“I felt just as ugly, fat and unworthy at 120 lbs as I did at 160 lbs.”
I am very careful about when and to whom I disclose my pageant history to. Not because of embarrassment, (because shoot, I love waving in parades and giving out bookmarks with my face on them in a really healthy, obsessive way) but because I simply do not look like a state titleholder anymore…
Okay, I’ve gained weight and I haven’t restocked my make-up; I love cheeseburgers and can’t stand fake eyelashes. But it’s hard to love yourself as much as a good burger when you feel like a fluffy has-been.
One common misconception I’ve unpacked through my short pageant life is that when you compete in pageants, people think you think you’re pretty. Which quickly devolves to defensiveness- I have a cousin who is 10x more beautiful. What gives you the right to believe you are good looking enough for pageants? What makes you think you’re better than anyone else?
And the simple truth is we don’t. More likely than not, young women compete because we had insecurities, but our desire to better ourselves was stronger. We want to feel more confident, we want to feel more successful, we want to feel beautiful. Honestly, who doesn’t?
Before my very first local Miss Oakland County, I
had no business wearing a bikini in public lost 20 lbs for the competition. My unhealthy relationship with food had always been a struggle and until that pageant, binge eating controlled my life.
As the experience progressed, my disordered eating also evolved. Instead of eating everything, food became a fear. If it was not grilled chicken or spinach, it had too many calories to consume. It was miserable, and ironically, while the weight was dropping, so was confidence.
I worked out multiple times a day, I didn’t eat. If I did, I would binge and feel guilty about it. By the time Miss America rolled around, my hair was falling out, my body and face were bloated, my mind exhausted. But I was getting compliments and I was starving for affirmation more than I was for food. I wanted to be perfect.
The conclusion: body confidence does not stem from how much you weigh, and pageants are not a weapon to assert that subjective beauty over others. Important fact:
It wasn’t until I ran the gamut of relationships with food that I realized my worth was never determined by what I ate or how much makeup was on my face. Love for your body comes from somewhere much deeper, and while eating/ not eating food didn’t help me accept what I looked like, these three things helped a bit:
1. Chasing dreams.
There really is nothing more beautiful than a person who is on a mission to achieve something they set their mind to.
The confidence that comes from making dreams come to fruition and smashing goals upon goals is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Whether it’s conquering a fear or improving on something you love, investing in what you can offer to the world makes you infinitely more attractive than focusing on an outward appearance. Beauty is fickle but achieving world domination is nothing to sneeze at.
2. Surrounding yourself with positive people.
This is so vital. In order to accept your body, your face, your style, you have to be okay with you. If you are miserable with yourself, understand that your exterior shell will have little influence on changing that mindset.
It is not lost on me that being consumed with something as fickle as appearances made me into a fickle human being.
That energy attracted more of the same into my life, continuing the cycle of negativity and amplified my bad habits. A great way to keep yourself on track is to find those who inspire you. Be around people who focus on your potential, rather than the shortcomings.
3. Loving others.
Loving takes practice. It’s hard work. There were times where I was exasperated at my less than satisfactory appearance, berating my reflection, consumed with taking the perfect photo. It becomes very vain, and becoming selfless shifts you out of that fixation of the self.
Volunteering or helping someone with their dream develops good habits for loving, period. As I became more intent on supporting others, it became easier to cheer myself on as well.
In the end, what I’m trying to say is: changing the external is not the solution to improving the internal. So the next time you feel down about what you see in the mirror, remember that you are more than enough. You don’t have to wait for affirmation from others to understand that you are beautiful. In fact, take charge and be that person for yourself every day.
Shine on, you beautiful diamonds. Sending you all a huge hug today!