I can distinctly remember the first time I looked in the mirror and was filled with a kind of self loathing. I was about 13 and watching the Miss Teen USA pageant. As I looked at the scar on my face and my uneven smile I thought I would never be as pretty as any of those girls on the stage.
Fast forward 15 years and I was standing on a stage in New York winning my first pageant. My desire to enter the Mrs. New York America pageant was not one of vanity but of a new found confidence I had acquired. After a 5 year battle with depression and anxiety I had finally triumphed over the disease regaining myself. I wanted to celebrate by doing something I never had the courage to do. Compete in a pageant with the hopes of winning and getting to spread the message of depression awareness and education. An awareness of the disease that 10 years ago was just beginning to surface in main stream media. I made over 100 appearances that year and was blessed enough to place 2nd runner up at Mrs. America.
It has been over ten years since I first stepped foot on that stage. At age 38 I realize even more a decade later how true beauty has to come from with in one's self. Or in the words of Judge Judy "Beauty fades, Dumb is Forever." I rarely look in the mirror and think about exterior beauty. Other than when my husband likes to point out a white hair or two. lol However, I now worry greatly about my step-daughter's perception of beauty. For me even using the word "Step" seems a bit foreign as I love her no differently than my biological children.
She chose at the age of 4 to compete herself in pageants. Unlike Toddlers and Tiaras' there was not an adult pushing her to compete. She had asked for an entire year to be on a stage competing till I finally decided it was not a phase and gave in. I questioned it then if it would lead her to have a poor self image. That she would be taught that exterior beauty was superior to your thoughts and actions. In a world of the Bratz Dolls, Total Drama Island, Miley Cyrus at the VMA's and women retouched to with in an inch of their lives in every ad I worry how will she see herself at 13. At 28...
She was the inspiration behind my True Love charm. I wanted to create something for her. For all women. To wear on a daily basis to remind them that one's true beauty comes from inside. No matter your shape, your weight or your age. One's true self worth should be based on one's thoughts and actions not your exterior shell.
A few weeks ago I learned that we may have made the right choice in letting her compete. She entered her third pageant and while she placed she didn't win. After the pageant she made an amazing gesture. She gave one of the two bouquets of flowers she had been given to another little girl in her division who had won her first crown. She had been just happy for a chance to compete and make new friends.
As parents and step-parents we were very proud. It also made me hopeful that she will grow up both knowing and understanding where true beauty comes from. That when she looks in the mirror she will be filled with self love instead of self loathing.
A Mom/Step-Mom can hope right?