The other night, I was watching a live web stream of the county fair beauty pageant in my hometown. Only in the South, right? No longer living there, it’s kind of funny to be able to pull up a website and watch the televised event from anywhere in the world. It’s a small town and my mom was one of the hosts so I had a good reason to watch.
Seeing those lovely young ladies walk around on stage in their fancy dresses and perfectly coiffed up-dos reminded me of my own fair pageant days. Wait, you didn’t know I was a contestant in a beauty pageant back in the day?
I was in fourth or fifth grade and I remember the pageant like it was yesterday. My hot-rolled hair was teased into big poofs and I was wearing pantalettes. It was the 80s and I had wanted a much more sparkly dress for the occasion, like a real pageant dress. But my parents decided against it. The dress they wanted me to wear was more Laura Ashley than Bob Mackie, but it came with pantalettes and that was what finally convinced me. Pantalettes! Can you imagine? The sole reason I wanted to wear them was I thought they made me look just like Scarlett in Gone with the Wind.
I walked out on that stage, covered in its scratchy bright green outdoor carpet, holding my breath as the emcee introduced me.
As part of the pageant registration, we were required to fill out a questionnaire about ourselves, with information about things we liked and disliked.
In a booming voice, the emcee bellowed my name and announced that my favorite foods were broccoli & cheese and brownies (hopefully not mixed together, right?). The crowd clapped politely and as I turned to walk off the stage, I CLAPPED FOR MYSELF. There’s a VHS home video somewhere to prove it. I didn’t consciously plan to do it, but in the moment it must have felt like the right thing to do.
The beginnings of this post formed before I recalled these fair memories, but then watching the fair beauty pageant just sort of helped it all come full circle. I was having a moment in which my mind flooded with negative thoughts. All about myself. Things I don’t like about myself, things I find repulsive about myself, and things I hate about myself.
And the sad part is, I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Every day I see and hear people who are struggling with self-hate. Sometimes it’s in real life, sometimes it’s on social media. Ironically, it’s usually people I feel so envious of for one reason or another. People whose lives seem way more fabulous than mine. Who appear to have it all together (whatever ‘it’ happens to be). But apparently they are struggling with beauty, too.
I was thinking about how I’m 35 and even if I lived to 90 (which would be amazing!), I will have already spent more than a third of my life feeling this way. Which is ridiculous. And such a complete and total waste of my precious energy.
I didn’t get here overnight. But it wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, another version of me wearing freaking pantalettes marched out on a stage in front of a crowd of strangers and gave herself a round of applause. That’s the me I want to be. The one who did her thing, liked what she liked, and celebrated it. I was her once, so surely I can be her again.
I know it’s not that easy. Years of screwy messages and wrong beliefs built up over time to get here. But surely it is possible to get back to that other me. And that’s what led me to this post.
I’m tired of picking myself apart, ripping myself to pieces and finding so much not to like. It’s just dumb.
I’m starting my list of things I like about myself. It’s not complete, but here are a few things. Maybe I’ll add to it. Perhaps it will inspire you to do the same.