of 312 Beauty // Sarah of The Kissing Booth // Brittany of The F Bombs // Emily of Isn’t That Charming // Caitlin of A Cheeky Fox // Ashley of Le Stylo Rouge // Jess of The Golden Girl Blog // Johanna of 101 Things I Love // Molly of Heart of a Blonde // Kelly of What Love Does // Emily of The Sunflower Manifesto // Cara of Balance in the Burbs // Amy of Cupcakes and Couture // Rachel of Suburban Style Challenge // Erin of Loop Looks // Lindsey of The Garden Apt.  // Katie of Little Black Blog // Emma of The Story of my Recent Life // Kit of The Kittchen // Teresa of The Teresa Nicole // Lauren of Lake Shore Lady // Arin of Heart of Chic // Rachel of An Eventful Life // Livia of Love Always Liv //  Lorin of Restless and Rebellious // Mark of An Epicurean in the Windy City //  Shaheen of Lows To Luxe // Samantha of The Brunette One // Katie of Live Half Full Blog // Jena of I’m Perfectly Human // Erin of Color Me Styled // Katelyn of Katalina Girl // Gabby of Look Sharp, Sconnie //   Ashleigh of The Darling Daily // Ashlei of Kinks are the new Pink // Dani of Thyme Is Honey // Katie of To Live for Style // Megan of Stylish and Scatterbrained // Deanna of Chi City Mom // Debra of Sunsets & Stilettos //  Katherine of Paytington & Co. // Sara of Project Soiree //  That Distant Afternoon // Cassie of Packages, Boxes and Bags // Valerie of The Style Files // Monica of Caravan of Style // Jess of Jess Classy // Hollie of Fancykins // Aisha of Soul & Spirit // Ivy of Wakeup for Makeup // Alex of Styled in the Heartland // Whitney // Lauren of La Petite Fashionista // Kira of Keeping up with Kira //  Jas of Thee Fashion Stories // Jana of Jana Style Blog // Katie of Pretty in Pale //  Laugh Anyway // Jen of Basic Training Corporate Style // Chelsie of The Glossy Life // Bow & Arrow Magazine // Tomissa of She Loved Life // Maria of A Different Fashion // Doodles and Dodads // Ada of Elegance and Mommyhood // Charica of Manx Marche // Lo of Classy & Fab Girl // Nancy of Fancy Nanc-ista 

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/16216365245189940946 Jenny

    I love the idea behind this project – it's so refreshing to see something so honest like this on blogs nowadays.
    I was so inspired after reading your story because I can understand the struggles you went through. Even now I'm still struggling to break out of my shell and be comfortable with who I am instead of trying to be someone else. Thank you so much for sharing this, and I can't wait to read other people's stories!

    Jenny @ Geeky Posh

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/06874888871479603055 Katelyn Now

    Thank you so much for coming up with this project! The sugar-coated world of blogging is quite frustrating and I think it's important for us to be vulnerable sometimes and REAL all the time! You're the best and it sounds like you have overcome you insecurities and realized how great your life really is. You are such a beautiful person and it was fun meeting you on Saturday :)

    – Katelyn

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/04007881039439123263 Ana Kamin

    I think it's so brave to share such a personal story. And I still believe in this project, even if I haven't prepared anything for today. ( I haven't been blogging that much lately) but maybe I will catch un in the next days. The world of social media, especially the blogger one, can be really confusing and as you mentioned it's not always mirroring the real life. I really believe that we should step back more often and just appreciate and cherish what we have.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/02968201340756879885 Becky M

    This was so great of you to share this! It was beautifully written! And he sounds like a keeper!


