Seven years ago, I had a meltdown in a public restroom. Negative, nasty refrains echoed through my head as I glared into a mirror. You’re stupid, you’re a failure and you’ll never amount to anything! After years of working hard to improve my self-talk, my positive attitude was crumbling under the pressure of a stressful schedule.
Amidst the tears, I found myself reaching in my purse. To this day, I don’t know why I felt compelled to scribble “You are beautiful!” on the Post-it® Note – but I did, and as I stuck it to the mirror, I felt that tight hold on my heart loosen. I was smart, capable, funny, kind and – yes – beautiful, both inside and out.
I took a picture of the note, went home and blogged about my experience. I asked others to participate and, much to my surprise, they did – by the thousands. The OperationBeautiful.com followers write positive messages or quotes on Post-it® Notes and leave them in public places for strangers to find. Notes that read “You can do it!” are plastered on high school lockers before finals week. Messages of strength and empowerment are left in eating disorder treatment facilities. Random notes encouraging a positive outlook are stuck on mailboxes, on library books, in magazines at bookstores, and on seats on the bus.
Since launching OperationBeautiful.com, I’ve received photographs of over 20,000 notes, but I would guess that hundreds of thousands have actually been posted. I’ve received notes from all over the world – one from every continent, including Antarctica! – and in so many languages. Both women and men write notes, although the movement is especially popular with teen girls as an anti-bullying and positive body image measure in schools.
I am often asked if I really believe that one little Post-it® Note can truly make a difference. The answer is that I know it can. People with depression, anxiety and eating disorders are regularly motivated to get help after stumbling upon a note.
Does every recipient of an Operation Beautiful note have such a life-changing experience? No, of course not. But at the very least, a reminder that “There are imperfections in beauty… Don’t be so hard on yourself!” is a sunny spot in someone’s day. Our Post-It® Notes are like cheerful hugs, reminding both the note-writer and the receiver that they’re not alone in this complicated existence. And at Operation Beautiful, that’s more than enough.
Caitlin Boyle is the founder of OperationBeautiful.com, author of the Operation Beautiful books and the blogger behind HealthyTippingPoint.com. She is 31 years old and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two children. The mission of Operational Beautiful is to post anonymous messages in public places to encourage others. To date, thousands of notes have been posted all over the world, in many different languages by people of all ages. The “Operation Beautiful” book launched in August 2010. Caitlin has been featured on the Today Show, on the OWN Network and in magazines such as Glamour, Fitness and Self. She was also chosen by Yahoo as one of the “Top 10 Inspiring Stories of 2010.” She has spoken at over 100 college campuses about Operation Beautiful.