Yulianna Yussef is the body positive Insta-girl behind the #bareyourbirthmarks movement.

We caught up with Yulianna to find out more about how she is using Instagram to spread a message of self-love, acceptance and body confidence amongst girls and women.

“My name is Yulianna Yussef, my mom is Ukrainian and my father is Lebanese. I was born in 1993 and briefly lived in Beirut, until my mum and dad divorced, and I grew up with my mom. I’m a very optimistic, positive, friendly  and kind person, my hobbies include reading, travelling, discovering new things and of course my #bareyourbirthmarks movement.

I have something called CMN – or  congenital melanocytic nevus – a type of melanocytic nevus (or mole) found in infants at birth. This type of birthmark occurs in an estimated 1% of infants worldwide. In other words, my marks – moles /spots – are caused by a mutation of body cells during embryonic development, and there’s no known method of prevention.

When I was a child it really affected me: mostly through my teenage years. But almost one year ago I decided that I needed to stop hiding, that I couldn’t live like that any more. So I analysed my life and started the process of learning how to accept my skin. I learnt to love myself the way I am.

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My mission is to encourage other people, not only people with CMN, to love and accept themselves for who they are.

Almost everyone has insecurities, including me (apart from my birthmarks, I have other things I’m shy about!). I just try to motivate everyone to love themselves and to accept themselves- it feels really good!

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My favourite quote:

“Get up, dress up, show up and never give up.”

Growing up with my birthmarks was hard.

I was a really positive child, and a less positive teenager. For example, when I was 14-15 years old, I went with my friend to the beach, and of course people looked at me. Some old woman come to me with her advice on how to remove my birthmarks, some waitresses in the cafe said unkind words to me… lots of things like this happened. So my friend said to me “oh my God, Julie! Walking with you just like walking with a monkey”. I know that it was just words and in some ways it was a joke. I wasn’t angry at her, but after this I began to just sit at home all summer and walked only 1-2 hours in the evenings when it was dark. So, you can imagine what my life was like… I was a Dalmatian, a giraffe, a cow; I was dirty, people thought that if they spoke to me, my birthmarks would jump at them!

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A few years ago I started to understand that I couldn’t live like this anymore.

I mean, I was hiding my body, I had so many complexes, so I just asked my myself, “if I will not accept and love myself the way I am, who will?”. My message to young girls struggling with their body image is this: you need to learn how to love yourself, how to accept yourself. No matter how good you are, how talented, how beautiful –  you’re not going be everybody’s darling. Stop spending time with the people who don’t respect you. Instead, do things that you love, make yourself happier and healthier!