From as early as I can remember, I pretty much had one goal in life: I wanted to be Miss America.
Now just saying that, I’m sure there are all kinds of stereotypes that come to your mind: perfect posture, big hair, and the iconic wave. While we may be tempted to point a finger at Miss America and give a snarl—“I mean, really! Who wears high heels with a bikini? …Well, she must think she is something to enter a pageant!”
The truth is, I thought I was pretty awesome! I loved the praise of others. I wanted the mirror on the wall to tell me I was the fairest of them all. In the words of Lady Gaga, I live for the applause. However, if we live for the applause then silence will kill us. I learned this lesson the hard way.
I started competing in pageants when I was 15 years old and I finally made it to the big leagues when I won a preliminary for Miss Illinois. I won many crowns, but, to my discouragement, my pageant career came with many first runner ups—including first runner up to Miss Illinois. I think I have been first runner up at least six times, that I remember. For this reason, I crowned myself the “Miss America Reject.” I have the first runner up curse. I even won first runner up at our church chili supper cook-off (that thing was rigged, I’m still bitter), and even at our Halloween costume party.
For me, the end goal was never just the crown of Miss America. The end goal was greatness, and then I would rule the world.
I had dreams as big as my beauty queen hair. Dreams of Broadway, Hollywood, Nashville—you name it—if there was a stage, I was all in. I was ready: years of voice lessons (including Beyoncé’s vocal coach), theater, and acting experience—all I needed was the “Lights! Camera! Action!” I’m pretty sure I remember practicing my pose for the red carpet… You know, just in case the paparazzi came around.
The summer of my sophomore year in college at Murray State University, God turned my way of thinking upside down. That summer I had decided I would no longer be competing in pageants, and, instead, I went on a summer mission trip with my campus ministry. For two months I was forced to work at Burger King.
While we worked, we were supposed to look for opportunities to share the gospel. I hated this humiliation. I couldn’t stand people looking down on me as I stood in the drive-thru window serving their morning coffee. I smelled like stale french fries and I felt like a total reject. I believed the lies the Enemy was serving, “You are better than this”; “You should be wearing a crown, not a visor!”; “You should be in a position of praise.” Ironically, Burger King’s tag line “Have it your way” is something I strongly believed.
Our truest self is not discovered in the spotlight, but rather, in the shadows of an obscure life. Who we are when no one is watching, is who we are.
However, if we live for the applause then silence will kill us. I learned this lesson the hard way.
I quit the summer mission trip and went to compete for a Miss Kentucky preliminary pageant. I won the preliminary “Miss Pride of the South” and spent countless hours preparing for Miss Kentucky.
I was picked by the pageant experts to win the entire competition. During the Miss Kentucky pageant, I won the talent portion, which accounted for 45% of the votes and was feeling confident going into the main event. And then, there we were—another contestant and I—hands embraced tightly, waiting to hear whose hard work had paid off, whose “resume” had been accepted, who was the “greatest…”
Then it happened; my world was turned upside down and my mirror was shattered. I heard my name called as the first runner up—again! You have got to be kidding me! There should be a limit on how many times someone can get first runner up!
First runner up is politically correct, but let’s face it, there is the winner and then there are those who are… How do I say this… Losers. I was a reject! The judges had not accepted all my hard work and years of preparation. They deemed me not worthy of the crown.
I gave the new Miss Kentucky a fake hug (secretly wanting to throw her to the ground and claim the crown that was rightfully mine.) I stood there, empty.
Yet the irony is, that’s when I actually started to become full.
What at the time seemed like the worst day of my life, ended up perhaps being the best day of my life—because it was on this day that God revealed to me that only He could satisfy—that being known by Him is better than being known by the world… Yes, even better than a crown.
You may have just heard, “Blah, blah, blah… Pageant girl… Blah, blah—” and thought, “Can’t relate.” But, if we are honest, don’t we all want a crown? Maybe not the coveted Miss America crown, but we still want a crown. A crown that says, “I am the greatest in my own little kingdom!”
Maybe we want the title of “Miss Artistic”; “Miss Hipster”; “Miss Witty Banter”; “Miss Everything”; “Miss All Natural”; “Miss Congeniality”; “Miss Smarty Pants”; “Miss Six Pack Abs”; or “Miss DIY.”
We may not be standing in the spotlight so to speak but our hearts can still be posing for the applause of others. We may not desire to walk around in a bikini with thousands watching, but are we competing in order to prove our worth?
If you are like me, you have probably come to terms with the fact that you are never going to be a real-life princess and that the Fairy Godmother is a no show. And yeah, we may not have what it takes to rule the red carpet, but it’s okay; there are still plenty of little kingdoms that we can rule.
We may not be standing in the spotlight so to speak but our hearts can still be posing for the applause of others.
Our kingdoms can be found in the midst of PTA meetings, soccer fields, the gym, and oh, within the walls of our churches and homes… And let’s not forget social media!
Have you ever tried to go without checking your iPhone or social media apps? The struggle is real. We check our smartphones every 10 minutes because we are curious if someone noticed us and thought our post for the day was insightful. “Yes, I got 25 likes today on the outfit I put together!” I used to put my children in nice clothes and bribe them with candy so they would take a pretty picture and I could post it up so that people could like my perfect life that doesn’t really exist.
Would you like some good news today? Your worth is not determined by the opinion other others (AKA judges).
Your worth cannot be measured by a scale or whether or not you can rock a pair of skinny jeans. Even your own feelings do not determine your worth. You have worth because God, the Judge of all things, says so. He also says that you have been “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14, NIV).
So yeah… Maybe we are not the best, prettiest, and didn’t get picked for the team. In spite of not having it together, He chose us and He calls us loved. In fact, He says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7).
That feels like a win to me.
You’ll also like What Love is This?, Freedom in Faith, Drop the Social Media Cape, This is Your Brain on FOMO, and Just Because She’s Pretty, Doesn’t Mean You’re Not