Anonymous sticky notes, sidewalk chalk lift self-confidence

By Jordan Hearne

Anonymous compliments posted around campus have boosted self-confidence this semester.

Emma Wood, staff psychologist at the Baylor Counseling Center, has seen sticky notes in bathrooms at the McLane Student Life Center and chalk messages outside of the building giving positive affirmations, such as “your value is not a number on a scale” and “you’re beautiful.”

While no one has come forward to claim ownership of these random messages, Wood said seeing these encouraging statements is a key to addressing body image issues and fighting negative self-talk.

She described negative self-talk as an ongoing tape recorder in a person’s head with messages designed to hurt self-image.

“They think, ‘Maybe if I hate my body it will give me motivation to work harder,’” Wood said. “This can lead to eating disorders and depression.”

The positive notes are reminiscent to the work of Operation Beautiful, a national campaign dedicated to ending negative self-talk.

According to Operation Beautiful’s website — a blog founded and managed by a girl known only as Caitlin — the mission began when Caitlin started leaving positive messages on mirrors of public restrooms.

“I hope it helps readers realize how truly toxic negative self-talk is. It hurts you emotionally, spiritually and physically,” Caitlin wrote on the website. “My personal goal is to leave as many Operation Beautiful notes as I can.”

The blog encourages others to continue this practice by leaving inspiring, uplifting messages on sticky notes wherever they go.

Wood said she believes Operation Beautiful and the random notes encouraging self-love can improve a person’s ability to stop negative self-talk, something that is difficult to avoid.

“Part of it is a societal thing. It’s encouraged to talk bad about oneself,” Wood said. “Once you look at societal messages, about the value placed on appearances, you get a limited idea of what beauty looks like.”

Lincoln, Neb., sophomore Bailey Jenkins saw one of the messages on the ground outside of the SLC, and again on one of the bathroom mirrors after exercising.

“At first I thought, ‘What? Who are you? Why are you saying these things?’ because girls aren’t used to getting those kinds of compliments randomly,” Jenkins said.

She said after thinking about it for a few minutes, she appreciated that someone was trying to tell girls that they are beautiful.

Jenkins said she would support the public affirmations, if they weren’t all in the same location.

“I felt bombarded,” she said. “Maybe put them in places like Collins where freshman girls can see them.”

Wood said she hopes this trend continues and believes this is one of the biggest ways to impact how students at Baylor view themselves.

“Every girl on campus needs to buy a stack of sticky notes and a pack of markers and really contribute to spreading a positive body image,” Wood said.

She suggests putting them in dorms and on bathroom mirrors, but emphasized using only chalk or removable sticky notes.

Both Wood and the website for Operation Beautiful stressed graffiti is not an appropriate way of sharing these messages.

As to the mysterious origin of the Baylor notes, Wood said she hopes the lack of an organization will keep the affirmations coming.

“I would love to see this be a grassroots movement, not headed by any organization,” Wood said, “and that it will continue to spread.”