  • http://www.312beauty.com Laurie

    Maya, you are incredible! Thank you for sharing and for encouraging us all to to do the same. You're such a babe, inside and out. xo

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/06448030133304232807 Emily {Isnt That Charming}

    Love this link up, Maya! And, I truly think you are so brave for sharing your story. You're one incredible lady!
    Isn’t That Charming.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/08240438267138115474 Teresa Nicole

    Such a wonderful inspirational story! I am happy for you and you have so much to be proud of! Sometimes when looking at blogs, they can just seems like a really beautiful fantasy and sometimes we forget that these are real people and real lives and they have struggles and difficulties as well! So thanks for sharing! :)

    xoxo Teresa

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/11933828667131330825 Alyssa

    I so love this project you started Maya–it's totally needed in this blogging community and very refreshing. You're such a gem, and I'm so grateful to know you!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/16666593890385173482 Ginny MyNewFavoriteOutfit

    Thanks for sharing your story! I'm so glad things are so much better than they used to be and I'm glad glad you started your blog.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/17309483383922386048 Rachel

    Such a great story that so many women and girls go through each and every day. I'm so glad at the progress you've made and this link-up is awesome!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/03931401750884199529 awhite

    You brave, beautiful girl. I'm so lucky to have met you + count you as a friend. Thanks for putting #realbloggerbeauty together, Maya! Such a fun and uplifting project to be part of. :)


  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/16990012566268372250 Alissa

    Annnnnddddd this is why I love you. Seriously. You have no idea how much I look up to you!

  • http://thegoldengirlblog.com Jess

    So exciting to see so much participation here! Such an amazing project, especially your own story! You are one of the most beautiful and inspirational girls I know – so glad to be your friend!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/09570376178444767356 Johanna

    Thanks for creating such an amazing movement and for sharing your story. I think you're beautiful on the inside and out!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/16282782626606655709 Rachel Lynne

    Thank you for sharing Maya… you are beautiful and it saddens me to know that you have been through so much to finally get to feeling like you can get out of your shell and embrace how truly beautiful you are (INSIDE AND OUT)! What a wonderful project, and I can't wait to read everyone's stories!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/02882268446547451093 Jessica

    You have such a beautiful soul, Maya! Thank you so, so much for putting this all together! You inspire me each and every day :)

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/09403299720329503073 Alison Dulaney

    You are so brave to reveal something so personal Maya. What a great initiative you have created, to encourage others to put themselves out there. Bravo, well done :) xx

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/08330729177452002308 Elizabeth Colbert Burns

    I found your blog from Pampers & Pearls link-up. Your story and heart resonated so much with me, I could have written parts of it myself! From being given terrible nicknames, to being heartbroken by those you considered your friend. I am so happy that you are in a good place, despite all of those TERRIBLE mean girls. You are proof for all the girls still struggling that it gets better!! Thank you for sharing your story and heart!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/05545111716059654884 Margaret Dallospedale

    Hi Maya, you're a special person,
    Congrats for this amazing initiative.
    Maggie D.
    The Indian Savage Diary

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/00335599777746256597 Karly @ Miss in the Midwest

    Thank you for sharing your story – I'm actually a little teary-eyed right now! Although I was never formally diagnosed with BDD, I've always felt that I look at myself in a different way than everybody else does. So, I can relate. You're definitely an inspiration to me and a lot of others, I'm sure.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/18420284137400397385 Jalpa T

    I loved reading all the inspiring stories. It's very cool of to share and start this project.

    – Jalpa

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/09979619656946708224 Suburban Style Challenge

    It was SO wonderful to meet you Saturday, and I wish I'd put two and two together, haha! I think I was just overwhelmed and excited about a faul leather fringe skirt 😉 But regardless, I love this concept and love when other bloggers share something "real" about themselves. There are times when I feel like half of the bloggers our there are just… supreme beings or something, prancing to high-roller events in their Balenciaga shoes, carrying vintage Chanel bags and clutching their Louis Vuitton-clad iPads with always perfectly manicured hands :sigh: It's refreshing to hear that others who put themselves out there PUT THEMSELVES OUT THERE! It's like there are more imperfectly real bloggers out there than just me, and it's great! Thank you for starting this, and thank you for sharing your story. I think, as women, we do a lot of self-judging and a lot of other-hating, and that if we all work harder to support each other, accepting ourselves may come a little easier too. I've been trying very hard lately to judge others less and love myself more, and in doing so am realizing that when I see the good in others, I see more good in me too :)

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/06870647651078672680 Amy {Cupcakes+Couture}

    thank you thank you thank you for starting this campaign! :) it's just what i needed to write about/read about lately. support is so important – instead of putting others down and comparing ourselves and feeling inadequate, we should celebrate all the positive in our lives and be thankful for what we do have!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/04482703385103047136 Kari

