Remember the adage “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Man, we said that a lot growing up! But here’s the thing: It’s not true. Words hurt. They sting. And they stick with you for years. 

That’s exactly what The Worthy Project, an inspiring photo series, points out. Photographer Kierra Mellenthin gathered dozens of women and asked them to write “a memory, incident, or a phrase that stuck in their mind that had ever made them feel unworthy.” 

Here are a few examples of what the women wrote down. The comments people have received are upsetting, but it’s important to recognize how a couple of words can really impact us years later. And ultimately there’s a happy ending—just keep scrolling:

The Worthy Project
The Worthy Project
The Worthy Project
The Worthy Project
The Worthy Project
Photos: Kierra Mellenthin
These comments are hurtful, but Mellenthin set out to prove that they don’t define the women in the photographs. After photographing the portraits, she asked each woman to look around the room and write compliments on sticky notes about the badass ladies surrounding them.

So, at the end of the shoot, the women ended up with uplifting messages all over their bodies. It’s a simple thing, but after years of being told you aren’t worthy, having someone say you’re brave, strong, and beautiful is pretty empowering. Check out the great messages below:

The Worthy Project
The Worthy Project
The Worthy Project
The Worthy Project
Photos: Kierra Mellenthin

(h/t Revelist

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