One time, I heard a story of a young Miss contestant who had won “too soon.” She had the makings to become the next Miss America in a few more years, but she had already won her state title and she just wasn’t ready. That idea struck me as odd because at the time I thought if she’s meant to be Miss America, what are a few years going to do? It wasn’t until later that I realized winning too soon really means you haven’t had the experiences necessary to know yourself and what you’re capable of.
Why is knowing yourself incredibly important? I spoke with pageant and life coach Thomas Barnette of Thomas Barnette, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia, to find out. Being involved with the Miss America and Miss USA pageants for over two decades, Barnette is bound to know why self-knowledge can be crucial before, during and after the crown.
What’s involved in knowing yourself?
It’s easy to say that you have to “get to know yourself” before you can win, but what does that actually mean? “Knowing yourself is a journey; one which is always a process of uncovering and discovery,” Barnette said. “It means, that at this point in your life, you’ve allowed all of the life lessons you’ve learned to be part of your knowledge base for how you 'appear' or 'show up' in the world.” It is definitely a process that takes time and never truly has an end. Change in yourself and your circumstances is inevitable, so as life changes, you’ll need to constantly re-examine who you are and what is important to you. (Read: 8 Tips You Need to Know Before Competing in a National Pageant)
Miss USA 2017 embracing her love of science in the national costume competition at Miss Universe 2017. Photo: Instagram via @missusa
“So to know yourself is to love yourself for who you are in any given moment in life, and to continue the journey of self-discovery and awareness so that you are constantly evolving and allowing the best of you to exist in the world,” Barnette said. “It’s never perfect and it is never ending; so accept that first! And do not judge yourself while you are in the process of becoming a better version of yourself.”
How can you get to know yourself?
The journey of getting to know yourself can certainly be a daunting one indeed. It is never ending, so it becomes challenging to know where to even begin this grand task. “The first step is to find time to contemplate your life and define your goals,” Barnette said. “Without self-judgment, define your dreams and ALL the pie-in-the-sky ideas that express your passions and bring you joy when you think about them.” Having an honest conversation with yourself about your priorities, goals and values is crucial to knowing yourself. The key to this, however, is honesty. You need to set aside your judgment and what you think your answers should be and truly ask yourself what you want and what you value.
“My first 'action' in that contemplation of self-discovery is to journal,” Barnette advised. “Write to your past, current and future selves. Talk about all the things you desire or wish you had done differently. Own who you are and own who you want to be. And be bold in your allowance of these ideas of yourself.” If you want to try something outside of journaling, Barnette suggests browsing Amazon or Google for a self-help book that you fancy. These books can offer insights that challenge your views and help you dig deeper into what you believe and why. Barnette also suggests using your smartphone to set little reminders of small tasks that help you become a better version of yourself.
How does pageantry help us to know ourselves?
In addition to distilling your goals down into something easy to explain, pageant preparation gives us the added benefit of getting to know ourselves through the competition. Barnette explained that pageantry allows you to discover who you are and what you are capable of becoming. (Read: 8 Pageant Preparation Mistakes You're Probably Making)
Miss America 2018, Cara Mund. Photo: Instagram via @missamerica
“Pageants are great at helping young ladies know how to communicate and express their own thoughts and ideas,” Barnette said. “Also, pageants help you know yourself by understanding how far you can push yourself toward achieving a goal.” While it may seem like just preparing for a pageant, the work you do to get to competition week will show you a whole lot about yourself. In order to spend all your time and energy in preparation, you first have to know why you are competing and why it is important to you to win. Winning could mean that you are overcoming a fear or accomplishing something greater than yourself. What your pageant journey means to you could give you insights into what you value and how hard you’re willing to work.
Does this apply to contestants of all ages?
Getting to know yourself is not just an important tip for Teen and Miss contestants but for contestants of all ages. With younger contestants, it can sometimes be hard for them to start getting know themselves. “The biggest thing parents can do to help them to know themselves is to let them speak for themselves, let them own the process and the journey, and support them from a positive place when they are not doing as well as they might expect,” Barnette advised. “At any given moment in life, our best will vary from day to day. Kids really feel emotions deeply and sometimes hold themselves back or do not know who they are because they feel they are a constant disappointment. Parents, give them room to be who they were born to be!”
Continuing to get to know yourself isn’t any less important as we age either. Ms. and Mrs. contestants should regularly spend time getting to know themselves as well. Barnette said that as we get older, we can actually learn more and more about ourselves because we have an increased wisdom that comes with our experiences. At the end of the day, you might win before you know yourself, but your true success comes with self-awareness, knowledge and confidence.
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