Gives Me Hope and Operation Beautiful: Can You Change the World With Positive Thinking? Yes.
By Nordette Adams on February 01, 2010
BlogHer Original Post
Part two of a two-part post: Caitlin Boyle of OperationBeautiful.com and Gaby Montero of GivesMeHope.com both seem to say based on their experiences with being more positive and how people have responded to their motivational Web sites and blogs that we humans greatly underestimate thinking positively. My question is, "Do we give more power to negativity because we underestimate positivity?"
Caitlin believes that women who focus on the negative rather than the positive are sabotaging their lives.
In a phone call, she said to me that she's heard women say:
"I'm too fat to exercise." Or "I wake up in the morning, and I feel so ugly I don't even want to put on clothes to go out of the house." A lot of (these thoughts are) created by media pressure and social pressure. ... I've found through Operation Beautiful that positive self-talk can make a huge difference in fighting negative self-talk. That's the goal of Operation Beautiful, to try to be the antidote to this negative self-talk, but a lot of women have been ingrained to regurgitate it without thinking of consequences to themselves or the people who hear it. (Caitlin speaking)
I asked her to tell me her favorite story from Operation Beautiful. She debated which one to tell and then told me about a letter she received from a 17-year-old girl who was in a treatment program for anorexia. The girl, according to her letter to Caitlin, had been living off Slim-Fast shakes and refused to eat solid food. As a result, she suffered multiple health issues that threatened her life.
Her therapists decided to try aversion therapy and told her that she could not leave until she ate a 500-calorie, solid meal. She consumed the food but was so distraught about eating it that she went to the facility's restroom to vomit. Entering a stall, she closed the door and then saw posted on the back of the stall door an Operation Beautiful note.
"It said something like "You are beautiful as you are. You don't need to change. There's nothing about you that you need to fix." She didn't throw up the food," said Caitlin. Today the blogger, who has a book on Operation Beautiful coming out in August, keeps in touch with the teen.
Both Caitlin and Gaby live full lives. I couldn't speak to Caitlin immediately because she was running in the Disney Marathon. She finished and raised around $3,000 for cancer research.
When I tried to reach Gaby, I received an even more exciting reason why she couldn't be reached immediately. She said she would be out of touch for a few days because she'd taken her co-founder and fiancé, Emerson, into the Ecuadorian jungle to see the Amazon River. When she returned she wrote to me:
We just got back from the Amazon with Emerson a couple of days ago! He'd never been to the Ecuadorian Jungle and since he's already been here 3 times! (I'm from Ecuador, just fyi). So we went to this city called "Banos," which is an adventure town. We did some crazy things like rappelling, canopying, canyoning, white river rafting, bungee jumping etc! It was a crazy trip :) (Gaby)
I've been wondering about their lives. Are they full of energy and positivity because they're young and thin, or are they full of positivity and energy because they focus on the positive? However, when I was young I didn't run any marathons, nor did I take a boyfriend to see the Amazon.
I suspect the answer is both, but Caitlin credits the positive stories that come to her through Operation Beautiful with enriching her life.
I have the best job in the whole world to wake up every morning and see those notes and to prepare the posts. It's made me a happier person to see how much positivity is in the world. Sometimes we get really bogged down with all the negativity. It's easy to overlook the nice things in life, especially the little ones, but running Operation Beautiful has made me appreciate how nice people are, because people really are nice when you get down to it. People really do want to do good things for each other. Operation Beautiful has made me a happier person. (Caitlin)
In no way should that statement be construed to mean she was formerly unhappy. Her blog, Healthy Tipping Point, shows that this young woman works consistently at being healthy, while Operation Beautiful makes it more clear that she believes "people decide to be happy" and feel good about themselves, that when we tell ourselves stories, such as "I'll be happy when I look less like me and more like the model on the magazine cover," we are putting the cart before the horse. Her philosophy begs this question, "Is it possible that we'll look beautiful like a model on a magazine cover when we decide to be happy with ourselves as we are?"
Her most recent post at OB indicates that idea -- that mental joy must come first -- is exactly what she believes. She's posted a picture of an OB message from one of her readers that says, "The most happy people are the most beautiful. Not the other way around."
Christina wrote, “After following Operation Beautiful from the start, I was SO excited to discover a note of my own in the make-up section of a Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto! As soon as I saw a Post-It on the shelf, I knew it was an OB note, and the message was awesome!! I also whipped my camera out in the middle of the aisle to snap a pic!” (OB post)
Continuing to give credit to Gives Me Hope for inspiring Operation Beautiful, Caitlin says that she can't recall how she came across the site, but she remembers thinking the site was "really sweet" and then one of the stories about a girl who found a random note on her car window touched her. "And I thought maybe I'll be that person who writes the note," she said.
One night while attending an evening class as she considered a career change, she was having a rough time. While in the public bathroom, she decided to write her first Operation Beautiful note and said it made her feel wonderful. So she took a picture of it, posted it on Healthy Tipping Point, which averages about 500,000 hits per month, and threw out the challenge for other women to post such messages.
"I thought that maybe I'd get ten notes. In a matter of three days I had 50," she said. Apparently, the small gesture struck a chord with her readers, and soon OB required its own Web site separate from Healthy Tipping Point.
"I think it gave people something simple to do, and it has a huge impact on how you feel when you post it and the people who find the note," she said.
Perhaps coincidentally, when asked to share her favorite story from GMH, Gaby shares one that relates to Operation Beautiful.
Today, I was in the fitting room at Forever 21. I looked in the mirror, worrying that the dress I had on made me look fat. To the right of the mirror, someone wrote "Don't worry. You're beautiful. :)" It absolutely made my day! (GMH note)
Gaby said it's not her favorite because "It's the most inspiring or most emotion-filled story, but because of what it started.
After this story got posted, we were bombarded by hundreds of people saying they were inspired by this story, and they went out and did the same! Pretty soon we'd heard of thousands of notes being left EVERYWHERE - at the workplace, in bathroom stalls, even between the pages of diet magazines. Before we knew it, Caitlin from OperationBeautiful.com started compiling all the stories, and Operation Beautiful was well underway :) (Gaby)
GMH definitely touches people. It has become more successful than Gaby thought it would. "It's getting approximately 820,000 uniques each month, and it has been steadily!" she said.
Knowing that these positive Web sites have been so well received is a gives-me-hope story in and of itself. Each day we're told that it's the ugliness that sells, a Tiger Woods or John Edwards falling story, and each night it's the bloodiest crimes that open our local news casts. But some of us are not focusing on the obstacles to overcome the obstacles. Some of us are looking beyond the spoon, it seems, like the young boy in the movie The Matrix who tells Neo, "There is no spoon. It is not the spoon that bends but you."
Is it possible that it's not our surroundings that make us who we are, but the attitude and perspective we bring to our surroundings? Caitlin believes the ability to change our lives is about attitude with action, which is why the positive thoughts with concrete action, like leaving empowering notes, appeals to her, and stopping "fat talk" while getting out to run or lift weights goes hand-in-hand.
"Positive thinking without action is just dreaming," she told me. Still, both Gaby and Caitlin emphasize positive thinking precedes positive change.
Is it possible that with the proper positive focus and mental adjustment, you, too, will start to take action to live the life you've dreamed?
If you missed part 1 of this post, you may read it here.
Photo Credits: First photo is Caitlin Boyle, and second photo is Gaby Montero. Both photos came from the women's respective blogs.