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Operation Beautiful: The Power of a Post-it

One woman’s crusade to banish fat-talk.

Her weapon of choice?

A yellow sticky note.

 Fed up with women picking themselves apart in front of the mirror, 26-year-old Caitlin Boyle scribbled “You are beautiful” on a sticky note and posted it on a bathroom mirror. She snapped a picture, uploaded it to her blog, and encouraged her readers to send in pictures of their own notes.

To Caitlin’s surprise, the trend caught on and she received hundreds of responses that first day. Less than a year later, more than 7,000 notes have been left around the world from Philadelphia all the way to the Philippines.  

The Post-it revolution, now dubbed Operation Beautiful, has a simple mission: to make women feel better about themselves.
Every day women leave anonymous notes in public places and send in pictures to operationbeautiful.com. Post-it notes have been discovered in restrooms, on gym scales, and next to diet products in the grocery store. One was even found on a copy machine –
“Be an original, not a copy of someone else.”

“One simple little note can have such a powerful impact on people,” said Caitlin.  Her Campus was lucky enough to talk with Caitlin and she had some great things to say!

HC: Were you surprised at how quickly Operation Beautiful became popular? 

CB: The idea definitely went viral. I was surprised at first, but in hindsight, I see why it’s been so successful.  We need this type of positive messaging in society, and Operation Beautiful is simple, quick, and effective – both for the note poster and the finder!

HC: Why do you think a note from a stranger can have a positive impact on a person’s esteem? 

CB: I think it makes people smile when they realize how much goodness there is in the world.  The idea that someone would do this for a stranger is so uplifting.  Also, people place these notes in locations where negative self-talk often occurs, such as the bathroom mirror, the scale, or the changing room at the gym.
HC: What’s your favorite Operation Beautiful note story?
CB: My favorite story is Vit’s. Vit, a teenager in Canada, was in a treatment center for severe anorexia.  Her doctors were concerned that it was going to eventually kill her.  She slipped into the bathroom to throw up her lunch and found an Operation Beautiful note on the stall.  The simple message – “You are good enough the way you are” – made her pause and reconsider her destructive behavior.  She followed up with me a few months later and said she was out of the hospital and healthier than ever. Vit knew a stranger posted the note, but she felt like the timing was a message from God.

HC: Why do you think so many women struggle with self-esteem issues?  

CB: There is a lot of negative messaging in our society, and the issues start young – did you know the average girl goes on her first diet when she’s 8 years old?  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.  It’s OK to look like a human!

HC: What do you hope for the future? 

CB: There is a lot of negative messaging in our society.  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.  It’s OK to look like a human!  

HC: What advice would you give to college girls to build body confidence?

CB: Well, I’m not perfect either. It’s a struggle for all of us, because certain habits are ingrained in us like fat-talk or self-doubt. But, there are still things we all can do:

  1. Break the cycle. Instead of participating in fat-talk, compliment a friend and compliment yourself.
  2. Replace negative self-thoughts with positive ones.
  3. Be realistic. Don’t set goals that are unattainable for you. No one looks like a supermodel, so stop trying!
  4. Think about your health, not your size or weight. Health comes in all different shapes and sizes. Healthy looks different on different people.
  5. Everything you need to be confident is inside you!

Caitlin’s words are inspiring, but for even more inspiration, check out pictures of thousands of notes at operationbeautiful.com and in Operation Beautiful: The Book.

Even better, leave a note of your own for a stranger to find!

Alexa is a senior at Boston College majoring in Communications with an emphasis in journalism. She is spending her fourth and final year at BC enjoying tailgates, theme parties, and life long friendships. That is, of course, when she isn’t busy writing for or reading one of her favorite magazines. As a self-proclaimed magazine addict, Alexa has a subscription to over a dozen glossies and sometimes buys more on the news stands. Yikes! In the past, she has even interned for a few: Seventeen magazine, Boston magazine and now she joins Her Campus. In her free time Alexa enjoys reading chic lit., working out to bad reality TV reruns, and indulging her addiction to fro-yo. She is interested in pursuing a career at a women’s lifestyle magazine.