As you may know, I run a second blog called Operation Beautiful. The mission of Operation Beautiful is to post anonymous notes in public places. These notes typically encourage positive body image and a happy outlook. Since I started the site, I’ve spoken to more than 3,000 girls, women, and men about body image issues, and this is the subject of my book.
Critics of Operation Beautiful say the act is too small to have any real impact on body image, but I’m here to tell you that’s not true. All you have to do is read the site for one week, and you’ll see tons of examples of how posting these notes has increased self-confidence and awareness.
Lili wrote, “For 10+ years, I have struggled with eating disorders, body image, and weight issues. Weight and food and health have consumed me for as long as I can remember. When I heard about Operation Beautiful, I thought it was a wonderful idea. I bought some sticky notes and a marker, and stuck them in my purse. I would write notes and post them at school, at my counselors office, at stores, any where and everywhere — I wanted to encouraging other women. Little did I know, I ended up encouraging myself. I wrote "You Are Beautiful" with sticky notes on my bathroom mirror at home. This was a monumental occasion for me because I have NEVER felt beautiful. I have always looked at myself negatively. But, if I believe that other women are beautiful, I need to believe the same thing about myself. And now I do.”
I’ve gotten several emails from women who are struggling with self-confidence, Fat Talk, and (sometimes) weight gain/inability to lose weight. I’ve noticed that these women are often the biggest supporters of Operation Beautiful, constantly sending me notes for the site. They will end or begin their email about their issues with a line like, “I support Operation Beautiful, but I sometimes just feel so bad about myself. I’m a fraud!”
I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the goals of the Operation Beautiful concept, or if you chose to use another method to increase self-esteem, the goals of developing body confidence in general.
I truly believe that negative self-talk is damaging. I did it to myself for YEARS, and I can safely say that it made me an unhappy, unbalanced, miserable person. It wasn’t so much the shape I was in, how I looked, or the way other people treated me… it was how I treated myself.
When I began to treat myself with kindness and respect, a lot of other good things happened to me, too. For example: people stopping walking all over me. In many ways, when we negatively self-talk, we wish for our lives to improve or our bodies to look perfect, and then – and only then – do we plan to stop being so negative (i.e. “As soon as I lose 20 pounds, I will go on a vacation and wear a bikini.”). You have to put the metaphorical cart before the horse. To improve your life, relationships, and health, you have to greatly reduce your negative self-talk.
You are your greatest love.
I fear that one accidental side effect of Operation Beautiful is that people feel that they must NEVER Fat Talk or engage in negative self-talk. If they do these behaviors, they have failed at self-worth. The goal of Operation Beautiful is not necessarily to eliminate all Fat Talk or negative self-talk permanently. The goal of Operation Beautiful is to open our eyes to the fact that 1) we engage in this behavior in the first place; 2) why we feel compelled to Fat Talk; and 3) what proactive steps we can do to remedy the underlying cause of our Fat Talk.
Why do we Fat Talk? Beyond our own broken sense of self-worth, I believe we Fat Talk because:
- We’re stressed – It’s a coping mechanism.
- We’re mad or unhappy – Our appearance is something tangible that we can ‘control.’
- We’re under enormous pressure from society and the media to look a certain way – And when we don’t meet these impossible standards, we freak out.
In many ways, the pursuit of perfectionism about body image is just as damaging as Fat Talk in the first place. To feel guilty for engaging in Fat Talk is useless. When we engage in any negative behavior, we need to look at the reasons why we are doing so.
I occasionally engage in Fat Talk, and I negatively self-talk about once a week. It’s a really bad habit, and it’s hard to break free from. The FOUNDER of Operation Beautiful struggles with body image from time to time! I consciously know that I am perfect just the way I am (and you are, too)… However, the media and models in magazines are a huge trigger for me. I’ve stopped reading magazines that photoshop everyone into perfection. It’s not realistic, and I don’t need those toxic thoughts in my head.
My body is STRONG, and I am very proud of it. Does that mean I don’t have cellulite? Does that mean I dropped those 5 pounds I gain post-marathon (which means I can’t fit into some of my favorite jeans)? No… it does not. But when I feel tempted to berate myself, I think, “Why? What is this going to solve? What is my heart really trying to say when I look at myself critically?”
I wish that I could always be free of Fat Talk, but maybe in our society, it’s virtually impossible. But I always feel better after Fat Talking because I look deep into myself to discover the root cause of this behavior. And then I take proactive steps to remedy the situation.
- Think critically about the media.
- Remember all your accomplishments.
- Consider all the wonderful things your body can do.
- Remind yourself that life is a journey, and you’re doing the best you can do at any given moment.
- Cut yourself some slack.
- Post an Operation Beautiful note for a stranger to find.
- BELIEVE and KNOW that true beauty is on the inside.
Remember, you are beautiful. 🙂