If you take a quick look at the magazine rack in your local grocery store, you will find covers plastered with super-thin, gorgeous, smiling women. Though these ubiquitous models are simply used for advertising purposes, in recent years, people have begun to complain that they breed a sense of inadequacy in the female public. One woman, Caitlin Boyle, created the Operation Beautiful web log in June 2009 in order to combat what she calls “negative self-talk” or “fat talk.”
“The biggest mistake we make is beating ourselves up for not looking like models or celebrities. It’s time we stop emulating or striving for a type of perfection that doesn’t even exist in the real world,” Boyle said.
Participants in Operation Beautiful anonymously write and post inspirational notes in public places for passing viewers to stumble upon. These notes typically encourage a positive body image and include phrases like, “Smile, you are beautiful.” In Stuyvesant High School, several notes have appeared on the mirrors in girls’ bathrooms and physical education locker rooms.
Senior Sarah Soo-Hoo was one Stuyvesant student who noticed these post-its. “Anytime I saw these inspirational notes, a smile would appear on my face. These messages would give people around the school a positive view of themselves and overall help them boost their self-esteem,” Soo-Hoo said.
Other students agreed that posting supportive messages is beneficial. “It makes people feel better and that’s one of the most selfless things you can do,” sophomore Anna Mo said.
The Operation Beautiful site displays photographs, submitted by participants, of Operation Beautiful notes. Each photograph comes with a description of the experience of participants. Boyle has received over 7,000 notes from all over the world since she started the movement, including notes from Asia, Europe, and Africa.
“I literally get e-mails that begin, ‘This movement saved my life.’ People underestimate the power of a little Post-It,” Boyle said. “Maybe some people read them and just smile, but I bet some people are truly touched by the effort of a random stranger.”
Since the start of her blog, Boyle has published a book titled “Operation Beautiful,” which includes 125 of the most unique notes she has received, in addition to tips on how to lead a healthy, happy lifestyle, according to the Operation Beautiful Web site.
She hopes the movement will continue to grow and inspire other women. “If this little blog only does one productive thing, I hope it helps readers realize how truly toxic negative self-talk is. It hurts you emotionally, spiritually, and physically,” Boyle said.
SPARK Counselor Angel Colon believes that this movement could have a positive influence on the Stuyvesant community because “it may help those individual with the negative self-talk and later empower them to think and act more secure about themselves,” he said. “My approach with a new endeavor like this would be to first plan it out fully and recruit dedicated members to promote this.”
Boyle advises the Stuyvesant students who want to extend the movement within the school to start an Operation Beautiful club, as other students and teachers have done across the country. “They get together and write notes to put in anonymous places or put them in cards or postcards and mail [them] to nursing homes or soldiers overseas,” she said. “Some groups have fund-raised for girls’ groups such as Girls on the Run or an eating disorder prevention program.”
Students such as junior Sean Chee expressed interest in joining such a club. “Joining a club seems fun. We could think of ideas of what to put on the post-its. You don’t have anything to lose and you have a chance to make someone feel better about themselves,” Chee said.
Guidance counselor Audra Parris noted that many Stuyvesant students suffer from depression, stress, and/or self-esteem issues. “I am quite sure that the guidance team will be more than willing to work with an organization like Operation Beautiful,” she said. “We can do much more by creating projects and events focused on inner beauty, confidence, strength, health, and wellness.”
To learn more about the Operational Beautiful, visit www.operationbeautiful.com.