Pageants. What comes to mind when you hear this word? Be honest.
To a majority of people, pageants are beauty contests and not much more, am I right? The contestants are beautiful but not very smart, and finally pictures showing them partaking in jobs, roles and services for the community are just for publicity or attention. Well, let me shed some light. You can choose to believe it, or not, but I’ll share with you what I know and why in my experience pageants have helped to build my confidence. Firstly, the idea that pageants are all about the beauty is outdated and quite inaccurate.
“When the Miss America competition began, there was more of a focus on beauty,” said Josh Randle, chief operating officer of the Miss America Organization. “Today’s contestants are judged on their ability to better themselves and their communities by dedicating their service to others and living a healthy and happy lifestyle.”
Although the pageant in this case, is one run in the U.S.A., this change is also evident in the two pageants in which I have participated, here in Australia, and I have no doubt these same principles also apply to other pageants here at home. Some pageants here and abroad, have also “Broken free from traditional pageant rules by also allowing married women and mums to compete,” said Miri Schroeter. A move that was well overdue and well received.
Society has come a long way in breaking free of stereotypes, acknowledging that beauty does indeed come in may forms and there really is no expiration date as to when someone must stop striving to achieve their goals. In my opinion, you have until you draw your last breath to keep striving to reach whatever goal you set for yourself. For some, pageants are a way for them to reach that goal, whether it’s to build self-confidence, network with others to better the community, lend their voice and support causes, whatever it may be, the reason women compete in pageants has little to do with “who’s prettier”.
Furthermore, there is a long-held stereotypical belief that the women who compete in pageants are pretty but aren’t very smart. Please. Many women who compete in pageants are university students, accountants, teachers, lawyers, mothers, some are soldiers who have served their country but are successful and accomplished in their fields outside the pageant.
Finally, and this is one of things I struggled with the most, promoting and sharing the journey without being viewed as an attention grabber or “only doing it for the pictures”. My fear of what others would think of me, prevented me from achieving the things I wanted to achieve. In the end, it wasn’t that others stopped me from doing anything but the fear of “what if” did. What if they think I’m too old? What if they think I’m only doing this for attention or to promote myself? What if, what if, what if?
You see the truth is, many who compete in pageants have a genuine desire to make a difference, certainly even before I became a finalist I was already doing what I thought would be of benefit to others, so why was I so worried about doing it as a delegate? Because I didn’t always take photos of the things I did, but as a delegate I do.
A friend of mine said to me, “those who know you will know you’re not doing it just for the attention.” Yet this wasn’t enough to convince me, still the ‘what if’ bug persisted. Then another friend gave me an article to read and a switch was flicked. I realized, that even if there are people out there who would question my motive, if what I’m doing encourages one person to click on a link about a cause, are empowered by words I post or find courage to pursue their own goals then they, the naysayers can think what they like because it would have all been worth it.
Then there’s confidence. For a long time, I struggled with self-worth and acceptance – don’t get me wrong, as a mum I know my family accepts and loves me just as I am, I am also an educator and I know my students value the time and effort I put into teaching, yet it was trying to be accepted in a field that had been a goal for so long that I lacked the most confidence. I tried the modelling scene but somehow didn’t quite fit in. I don’t know maybe I was too short, too old, too Asian, too black, too something with a sprinkling of not hip enough for certain circles. This led me to believe that only a handful of professionals, accepted me as I am and took me seriously. Sometimes actions tended to speak louder than words and I obviously did not fit the stereotype.
However, I’m not blind or in denial of facts. I know that I am all the above, I am older, I am Asian with dark skin, I’m not tall, and sometimes yes, I’m a little bit daggy, but guess what? I’m also a mother, a teacher, and a humanitarian with a genuine desire to help make this world a better place. Being in a pageant that not only appreciated but accepted these facets that makes me who I am, gave me the confidence and encouragement to go out and help, educate and inspire. Many of today’s pageants, are moving with the times, they are valuing the diversity of women of today and doing away with the stereotype, instead choosing to reflect women who make up a huge percentage of today’s society.
To conclude, there are always going to be assumptions about everything, most of them will not always be accurate. My advice to you is this, forget the naysayers and the doubters. Don’t fear the “what if they…” “what will they…” because it doesn’t matter. Every day that you open your eyes is a gift of another chance, a gift that not everyone is fortunate to receive. It’s a new day when you can have another shot at your goals, for yourself, for your love ones, for others. Don’t let the fear of what others might think, stop you from living out your dreams and goals. In your final hours as you lament over opportunities you didn’t take and feel regret, the naysayers whose opinion you allowed to have control in your life, aren’t going to share in that regret. No one knows your dreams and goals better than you do, no one knows what drives you or the strength you have in you. So, forget the naysayers and their opinions and just live.