    Thank you so much for sharing, Maya:) It can be hard to open up (especially on the internet), so I applaud your bravery. You are a beautiful person, inside and out! This campaign is so awesome, and I'm so glad you started it. It's easy to compare ourselves to each other and think that the other person has it all figured out, but oftentimes they're dealing with their own things, too. Everyone could use some extra love and support, and this is a great reminder. Hope you're having a wonderful day!!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/03095195921965762631 2 Girls in 2 Cities

    Hey – congrats on sharing this and on overcoming so many internal conflicts! This is inspiring! – J

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/03647863540091005703 Lindsay Ropella

    This was such an amazing idea that you came up with! It's been so inspiring to read everyone's stories, yours included. While I didn't suffer from the same circumstances and have the same issue you did, I can understand where you're coming from with this. Growing up (and even now sometimes if I'm being honest) I will keep myself from doing certain things with friends because I'm afraid of either how I will look (ie. swimming or boating or something) or what people will think of me. But I'm realizing by doing this I'm missing out on a lot of great opportunities and on life. I'm trying to just tell myself to find a way to feel my best and then just go with it and not worry about what other people think, but that sure is easier said than done, isn't it? Thanks so much for sharing your struggles, and for starting this awesome movement!

  • http://stylishandscatterbrained.com/ Megan Stylish + Scatterbrained

    I know I sound like a broken record here, but you are amazing. You are such an inspiring individual and you have started an incredible movement. I am loving reading everyone's stories and look forward to more #RealBloggerBeauty in the future!!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/04282282125060862013 Andra Christianson

    Maya, thank you so much for sharing your heart so openly! What an encouragement you are to so many. So glad I follow your open and very real slice of the internet.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/04563801194788642301 Lorin Jetter

    Thank you so much for putting this project together and allowing so many of us to get involved! I am beyond moved and inspired. xoxo!!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/13974596118043550053 Erin Bassett

    Lots of us struggle with similar things! It feels so nice to know I'm not alone. Thank you Maya for putting this together and I look forward to future editions.

    • https://www.blogger.com/profile/13004090118642772140 Maya | Charmingly Styled

      That's a good idea! Thanks so much lady for your support and participation! xx

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/04712500786433016072 Arin {Heart of Chic}

    What a beautiful roundup of courageous people! Seeing beauty in our imperfections is SO important! Grateful to be part of such an amazing community. Thanks for sharing, everyone — and thanks Maya for thinking of something so small, yet so powerful! Hope to meet you all soon! XX HeartOfChic.com #KeepMovingForward

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/08967793623306794161 Miss.AishaLC

    Thanks so much for putting this together. It felt so good to share part of my story. Also, you are so beautiful! You are an inspiration.


  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/17608915530680250274 Nikki

    This was such an amazing idea. I think this is such an important message you are spreading! I think you are incredible!


  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/18286648146803495117 Katie Wilkes

    I can totally relate to this. Thank you so much for organizing this! You have no idea the impact you may make on someone :)

  • http://www.keilabeegoes.com Keila

    Very cool! I just found out about this today so I missed the cutoff! But I hope to be a part of the next installation. I love the idea of sharing our stories with each other, to remind us that we're not alone. Thanks for this movement!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/16722677704483489216 The F Bombs

    Girl! I was right there with you! I was convinced that because I was "ugly" (the glasses, braces, and bangs trifecta didn't help) that I was NEVER going to find a boyfriend. I was so self conscious, which made me a target for the bullying I talked about, and I was always comparing myself to the girls who had boyfriends. Long story short, I can totally relate! Thank you so so so much for putting this project together! I'm still reading everyone's posts but it is so wonderful to see what makes these beautiful bloggers who they are! You my dear, are inspiring!!

  • http://shellchicd.com emily | shell chicd

    You are so brave– thank you so much for sharing and for creating this beautiful campaign! It's been wonderful hearing from all these women, and I'm so glad it introduced me to you, your blog, and your story :)

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/13297604516582834332 Rachael Adele

    You are so inspiring and so brave, Maya. I've loved getting the chance to read everyone's stories and yours especially hit home for me. You're making an impact on many women's lives through this campaign of yours, lady!

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/04122629242002825519 chenlili
  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/04122629242002825519 chenlili