Speaking Engagement

Several weeks ago I was asked to be a guest speaker at my high school. I would be speaking to the 7th and 8th grade girls about self confidence, how to develop good self esteem and a strong sense of self, making good decisions and my experience being part of the Miss America Organization.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to this group of young women! I remember so well the feeling of being their age and not knowing exactly where I fit in the world. Of looking up to the older girls in school, of worrying about how I looked, what I wore and what others thought of me.
I immediately began brainstorming what I would say. My notes started with thoughts of what I used to think being self confident meant; being boastful and conceited. And that thinking I was good at something and celebrating that equalled a self centered attitude.
I wrote down notes about being your best self, about not giving into peer pressure and how your decisions now will impact your future. I took pages of these types of notes and even started a PowerPoint with bulleted lists of suggestions. I felt pretty good about what I wanted to say and how to say it. I really wanted to leave the girls with an understanding that they should love who they are.
I arrived that day at my high school with my notepad and lengthy pages of notes ready to present. I met the four girls who were spearheading the project I was to be part of. As we made our way to the theater where I would be speaking I asked a few questions about the group I would be seeing shortly. They told me that there were several segregated groups in these classes; the shy girls, the mean girls, the girls who didn't really fall into any bucket and the girls who got all the boys' attention; a lot of these girls also happened to fall into the mean girls category I found out.
I learned that many of these girls felt poorly about how they looked in comparison to the others in their class, that they simply didn't feel like they were the norm.
After hearing this information I trashed my pages of pre-formulated notes and started over. I grabbed a piece of scrap paper, one that would fit in the palm of my hand, and jotted down a few points:
- Mean Girls
- Boys
- Body Image
-Miss America

I realized that the biggest impact I could make was not by giving them suggestions and facts on what I think they should do, but rather by sharing my own story.
I talked about how wherever they would go in life there will be "mean girls" - girls who talk behind your back, say hurtful things about what you do, what you wear and how you look. These girls exist in all of our lives but we don't need to give them our energy or attention.
I talked about boys. That boys make great friends and that dating can be fun in high school but also that all of their time shouldn't be spent investing in only one person. High school is a time to find out what you are good at, things that you love and to have fun! It may seem like the mean girls get all of the boys' attention and as a 13 or 14 year old girl that can be disheartening. Time spent investing in your talents, your school work and your girl friends is time well spent.
I talked about body image and the day I became self conscious. A friend and I were walking to the vending machines in between classes when out of nowhere she informed me that I would be good at having kids one day because my hips were so wide. That night I spent some time in front of the mirror seeing what she had told me. Of course I knew now that it was something I should have laughed off, but as an impressionable teenager it changed the say I saw myself. I have to say though, I never really developed a poor self image. The comment that day did make me re-evaluate what I was eating and how I was treating my body. I started exercising more, eating less junk and in the long run it helped get me on a good path. At the time though, it really sent me for a spin!
Miss America- how could I make a speech without talking about THIS?!
From the time I ran off the stage of the Little Miss Lake Park pageant at 5 years old, I wanted to be Miss America. Over the course of the 23 years since then, little has changed. I am more involved now than I ever imagined I could be.
What being part of the Miss America Organization did for me was help allow me to build the confidence to stand in front of any audience and sing, speak or walk in a swimsuit in four in heels... :) It taught me that accepting mediocre in any aspect of life is fine and that I'd get by, but I now ask myself why I would accept that when I know I can do even better?
It showed me that being a woman does not only mean you can do anything you want with your life but that you can do it and be beautiful as yourself. Often women are put into two categories; smart or beautiful. I shared with these girls that truly, they can be both.
As I tried to neatly wrap up my presentation I realized that there couldn't be a neat closing. These topics are ones that are forever changing.
I left feeling like I at least gave them a genuine presentation, one that I think they could relate to in some way.
I loved the experience, it is one I hope to have the opportunity repeat!

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