Balance Your Life (BYL) hosted Caitlin Boyle, founder of the Operation Beautiful movement, as the keynote speaker for a body positivity presentation in Goddard Chapel on the evening of Oct. 15.
Boyle’s Operation Beautiful is a movement that strives “to end negative self-talk” by leaving positive, anonymous notes in public places, according to the movement’s website.
BYL co-presidents Jenny Lu and Kinsey Drake said it was important to bring Boyle to Tufts in order to continue the dialogue about body positivity on campus.
“Body image is very much an issue that many students continue to struggle with into college, yet it’s rarely a subject that people feel they can have an open conversation about,” Lu, a junior, said. “It’s especially our goal to highlight a balanced mindset as an important component of overall well-being — a healthy body and a healthy mind go hand-in-hand.”
Around 25 to 30 people attended the event, according to Drake, a sophomore.
At the event, Boyle spoke about how she wants students to hone in on their behavioral thought processes and understand how consumerism that directly affects one’s self image.
“The big point of my Operation Beautiful presentation is that I really want students to think about why they have certain standards and how that influences their behavior, particularly in the realm of consumerism,” she said.
Boyle’s presentation referenced Photoshop examples to prove how businesses latch on to someone’s emotional insecurity in order to sell products.
“There are a lot of examples of Photoshopping in magazines, and the point that I try to make is that a lot of this is designed to make you feel bad about yourself so that you’ll ultimately buy a product,” she said. “If you can really assimilate that thought into your [behavioral] patterns, you’ll spend a lot less money, and you’ll open your eyes to the system and how it works.”
Boyle explained that it is important to recognize that, as consumers, people have the power to determine the standards of beauty.
“It can be very freeing to realize that it’s important to define [beauty standards] for yourself for numerous reasons, but there [are] lots of big forces at play here, and I think it’s really powerful to acknowledge it,” she added.
Boyle said that in order to effectively educate others, it is important to explain the media’s effect on young girls’ body image and to challenge people to think critically.
“To change the way we feel, we really have to drill all of these concepts into ourselves a lot, and we have to start younger,” she said. “So I think it’s an important discussion to have with young boys and girls.”
Drake said she agreed with Boyle’s sentiments about seizing mental power from businesses and the media to increase one’s self-esteem.
“I think the message the Tufts students got from the event is that there is a lot of power in realizing that you don’t have to believe what the media says,” she said. “The message is straightforward, but I think that sometimes it takes an outside source for us to recognize the ridiculousness of the media in regards to self-image, especially for women in their late teens and early twenties.”
BYL plans to incorporate more body positivity efforts into the club’s overall operation, Drake said.
“I think that you cannot be confident [in] your physical and mental health until you accept that, no matter what stage of life you are in…we are all beautiful, capable people who deserve respect, especially from ourselves,” she said. “We also have some great resources from Caitlin Boyle on how to promote Operation Beautiful on campus following the event.”
Lu added that BYL’s goals align with that of Operation Beautiful’s, and that this year BYL plans to diversify its goals and include other aspects of health.
“Our focus for BYL this year is to especially branch out and incorporate other aspects of health, such as mental health and emotional wellness, into our mission target as well,” she said.
The philosophy of balancing one’s life is relevant to campus living, since much of the campus culture revolves around over-exertion, Lu said.
“People feel like they constantly have to push themselves to the limit and then some,” she said. “The main ideas coming out of Operation Beautiful, such as not comparing yourself to others or striving for an unattainable ideal, is applicable not just to body image, but to all aspects of student life here at Tufts.”