In the midst of a society full of self-criticism and comparisons, Kim Min-ji (International Studies, 2) spreads the ideals of “Operation Beautiful” through a campaign of writing and sticking mantras and self-loving messages on post-its, and sharing posts on her blog (http:// blog.naver.com/hoperecov/) “to counter the prevailing negative self-talk.”
The campaign originally started in the United States to encourage people who tend to downgrade themselves to love themselves better by looking at the post-it notes. It brings awareness that “fat talk” can both emotionally and spiritually hurt people, which may lead to greater problems such as eating disorder, panic disorder and depression. Writing positive messages for oneself may seem trivial, but it boosts confidence and brightens one’s day.
When Kim went to study in the United States, she suffered from an eating disorder. She received treatment and counseling for recovery, and started participating in the Operation Beautiful campaign.
“I really needed that help because I did not know what to do with my life,” Kim said. “I needed that for my own recovery, and it is really urgently needed in our society.”
At first, Kim did not share her personal stories about her struggles with other people. She did not have the courage to speak up, but she finally opened up by continuously encouraging herself to take courage.
“If I do not speak up about my personal issues, it will never get told,” Kim said. “I kept asking myself, who else is going to do it? Who else is going to socialize the personal issue?”
Starting the campaign in Korea, she met a lot of girls who were torturing themselves with negative self-talk. She felt that extreme anxiety runs throughout the Korean society.
“I felt a lot of people express their anxieties through controlling their bodies and saying self-hatred talks to themselves,” Kim said. “I knew exactly how it feels. I just wanted to share my stories to tell other people they can be okay about themselves. If they do not think they are fine, they will suffer for a long time.”
Kim confesses she is powerless and cannot be much of an influence on others. Yet, she feels the need and responsibility to tell people that they do not have to push and hate themselves.
“I cannot change the social structure or system, but I think change comes from the individual level,” Kim said. “In other words, change comes from very small stuff. We are currently blaming society, but we are actually the agents of it. Society is made up of ourselves – we do not have to be shaped by the society. We can empower ourselves by bringing out the beauty that lies within, rather than conforming to the social norm.”
She believes there is much more in life to pay attention to than the “predetermined image of beauty.” She does not understand why people have to criticize themselves in order to love themselves.
“I do not know why we have to cut our faces open, study until 2 a.m. in the morning and abuse ourselves,” Kim said. “Why can’t we be happy? I do not know why we can’t be happy.”
Most of the people who visit Kim’s blog are trying to recover from eating disorders. They usually comment on Kim’s posts about her personal thoughts and stories. They feel insecure about their looks and their lives.
“Just like any other girl does, they all feel insecure about their looks and lives,” Kim said. “There is something going on in their lives and often, the only thing that they need to be told is that they are okay. I tell people it is okay to fulfill their desires and live a normal life. They tell me they feel better, and it really moves me whenever they say that.”
Kim plans to hold workshops to create a comfortable and open space to talk about body images, ways to improve body images, and promote body diversity and media literacy for Ewha students to participate in.
Kim has seen many perfect students at Ewha with perfect faces, perfect bodies and perfect careers, but she finds it odd that they can never be satisfied with themselves.
“They are always criticizing their looks and lives, and constantly struck by anxiety,” Kim said. “I just want to tell them they are fine the way they are and I hope Operation Beautiful can do that.”
Kim hopes students can appreciate the many different types of beauty they have in themselves after they hear the self-loving mantras. Even though they may not look like Barbie dolls, they can show other types of beauty that can actually change society.