Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pageant Post Mortem

Why am I even posting about this pageant thing? It has nothing to do with business or art, right? Well, maybe,.....

As I posted earlier, I was less than enthusiastic about my daughters entering a pageant. But they had their hearts set on it. After thinking about it a bit, I decided that my issues with the pageant were just that, my issues. I had to get over it and think about the fact that this was their dream, and perhaps I ought to support them in their pursuit of it as much as I do other dreams they might have. There are times to absolutely say no. But was this really one of them?

Also I had what I called "the Barbie Theory". When they were at that age that girls begin to play with Barbies, I wished Barbies did not exist. I hated the impossible physique, the clothes that were sometimes far too sexualized for 4 to 6 year old girls, who are now the primary target for Barbies. But, I also knew the more you oppose something the more you set up a battle and potentially create interest. If I let them play with the Barbies they might just get over it sooner. And they did. So I hoped, if I let them enter this pageant they will see for themselves what it is all about and move on.

It worked! Whew.... collective sigh of relief from my husband and I. Yet, in retrospect as I traveled through this pageant process with my girls there were plenty of lessons, good and bad we gained along the way.

1. There is nothing like experience to teach you the reality of something. I could have told my girls over and over, and probably still would be telling them to this day, about all the reasons why they should not do a pageant. It would not penetrate the same way actually experiencing it first hand has. The same thing has been true for me with my business. I have learned more from actually being in business, doing shows, visiting galleries, etc, etc.....more than I ever could have learned reading books. magazines, internet postings and blogs, or asking others for advice. There is a certain point if there is something you truly want to do, you need to just do it. That will answer your questions and uncertainties better than anything else in the world.

2. It is not always what you say, but how you say it. It was eye-opening to me to help my girls prepare for the interview and "question". We would do pretend interviews at dinner, or driving in the car. What I learned as I coached them is that it is often not your answer to the question that matters. What matters is how it is delivered. And the best way to come across positively and enthusiastically is to talk about what you are passionate about in life. So much like a political consultant, I found myself explaining to them how to answer most any question in a way that can get back to being able to tell the "story" of you in a few sentences. I can't say that they totally grasped the lesson, but I learned something. It was reinforced when I saw who was picked to be the finalists in each group. Often it was the girls who were the most enthusiastic and dynamic in their answers.....and often, those answers had nothing to do with the question! I found myself cheering for one girl who was a mini Oprah in the making when she was selected as a finalist. It was only a few hours later that I realized, she didn't answer the question. But she oozed self-assurance from every pore. You just wanted her to succeed.

3. Learning how to interview, or how to sell yourself are skills we all need in life, and can't necessarily learn too early. The visits to get sponsors was painful. But as I refused to talk they began to step up to the task. The phone calls got more polished. And they learned it is not easy. It takes work. It means taking a deep breath and just doing what you don't really want to do in order to get where you want.

4. Sometimes things are what you think they will be and often they are more than that. Some of the people at the pageant were right out of a made-for-TV movie. Others could have come right from a Saturday Night Live parody. Some of the mothers were very invested in the experience. Others were supporting their daughters while holding their nose at the whole idea. I was suprised to see that most of the girls were girls with dreams, but not much more. Girls who want to experience being in a pageant. They did not have the polish or the poise of the few who clearly had traveled this road before. Sometimes they looked like a before picture in a makeover. But they were there. They were putting themselves into the experience and doing their best. And for that they deserve an award. Sometimes showing up is the most important thing.

5. Our kids will often surprise us in the most wonderful ways. The best moment for me in the whole experience was watching my younger daughter on stage, clapping wholeheartedly for each girl in her group as each was introduced, or after each one answered her question. She wanted each and every girl there to succeed. She also seemed to understand that someone else succeeding does not necessarily mean you will fail. It is not always a zero sum game. And you will enjoy yourself more, if you enjoy other's successes along the way, as well as your own.

6. Just because you lose, doesn't mean it was a waste of time. The numbers of people who are not annointed winners always exceeds the annointed. If winning is the only reason to do something, you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Winning can be fun, but it doesn't last all that long. We are all more resilient than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. Are you protecting yourself from failure?

Neither one of my daughters made it into the final group. (Silent cheer from the parents!) As we talked about the pageant afterwards, I asked them what they thought about it, and were they glad they did it. Neither had regrets about doing it. Neither wanted to do it again. But both felt it was worth having done. They now knew what it was all about. They knew it didn't suit them. They knew it with an assurance that can't always be gained in another way. They both had fun hanging out with all the other kids backstage. They were cheering for their personal favorites, with an insider's perspective. They enjoyed a moment in the spotlight, looking beautiful....but they were glad to get out of those clothes, and back into the jeans and flip-flops.

Pageants are history in our household now. But we know have an insider's perspective. There is more there than it seems, but it still is not right for us. And we all gained some knowledge and insight along the way.

What dream sits there waiting for you to pursue. Are you waiting for the perfect moment, or do you feel like you have to know everything and do everything perfectly before you try? Are you afraid you may not like it in the end? Maybe you won't,...but maybe you will. And you won't know till you try. And if you fall flat on your what? You get up, dust yourself off, and figure out what to do next.


Jeanne Rhea said...

Hooray for your daughters---and for you! They sound like wonderful young ladies. You handled this so well and I can hear them years from now wondering how you managed to "allow" them to make their own decision about this. But they will know when they have a girl of their own and the decision has to be made all over again.

Judy said...

Thanks Jeanne. I am not sure how much they will appreciate it in retrospect.....but at least they won't be bring this up in therapy, years from now!