I spotted my first You Are Beautiful sticker inside the lip of a U.S. Mailbox. I opened it to send a bill and was greeted by a small, silver pick-me-up. “You Are Beautiful,” the mailbox told me. And I smiled inside.
Later that day, I Googled “You Are Beautiful stickers” and found a movement dedicated to making people feel good. You write in to a mystery P.O. Box; a few days later, five stickers arrive on your doorstep, ready to be pasted on a random subway pole, a park bench, the mirror in your local Cheesecake Factory restroom. It’s feel-good graffiti, and I dare you to slap a YAB sticker inside your locker at the gym and not walk away with a smile creeping across your face, as you imagine whose day it will make.
February is the 10-year anniversary of YAB, so I contacted Matthew Hoffman, the movement’s brainchild. When Hoffman was 23, the recent college graduate moved to Chicago with a graphic design degree and a desire to create a positive public art project. “There was so much the negativity in advertising,” he says, “and I was bombarded by it a lot more moving into city. I moved around a lot as a kid, was always the new kid, so I experienced those self-esteem issues, trying to figure out how to navigate life and make friends. I wanted to create something that said, ‘You’re OK just as you are.’”