I believe there is something about pageants that can bring out the best–and the worst in women. At their best, contestants work hard to be healthy, physically fit, walk with confidence, expand their comfort zones, and enjoy some time in the limelight. At their worst, contestants practically lose their minds trying to prove something.
This clip shows the extreme, where a pageant contestant rips crown off Winner. I believe that the people who behave this way have mistakenly jeopardized their self-worth by placing it in the hands of subjective opinion.
I never dreamed I’d actually be in a pageant. When I was a tween I’d watch them a little dreamy-eyed, and I do recall thinking I could never walk on stage in a swimsuit! But a few years ago the opportunity to compete landed at my feet (perhaps ironically, I was in the middle of a Walmart when I met the director while standing in line,) and I took it. My hope had been that through doing the Mrs. Colorado Pageant, I’d prove to myself and maybe to others that I was the “all that” kind of woman I thought I was, but hadn’t had the chance to show the world.
I didn’t place in the pageant that year, not even in the top 15 (out of approximately 45 contestants). I was crushed. Losing never feels good, but it’s not my nature to be as devastated as I was. I questioned who I was. Why? I’d made the mistake of thinking that placing somehow determined my value in the view of the world. I knew my value in God’s eyes was secure, but did the “world” actually see me in the bottom of the heap? I realized that it didn’t matter in the eternal scheme of things, yet I couldn’t help but look at some of the women who had placed in the top 15, let alone top 10 and compare myself, “I’m more (positive adjective) than her, aren’t I?” It was very humbling.
After taking a few weeks to process the outcome, I decided that I would go back and compete a second time. I would “best” myself, work on my walk, get into even better physical condition, and figure out a better interview strategy. My goal was to make top 15, at the very least.
Going into pageant weekend I felt very confident. I felt healthy, self-assured of who I was, ready to face the world (and hopefully the judges!) I had more fun that weekend than I had the previous pageant weekend because I wasn’t as concerned about proving who I was. Once again, I did not place. But this time I was not devastated. Disappointed, greatly. But not devastated. As I stood in the darkness off stage with the other “bottom placers,” I realized not a single one of us as a loser. In fact, the women who were so lucky as to be on stage in the top 10 and top 5 were not even actually “winners.” The subjectivity of the pageant, ironically, proved to me that we were all completely, one-hundred percent equal. Although it was wonderful to stretch myself, I swore to myself that I would never, ever place my worth on subjective opinion again. At the time that meant I was absolutely done competing in pageants.
That lesson stuck with me as the biggest takeaway from my pageant experiences. I’m more confident in who I am and what I’m capable of. Whenever I feel like I’m being judged or looked-down upon I remember that lesson that we are all in the bottom of the heap, and we are all at the top, it just depends on who you ask! We are equal in value.
Since I’d sworn off pageants for myself, I didn’t see it coming when I was lying in bed trying to sleep and I had a startling thought: “I wish I could go into the judges’ room and show them who I really am without trying to prove anything.” My heart rate picked up. “What?” I asked myself. But I couldn’t get to sleep, the thought stuck with me. After thinking and praying on it and getting the nod from my husband, I entered for a third time.
I’ve had a rough go the past two years since the last pageant, physically. I’d looked forward to being able to devote myself to my children and husband 100%, but somehow it had devoured me. I was feeling so worn down, I hadn’t worked out regularly in two years, and I hadn’t just fallen off the wagon with my healthy habits, the wagon had moved on without me! My doctor told me I had Adrenal Fatigue, partly a result of acquiring Epstein Barr virus at some point in the past. The pageant was the perfect reason to get going again, to get strong physically, and as the director of the Mrs. Colorado Pageant so aptly puts it, to “put yourself back on your To Do list.”
As I compete this year I’m aware that the swirl of beautiful and gutsy women around me will have their personal reasons for participating. Many are there for to meet other women, some to lose the baby weight, some are die-hard pageant competitors, and unfortunately others will be there to prove something outside their control. But I know my reasons: to take care of myself, having used the process of preparation to lift myself, by the grace of God, from the ashes of exhaustion, and to truly be me this time.
If you agree, disagree, or have any thoughts to share, please post them here in the comments section!