However, in my early days (and by that I mean from age 5 til 22), no amount of prep work, tireless rehearsals or mock run thrus were enough to help me overcome the mental blocks that would set in right around performance time. It was bizarre and was something that caused a lot of regrets and disappointments over time from performances that just didn’t measure up to potential. As a competitive athlete growing up, my parents and coaches saw this as an area that needed improvement and sought out “mental coaches” and sports psychologists to help me overcome my own limitations when it came time to actually perform for the judges. I made significant progress but it was still something I struggled with well into my early twenties.
Fast forward to the age of 22, and I found myself in another competitive arena; the beautiful and sparkly world of pageantry. I had grown up admiring the amazing women that graced the stage each year at Miss America and longed for the opportunity to do so as well. The first three years I competed I was honored to be a semi-finalist but found that some of the same thoughts of self doubt and moments of performance anxiety kept creeping back in during prelims and as soon as I was called into the top 10 on finals night.
In 2006, I returned to the Miss Florida pageant for one last try. This time around I prepped even more so, eliminating areas of concern so that my mental mindset could be as strong as possible. Going into it I felt confident that I was prepared but anxious at the same time. As much as I tried to “keep my blinders on,” I was still worried about what everyone else was doing and how they prepared versus my own game plan.
Three days into pageant week, during a beautiful appearance luncheon, 9 contestants and 2 volunteers got food poisoning so bad that we were taken to the hospital. It was definitely not something I would wish on anyone but I am grateful that it happened to me because for the very first time the only thing I could focus on was how I was going to be able to compete and how badly I truly wanted to win. I didn’t have enough energy to worry about what anyone else was doing, how awesome their talent was, how killer they looked onstage, how great they said their interview went, or how many prelims they had won. IT DIDN’T MATTER. All I could handle and care about was making it through my areas of competition. It was honestly the first time that I didn’t pay attention to, or give any energy to, worrying about what anyone else was doing and it paid off tremendously. Every moment was dedicated to making sure 1) I didn’t pass out since I was still recuperating, and 2) that I was giving it my all and having fun onstage as opposed to the past where all I did was knit pick my performance and compare myself to others.
It. Was. Liberating.
While everything ended up working out beautifully and I accomplished a major life goal in the process, the overarching lessons were much more beneficial. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. If you are constantly sizing everyone up and tearing yourself down, you will not be able to ultimately reach your goals because by doing so, you will have empowered your competitor simply by allowing their influence to affect you.
Plain and simple - Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. If you have “checked out” mentally before you have even “checked in” to the competition, it’s not going to end well. Focus on what you are doing and don’t psych yourself out of accomplishing your goals. Your mind is a powerful tool and one that can be super beneficial if you channel your energy in the right direction. It can also be incredibly detrimental if you allow self doubt to creep in. Surround yourself with positivity. Avoid negative chit chat at all costs. Keep those blinders on, your positive mantras going and envision yourself accomplishing everything you set out to do. While physical practice is necessary, the mental conditioning you do is critical. After all, if you don’t truly believe you are capable of accomplishing it, how will anyone else believe it?
You can do it!