This week’s post is about a book I’m reviewing in conjunction with Twitter Moms, Gotham Books and Penguin Publishing: Operation Beautiful by Caitlin Boyle is a must-read and a must-read now.
Boyle wrote this book after an impromptu life experiment that involved her fledgling self-esteem, a post-it note, and a mirror. And that is when history was made. Unbelievable, life-altering history: Caitlin, unlike so many women around the world, started thinking positively about herself. And in turn, she moved women across the nation and beyond to take their self-images into their own hands, demanding more than adequacy. “One post-it note at a time,” is what she asks us to do. The concept itself sounds so simplistic, even juvenile. Tacking up post-it notes all over the place whenever we feel we need an image pick-me-up? Well, yeah. And it’s a damn good idea. Common knowledge is that men are visual creatures, while women are more cerebral. But why is it that women base their low self-esteems on what they see all day long on commercials, in magazines, in the movies? And if at looking at images all day long can drastically alter the way we see ourselves, then couldn’t the same happen from reading positive words of affirmation?
Boyle captured comments and photos from women all over, from teens battling eating disorders to women battling chemotherapy. And let me tell you, if you think your hips are truly the end of the world, imagine losing every strand of hair on your body while dying in the hospital, staring into the tear-filled eyes of your children.
Sometimes, I wonder what I even have to think highly of. I spend my days covered in food. My kids, while the light of my life (really, I love those little guys so much it hurts), manage to make a fool of me almost daily. The needle on the scale is immune to gravity, always moving in the upwards direction, and my clothes are no longer trendy, but (gulp) comfortable. Sure, being a stay-at-home mom is where I want to be most of all, but it has taken a major toll on my self-esteem. And this is where Operation Beautiful came in.
After finishing the second chapter (fittingly titled “Fat Talk,” one of my bad habits), I decided to participate. We were out of post-it notes, but I did have a magnetic notepad on the side of our fridge. I stood there with my Sharpie in hand, and I wondered what to write. I closed my eyes and thought, “What can I do?” And then, I wrote:
If there’s one thing in life I can always do is make people laugh. Being funny has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. I grabbed my four-year old and together, we went into the bathroom and stared into the mirror.
“G, smile with Mommy.” I said.
He did. So did I. And then, my smile led to a grin. So did his. The grin to giggles, and the giggles to all-out laughter. And when I caught myself laughing in the mirror, I noticed what pretty teeth I have. I also noticed my dimple, which reminded me of something G asked me one day, (“Mommy, how did you get that hole in your face?”) Remembering that only made me laugh harder, which showed the crinkles around my eyes. And you know what? They looked fabulous. They complimented my lashes and hey, I’m a woman. I’ve had babies. I’ve nursed two hungry boys. I have stretch marks, battle scars, years of hardships, family drama, sadness, excitement, peer pressure, marriage problems (and joys), and you know what? I am real. And “real” is beauty.
So, encouraged by the first post-it, I set about writing a second round. And then a third. And by the end of the week, when I had finished the book, the notes had become such a familiar sight that I chose to leave them up. Some need a scotch-tape reinforcement, but they remain. The other day I heard my son asking my husband what the notes in the bathroom said, and he said, “Son muy buenas cosas de tu mama.” (“Good stuff about your mommy.”)
Recently some good friends of ours came to visit over a long weekend. They flew in on their Cessna and while here, treated my husband and I to a private flight over the metro area where we live. It was truly remarkable. While up in the plane, I was able to see all the oddities and irregularities of nature that make it so original and so gorgeous. From the grocery store I shop at to the lakes we swim in, I saw everything. Even our own front yard, complete with kiddy pool! I was able to look closely and see details that are impossible to notice from a bulky commercial jet. Maybe if we all just stop for a moment and notice the imperfections on our own selves, we could then see the true beauty.
One of my favorite quotes from Operation Beautiful reads as follows: “It’s time to let go of society’s thin ideal and create your own concept of beauty. Change how you see, not how you look.” (pp. 62)
I’d like to close by saying “thanks” to the fabulous and beautiful Caitlin Boyle. Thanks for being brave enough to take that hard leap into foreign territory, one in which we should all visit more often: The Land of Loving Ourselves. The Land of Beautiful.