Three envelopes addressed to each of my three daughters arrived in the mail today. The results from the audition had arrived. Two are thick and one is thin. I handed the envelopes to each child in a very normal, matter of fact way, and waited…I put on my pageant coach’s hat and said these three words in my head…
VALIDATE, CELEBRATE and DETACH.
When my three daughters started competing in pageants, I needed to come up with a way to help them handle the emotional rollercoaster ride that awaited them.
It’s painful to handle my own personal disappointments in life; but, it’s excruciating when it happens to one of my kids. You see, at least when the disappointment happens to me, I know the choice is mine as to what kind of feelings and how long I am going to entertain them in my mind. Oh, but as a mother, my first impulse is to rush right in there and protect my babies from any perceived harm either physical or emotional. We assume that the person receiving the “thin” letter is going to be inconsolable and need comforting. Lesson one: Make no assumptions.
Thankfully, just because that was my first instinct doesn’t mean that’s how I reacted. Learning to handle disappointment and keeping your eyes set on the big picture are necessary life skills that we all must master.
I’m very appreciative of my mom’s example. Whenever I received one of the “thin” letters growing up, she would always say “That’s OK. There’s always next time.” It wasn’t the end of the world and life went on. There was no wasted time dwelling on it. In her mind, it was just one pit stop on the long trip.
As a parent and pageant coach, my heart goes out to the young girls who are just beside themselves because they didn’t win the crown and can’t restrain their emotions. I also feel for the parents who are standing there looking at each other after the pageant thinking “What do we do now?” Or, in an attempt to make their child feel better, they join her in the emotional indulgence and what started out to be a snowball is now a raging avalanche. Time for an INTERVENTION :).
Having been in this situation many times as a contestant and a parent, I want to share my experience of what does NOT make someone feel better. For four years in a row, every pageant I competed in, I placed in the top five. The hardest place was being 1st runner up two years in a row. In an attempt to make me feel better, after the pageant, people would come up to me with mournful looks on their faces and say comments like,
- “You should have won” (Really? Why didn’t I then?), or
- “You were the best. I don’t know what those judges were thinking”, or
- “You were so close. Maybe you should have changed your___” (Yeah, just what I wanted to hear- the woulda, coulda, shoulda line), or
- “Are you OK?” (Just bite your tongue if you even feel yourself starting to say this)
As a contestant, words like this simply make the situation worse. You may be asking, “OK, what do I do or say instead?” Deal with disappointment in these three supportive steps: validate, celebrate and detach.
Don’t make an assumption about the tears you see coming from the stage at the end of the pageant. Some girls are crying because they have made a new friend and have to say goodbye. A few have had such a positive experience, that the tears are an outward expression of appreciation for having been part of the production. Others are excited for the new queen and the tears are in celebration. There are numerous reasons for tears.
Bring something to give your contestant on stage immediately following the pageant. Buy flowers, a small gift or even a card to hand her followed with a big hug and kiss. Tell her you are proud of her. At this point, the most important thing a contestant wants to feel is special and appreciated for who she is. Take pictures and make her feel like a queen :).
If you want to know where the tears are coming from, drop the sad face act and ask this question:
“What are you feeling?” – not “ Are you OK?”
If they say, “I’m so relieved it is over and I’m tired.”
“Great! Let’s get you out of here and celebrate” would be your response.
If the answer is something along the lines of disappointment, validate their feelings by saying:
“I know how much you looked forward to this. It’s normal to feel disappointed.” Then listen to her. That may be all she needs.
In many situations, disappointment can be minimized greatly with the proper preparation.Before pageant day, if you are a parent, you need to talk with your child. If you are a grown adult, it can take place with your pageant coach, your significant other or yourself. There needs to be clarity as to why you are entering the pageant. It’s hard to keep the big picture in mind if you don’t know what the picture looked like to start with. So here are some questions taken from my FREE special report to talk about.
- What are you hoping to gain from this experience?
- How will entering the pageant make you a better person?
- What does the word winning mean to you?
- What would you feel if you didn’t win the crown?
- What do you think would happen if you win the crown?
Now obviously, a toddler or very young child is not going to be able to answer these questions. In that case, these questions are for the parents to answer. Listen to the answers you receive very carefully.
Make a date to do something immediately after the pageant to celebrate regardless of what the results are. Plan this together before the pageant so your contestant can look forward to it even if it is as simple as getting ice cream. (Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip is my personal choice…Yum) If you have something enjoyable planned, it will keep the attention moving forward instead of being stuck in the past.
I also want to point out something here. If the two of you have been enjoying and celebrating along the way by making the preparation period fun, you will have positive memories to share with each other. Some of my fondest pageant memories are of the times preparing with my pageant coach Willa. As a pageant coach myself, it’s important to me that the time with my clients is not only educational but FUN!
Reflect on the lessons learned and move forward. Don’t replay events over and over in your mind; or dwell in the land of woulda, coulda, shoulda. Everything works together in the big plan. Let it go. Remember, our children will learn by our example so live the validate, celebrate and detach in your life, and you’re children will do the same :).
Beyond The Pageant
Whether it’s trying out for a sports team, auditioning for a performance, or interviewing for a job, there are regular situations where we put ourselves in the position of hearing the word no.
But does “no” really have to end in feeling disappointed? When I look back at some of the firm no’s I received, those no’s actually turned out to be yes blessings in disguise. Of course, the acknowledgement of the blessing almost always came with time. Now, I recognize that good will come from the no. So I allow myself to feel the emotion briefly and then detach knowing that the yes is right around the corner.
In most cases the answer looked like a no; but it was actually a “Yes, but not now.” I won the title of Mrs. Ohio America my 5th time in the pageant. It was a timing issue, not a no.
A more drastic example from my life is when I auditioned for Up With People when I was 17. When I received my letter stating I was not accepted at that time, I could have taken that as a negative no and never applied again.
However, the next year, I reapplied and this time was accepted. Had I been accepted the first time around, this South Dakota farm girl would have never met the boy from Tennessee. I would not have my husband of 20 years nor the three daughters that mean the world to me.
Sometimes no is only yes in a different package.
Rhonda Shappert is a pageant expert, personal development life coach, and owner of Winning Through Pageantry™, a business she created that not only helps her clients achieve winning results in pageants, but helps them Succeed From The Inside Out™ in their lives. In the pageant world she has held multiple local, state and national titles. Rhonda graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors degree in Musical Theater from The Ohio State University and has performed on stage in 15 countries on the Asian, European and American continents. This mother of three who has been married 20 years to her husband Stephen, home educates their children, is the former mayor of her community, and is on the Board of Trustees for the Ohio Virtual Academy. She and her husband perform original contemporary Christian music. Their music CD entitled Cana is available through www.cdbaby.com/cd/shappert or on her website. For more information on Rhonda, visit www.WinningThroughPageantry.com.