Most little girls dream of gliding down a runway in a flowing gown and a glittering crown. Most grown-up girls know they’re not beauty queens and mutter under their breath about “those airheads competing on stage.”
I’m one of those “airheads” who has stood under the floodlights with a pasted-on smile. And though I never sauntered away with a crown perched on my head, the experience was invaluable.
I should tell you that I entered my small county fair pageant in an effort to face my fears. At the time, nothing seemed more terrifying. Oh, it wasn’t like the pageants you see on TV; it was held in a field the first year and a barn the second year. Seriously. I felt comfy entering this particular pageant because its point was less about showcasing some unrealistic standard of beauty and more about building our communication skills. But it still required me to get faaarrr out of my comfort zone.
Here are four lessons I learned from entering a pageant.
- I learned to support and love the very girls I was competing against.
For several weeks I practiced, laughed, ate, and dreamed with these girls. The first day I met them, I was faced with a choice: withdraw from them because they were my competition or encourage and love them. I chose the latter and enjoyed friendships and even reciprocal support from them. Makes me think of Proverbs 14:30:
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
Are you loving the girls in your life or competing with them?
- I learned more about who I was.
As I prepared for the fishbowl questions and interview, I pondered questions I’d never considered before. Who is my role model, and why? What would I do with an extra hour every day? What quality do I desire most in a friend? If I were President for a day, what would I change? This thoughtful reflection was beneficial, as it’s easy to hurry through life without knowing who you are or what you believe.
Wanna take a stab at it? Here are three actual pageant questions:
- Where do you see yourself fifteen years from now?
- Who is the most influential person in your life?
- What constitutes true beauty?
- I learned to accept criticism.
Often there’s wisdom to be gained from the criticism of others. Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to listen to instruction (even when it’s painful!).
One traumatic afternoon, the contestants and I were learning a dance routine. (I should let you know I didn’t dance as a child; I participated in spelling bees. I can spell “D-A-N-C-E” forward and backward, but maneuvering my body in unnatural positions doesn’t come easy.) One of the pageant directors unsuccessfully tried to stifle her laughter at my pitiful attempts, and her laugh came out like a snort. That night, I considered dropping out of the pageant, but opted to work under a critical eye.
Often there’s wisdom to be gained from the criticism of others. Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to listen to instruction (even when it’s painful!). Proverbs 29:1 says it this way:
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
How do you handle criticism? Do you look for the wisdom in it or “stiffen your neck” out of anger or pride?
- I learned to carry myself with more confidence.
I didn’t realize this when I first entered the pageant, but confidence is what wins a crown. The judges aren’t so narrow-minded that they only want a blond, tanned, curvy beauty. They want a uniquely gifted woman who is comfortable with herself. This was hard for me. Truth was, I wasn’t a confident girl. I was full of insecurities. But I did my best to put on a façade of confidence. I learned how to carry myself and walk—two skills I thought I’d mastered years before! I practiced everywhere: walking through the mall, driving in my car, and waiting tables at Pizza Hut.
Years later I’m still learning how to live with confidence. Except this time it’s not tied to how I carry myself or how I walk. The secret is found in Proverbs 14:26:
In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence.
My source of confidence isn’t in a makeover or new clothes or a confident walk. Just like the source of my beauty isn’t a fancy dress or pageant-worthy hair. It’s in knowing my awesome God and thinking more of Him and His view of me than I think of people’s opinions of me.
What makes you feel confident?
Your everyday life is a lot like a beauty pageant—taking tests for grades, going to school with the “pretty” girls, pushing yourself to train for basketball season. How have you faced some of these same struggles in your life?
(Come back tomorrow for four more lessons I learned from entering a pageant.)