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It’s been a hot minute since I wore a super sparkly accessory on my head, but I carry the lessons I learned from competing for Miss America with me every day even all these years later. It’s the reason why I believe every young lady should compete in a pageant at least once in their life because you have the potential to learn more about yourself in that one experience than many people learn throughout their entire life.
Underneath all the rhinestones and fake eyelashes is the opportunity for massive self discovery and personal transformation. By the time I took the Miss New Jersey crown off for the last time, I had made life-long friendships and enjoyed one-of-a-kind experiences that I will take with me forever, but figuring out who I was and what I wanted to be, do, see, and accomplish beyond the crown was my biggest takeaway.
The best part is… that kind of growth comes from digging deep during the preparation process, which means, if you do it right, you don’t need a crown on your head to walk away a winner.
First, you learn how to present yourself because while competing in pageants might have helped teach me how to style my hair and do my make up, I also realized that my clothes and the effort I put into my appearance speak for me when I can’t speak for myself. What exactly do I want them to say for me?
Second, you learn how to take care of yourself because putting yourself out there to be judged – no matter what you’re wearing – is hard… really, really HARD. No matter how good you look or how good you feel, it pushes your self-confidence to the absolute limit. That’s why most contestants develop daily habits around nutrition and exercise that help them be their best selves, physically and mentally.
Third, you learn how to dedicate yourself to something because cultivating a talent worthy of the Miss America stage requires hours, days, years, even decades of practice. Plus, at the end of your pageant career (or life!), you never want to wonder what could have happened if you gave just a little bit more. It’s enough motivation to keep you focused on being and doing your best in every facet of your life, not just your talent.
Fourth, you learn what lights your soul on fire. A huge component of being a title holder in the Miss America Organization is community service and making a social impact whether it be locally, state-wide, or across the country. Most ladies come to the pageant hoping to use the crown to shine a spotlight on a social cause that’s already important to them, but figuring out the best way to make that happen helps you realize that you are capable of making a much bigger impact than you ever thought possible and that knowledge inspires you to do and be more to exceed even your own expectations, even beyond community service initiatives.
Finally, you learn how to sort through your thoughts and feelings on a variety of topics and develop the ability communicate those opinions in an eloquent way. It is impossible to get through the interview phases of competition successfully without going through this process first and it is, without question, the most eye-opening and transformative aspect of competing and, assuming you’re honest with yourself, it’s where you really learn who you are and what you want.
The best part is once you go through all of this and learn how to set goals and get after them, you will never stop reaching for and setting new goals. The entire preparation process is incredibly valuable because, no matter how far you go in your pageant career, the lessons you learned you along the way will help you achieve amazing things over and over again.
Once you’ve learned how to showcase how smart, talented and service-oriented you are and look fabulous while doing it, there’s no going back because it doesn’t matter if your crown is figurative or literal…You will forever shine like the queen that you are!
Julie is a self-improvement junkie who loves to travel, wear pretty dresses, eat big breakfast and watch all the sunsets. She’s been there and done that and sharing all her life lessons with you. Read more
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