The other day, from a hotel room in Chicago, I was surfing channels and caught The Bachelor. I haven’t watched it in years because I hate situations that pit women against one another and force insecurities. I believe we have evolved more than this. But I just couldn’t look away. I was glued because as I continued to watch two things struck me. One: the bachelor really just likes to kiss as many girls as he possibly can without letting a single feeling get in the way. And, two: the mix of women on The Bachelor mirrors the mix you find at a lot of pageants.
Now, before you read on, know that I love pageantry. I think it’s a terrific way to set a short-term goal that allows you to work on yourself to be the best you that you can be. I have competed in, judged and directed pageants so my view is 360 degrees.
So what can we learn from the Bachelor that will help us be better competitors?
Seeing the shortcomings in others is often easier than seeing them in ourselves. And that makes The Bachelor the perfect lens through which to recognize those pieces of ourselves we may be tempted to pull out come pageant time that really do hurt our chances of winning. And, more than that hurt our chances of growing through the experience.
I know how easy it can be to let insecurities creep in when you arrive pageant weekend, but if you’re going to survive and thrive, avoid at all costs being any one of the following bachelorettes … um contestants:
Ms. I know what the judges are looking for: She seems nice but listen long enough and you’ll hear her discount the other contestants because she’s able to divine from the judge’s bios exactly what they are looking for. Amazingly, others are strangely comforted by her predictions. Sometimes this person isn’t a contestant but a director. Don’t be this girl. And, if you meet her, don’t buy into it. It will take you off your game and you cannot afford that. Remember, that no one can read minds and human beings are unpredictable.
Ms. the judges don’t realize how insincere another girl is so I’ll tell them: If you could listen in on her judge’s interview, you’d hear her compare herself with a particular contestant – probably the one she’s most intimidated by — telling the judges that what sets her apart is that she’s real and here to win for the right reasons … unlike some of the other contestants. Kick yourself under the table if you start to go here in an interview. You don’t know other people’s motivations for competing. Spend your time talking about your passions, ambitions and successes. If you don’t have anything real that sets you apart and that’s interview worthy, maybe you need to work on yourself a little more before you compete.
Ms. I have a strategy to win and if you get in my way, I’m taking you out: She looks at her fellow competitors as enemies. For her it’s a sum zero game – if she wins, you lose and vice versa. Pageantry is not a sum zero game. Yes, there’s one person who will be crowned at the end of the night, but there’s so much more to the experience that constitutes a “win” including the “Ph.D. in you” that you can walk away with after the event that you may not have otherwise earned in 10 years.
Ms. I have worked so hard and I really want this: Everyone wants the title. But, some girls think they’re working hard if they kick it into gear while at the pageant. Winning a title requires a Herculean effort. There are contestants who train all year for a pageant, laboring every single day on diet, exercise, interview and talent to take them closer to their goal. They never take their eye off the prize. If you really want the win, remember this when you’re tired, distracted, or don’t feel like training. Somewhere out there in the competitive universe, the girl who will take the title isn’t resting because she’s too busy advancing her game.
Ms. I’m not sure I’m good enough, I need constant reassurance: It is heavy lifting to raise another contestant’s ego. Sometimes this girl drains the life out of her follow competitors, sometimes out of the director. The reality is that if you don’t think you are good enough, neither will the judges. You have to know that you’re enough. Work on yourself until you know what you can give to the title, not what you can take from it … then, you’ll be ready.
If you arrive at your pageant and somehow check that great girl who brought her A-game at registration only to turn into one of the Ms. contestants above, beat yourself over the head with your rhinestoned stiletto until you are able to be you again. Pageantry, like life, is about the journey, not the destination. A lot of good can come from competing if you do it in a healthy way. At the end of the night, you may not get the crown, or in the case of The Bachelor, the rose, but you will have learned a lot about yourself that will help you prepare for your next big adventure.