Four years ago this summer, I was feeling pretty lost. I was stuck in a dead-end job in the urban planning industry. It was 2009, and the economy was collapsing around us. Every month, one of my coworkers was fired. I watched our company dwindle from 45 employees to 12, and I wonder every single Friday if today was the day. My husband was in graduate school and only working part-time; my income was very much necessary. There were some things I liked about my job, but mostly, I dreaded going to work. It was bad.
I decided to make a change. I looked around at my life and thought that becoming a physical therapist sounded like a great idea. I wanted to work with athletes â€“ runners, like me! So I began to take classes at community college to fulfill my prerequisites. I was working 40 hours a week, waiting to be axed, working hard on HTP, and taking three science courses at night. What was previously a cloud of depression exploded into constant, urgent feeling that I was too overloaded and wouldnâ€™t succeed at anything. Ever. I felt like a failure.
One night, I found myself sobbing openly in a public bathroom. I remember looking at the mirror and thinking, â€œYou are a loser, you arenâ€™t going anywhere, you are going to be broke, you suck.â€ I thought such horrible, terrible things about myself. And then â€“ I reached into my bag, pulled out a piece of paper, and scribbled, â€œYou are beautifulâ€ on it. People often think that Operation Beautiful began as a positive body image site, as thatâ€™s what itâ€™s focused on today. But it really started because I just felt worthless in general and needed to remind myself that I was beautiful, capable, strong, and could be successful if I only focused on the task at hand.
I went home and blogged about the note. I put two seconds of thought into the name and called it Operation Beautiful, thinking that maybe a few readers would participate and I could make it a fun feature on HTP. I wish I had that original post still, but in the first few days, I would delete whatever I had written before and add new notes. It only took a few days of this to realize that Operation Beautiful was something entirely unique from HTP and needed its own home.
I remember calling MomHTP and telling her about the response on the blog. I said, â€œI think this could be really, really big â€“ but I donâ€™t want to spend $9.99 registering the domain name.â€ Seriously! Hah. To think that Operation Beautiful mightâ€™ve never existed because I didnâ€™t want to shell out two lattesâ€™ worth of cash. Mom promised me that if Operation Beautiful flopped, sheâ€™d give me $10, and the rest is history.
In the last four years, Iâ€™ve received about 15,000 notes and written two Operation Beautiful books (one for adults and one for tween and teen girls). Iâ€™ve traveled the country, speaking to about 65 colleges, churches, and businesses about the people and stories behind Operation Beautiful. I was even on The Today Show, which remains one of the Top 5 moments of my life.
Iâ€™ve said it before, and Iâ€™ll probably say it a million times, I donâ€™t feel like Operation Beautiful is â€˜mine.â€™ I am incredibly honored to run the site and represent the movement, but it wouldnâ€™t exist without the tens of thousands of people who have posted notes. I know that the concept of Operation Beautiful is not everyoneâ€™s cup of tea, and that is totally fine by me. But itâ€™s undeniable that it has touched the lives of so many young girls and women. I wish I could list all of the stories that I have heardâ€¦ of women with eating disorders, from girls in abusive relationships, from LGBT teens struggling to fit in, from moms struggling with their postpartum bodies. Iâ€™ve heard from two separate people that they were taking an elevator to the roof of a building and planning to jump off - but they found a note in the elevator, and it made them abort their plan. Each e-mail describes how the individual was in such a dark place and stumbled upon a note from a stranger â€“ and they felt transformed. I believe that we often underestimate how much a nice word or a random act of kindness can impact someone. Sometimes, you just need a sign. You know what I mean?
People sometimes ask me when I will â€˜stopâ€™ Operation Beautiful, and my response is always the sameâ€¦ I will continue to run the site as long as I get notes e-mailed to me at OperationBeautiful@gmail.com. I hope the site lasts for decades! I absolutely love everyone who has ever participated â€“ thank you so much. The site would not exist without your efforts, and from the bottom of my heartâ€¦. thank you. I would not want to do anything else with my life, and I am so grateful for the support.
Thanks for FOUR YEARS of Operation Beautiful. Happy Birthday!