Tired of watching women pick themselves apart in front of the mirror, blogger Caitlin Boyle scribbled a note on a Post-it: “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!” and slapped it on the mirror of a public bathroom. With one small act, she kick-started a movement. In a matter of days, women were undertaking their own feats of resistance, posting uplifting notes on gym lockers, diet shakes in supermarkets, weight-loss guides in bookstores, and anywhere else a nagging voice of self-criticism might lurk. Emboldening and contagious, the “operation” has attracted widespread attention from the media, including the New York Daily News and salon.com.
Operation Beautiful showcases the notes women have posted around the world and the stories behind them, along with interviews, interesting research findings, and tips for improving one’s outlook on life. Blending a confessional tone with gutsy observations about redefining beauty, the chapters address key issues for women of all ages, including Fighting Fat Talk, Family and Friends, Food, Fitness, Faith, and Going Forward. In the scrapbook tradition of PostSecret and Davy Rothbart’s Found, Operation Beautiful is filled with black-and-white photos and a two-color design, making it the perfect gift for any friend, sister, daughter, or niece.
-Nancy Redd, New York Times bestselling author of Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers
“In a time when so many people have their self-esteem and inner sense of wellness determined by plastic and often unrealistic standards, Operation Beautiful guides the way to loving oneself in a wholesome sense and to being the healthiest, best you can be!”
-Jennifer Ashton, M.D., CBS News Medical Correspondent and author of The Body Scoop for Girls
“Operation Beautiful is tea and sympathy, a kick in the pants, and a pep talk from a trusted friend all in one. Caitlin walks the walk and expertly weaves her own deep-held secrets in with life-changing stories of women from all around the world…should be mandatory reading for women everywhere.”
-Stepfanie Romine, SparkPeople.com
Why do you think Operation Beautiful is so popular with women?
Women love to do something proactive with their energy, and Operation Beautiful is a quick, simple, and powerful way for women to help other women. I’ve been told over and over again that by posting the notes, women feel empowered and happier than they did before. I truly believe this is because the notes aren’t just written to strangers, but women also write to note to themselves. We write down what we need to hear, too!
Tell us a story of a woman who found/posted a note.
One of my favorite stories is of a teenage girl who was in treatment for anorexia nervosa. She was very ill and her doctors feared the disease might kill her if she didn’t take action. Despite months of intensive therapy, she still refused to eat solid foods and was surviving on diet shakes. Her doctors finally convinced her to eat a solid food lunch, but she immediately went into the bathroom to purge when she was alone. She closed the bathroom door and discovered an Operation Beautiful note on the stall wall. It said, “You are good enough the way you are.” She said it was a pivotal moment in her recovery – she didn’t throw up and began to take better care of herself.
What type of women are posting notes? Are they just from America?
One of the reasons Operation Beautiful is so amazing is that women of all ages – from 8 to 70! – love the mission. Groups of middle schoolers get together to write dozens of notes, women in church groups post them up in bathrooms, and even older ladies at nursing homes have written notes. I’ve received many notes from Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Germany, France, Spain, the Bahamas, Canada, and Mexico. It seems everyone loves Operation Beautiful!
What does the most common note –“You are beautiful”—really mean?
“You are beautiful” is really a note that urges women to look inside for their own definition of beauty. Too often we rely on society and media to tell us what ‘beautiful’ means, but I think Operation Beautiful encourages women to redefine beauty as something that encompasses their whole spirit, not just their appearance. Random acts of kindness are beautiful!
How can women stop “Fat Talk” and become more positive?
I think it’s important that we recognize the strong physical and emotional consequences of negative thoughts and words—something I like to call “Fat Talk”. The first step is to consciously correct ourselves when we do it – unfortunately, the habit is so common that we often put ourselves down without realizing! Then, we must replace those negative thoughts with positive, realistic thoughts. I think making efforts to live a healthier, more balanced life also reduces Fat Talk.
What are the top three things you’d want to every young girl, woman or person going through a personal challenge to remember?
One: You are NEVER alone. Even if your family and friends do not understand what you are going through, there are thousands of girls and women out there in the Operation Beautiful community who do. If you need help, reach out to an organization, a counselor at school, a therapist, or a religious leader. Two: Doing nice things for strangers lifts your spirit and makes your day brighter! Three: People have a serious capacity and desire for goodness. I have heard from thousands of people who posted Operation Beautiful notes just because they wanted to make someone else smile.
What note has resonated the most with you?
I think one of the simplest notes – “You are good enough” – is also one of the most powerful. Too often we are told we are sub-par in our society, but believing that we are intrinsically worthy of love and respect is so important.
What celebrity do you feel emanates confidence and great self-image?
I have a great deal of respect for Jessica Simpson. She’s suffered a lot in the tabloids for her appearance, but she seems to accept herself and make an effort to spread a message of the healthy ideal to her fans.
>How can Operation Beautiful’s message apply to young boys/men?
Boys and men feel many of the same pressures that women do. Instead of feeling pressured to be thin, boys and men feel pressured to be muscular. I think we’ve made great strides in making boys and men feel more comfortable being emotional, but I believe there is still too much pressure to play the ‘leading man’ role. I’ve had MANY men participate in Operation Beautiful – the desire to spread of message of kindness and acceptance is not limited to one gender!