Operation Flawless: A Confessional Recap

I want to thank every single person who contributed even a single selfie. You are all amazing. You are all beautiful. And it is your faces that helped me keep going. I love and respect all of you. I know it was hard. I bow down to you.

Monday was the end of Operation Flawless, a social media campaign encouraging women to reject conventional beauty standards and post “unattractive” selfies.

I spent the month showing off my un-made-up face—sometimes overly made up with yesterday’s eyeliner running down my eye bags—and my body in various stages of undress.

As the project began, I felt confident in my ability to complete it. I’ve been taking ironic selfies since the my first moments on Instagram… and even before that. I knew I could handle the emotions that would emerge as the month went on.

What surprised me was how hard this was for so many women, some taking hours to post their photos out of fear. Some posting and removing. Some posting and spending several days crying over the anxiety of knowing the world was going to see them at their “worst”. After about a week, I realized I was doing it wrong. I would snap a shot then redo the shot if I didn’t like it enough… maybe my eyes looked buggy or you could see my smile lines. I wasn’t even being true to my own project.

I made a promise to myself, and silently to all of you, that I would knock that shit off. I would take a picture and as long as it wasn’t too blurry or dark, I would post it as is.

By the end, I was spent. Over a week ago, I was ready to quit Operation Flawless. My bare face, my ugly face, my unwashed face was all over the internet. My Instagram is no longer littered with adorable photos of my children and drunken shenanigans and funny things I see as I go about my day. Now it was littered with my face, looking back at me, in all of it’s flawed glorilessness. I didn’t want to look at me anymore. I didn’t want to portray myself like that anymore.

My real regret, which I thought would be my proudest moment of the project, was when I took a naked selfie and posted it. I felt like my body was the elephant in the room. I needed to address it. My body is hideous. It is wrinkled and saggy and dimpled and scarred. I thought that I could post it and make it not a big deal anymore. Like other women did with their faces… they came to terms with it. I could do it. I wanted it to be the shining moment of #OperationFlawless.

Instead, all I felt was pain. I wanted to pull the photo, but I realized it was on the internet, and the internet is forever. And I did it for the greater good. I did it because it scared me. I did it to set an example of how okay it is to be vulnerable and to be less than perfect. I look amazing with clothes on. And a lot of times I feel like the body that I show off while I’m covered is me living a huge lie. It’s the way I used to feel about wearing make up. And I wanted to be honest. I LOOK AWFUL NAKED AND YOU PROBABLY THINK I DO NOT. So I didn’t take it down.

But even right now, I’m sitting here, talking to my husband about how much I don’t want to post this recap because I’m scared. And I feel ugly. I even timed the project to end the morning after I ran my first marathon, which I did… in thundersleet… in shorts… in a plastic bag… in conditions dangerous enough to reroute and prepare to cancel the race… and I did it with a yeast infection, frostbite and coming close to hypothermia. I finished. I should have felt powerful and strong and beautiful. My last photo was me with my medal. And yet, here I am, terrified to talk about the state of my mascara over the past month.

So maybe I failed at this project. Or maybe I did it flawlessly. Or maybe I’m just human. Or maybe, just maybe, we need more Operation Flawlesses because no one should walk away from a selfie feeling like shit.

Here’s a recap of my month. My flawless daughter, Bug, played along.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I said this on twitter but I will say it here. #OperationFlawless gave me strength and a newfound understanding of what beauty is and what it means to try to fit into the standards of beauty in our society. And it was a poignant and moving example of feminist conceptual art. You, Elyse are an inspiration. Thank you.

  2. I was unaware of this project til now, but I am so impressed and proud of you. I’m a 41 year old woman who does NOT look great in clothes, and god damn it, I want to see people who are aging and having fun and being pretty and getting on with their lives. Like me.

  3. All of these selfies took courage to post, and I’m grateful that you started this project and put yourself out there. So many people would be deathly afraid of putting anything but their best face on the internet, and this project gave them an example, a reason to be less afraid.

    Even though the project is over, I might *still* post pictures of my less-than-perfect self with the hashtag. It’s fun and it shows people that there’s more than one way to present yourself to the world.

  4. Just found this thanks to Caitlin over at Fit and Feminist so only read the recap but I just wanted to say I think this project was amazing and you are awesome and that is without adding the marathon into the mix! Congratulations on finishing the marathon as well.

  5. You have the courage to face your fears, the pride to realize that you are worthwhile, and a humanity that makes all of your pictures Flawless.

  6. I love you so much. And I admire you so much too. And I’m glad you consider me a friend because that makes me feel awesome by association.
    <3 <3 <3 <3 <- and as many of those as you ever need.
    Your pal, Maggie

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