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Authenticity Trumps Everything

Have you ever heard the song "It's a small world?" I almost didn't want to type that because now it's going to be stuck in my head for the remainder of my evening. But it's all I can think about today ever since I realized someone I know blocked me on Facebook. Oh, the old-fashioned passive-aggressive way of letting someone know you don't like them anymore. It stung, to be honest. I was so confused by it I automatically started mentally sifting through my memory bank trying to figure out what I had done. Was it those political posts? Was it my constant posting of women's rights? Or was it something worse? Was it gossip? It's not the first time I've been blocked or unfriended, but this time I liked this person. In the past, I usually knew what it was about and it usually revolved around petty things I refused to get involved in. This time, I just couldn't figure it out. The pageant world is a small world and I met this now-former friend through pageantry. I don't know why she blocked me and I doubt I'll ever find out, but it stung because I couldn't think of what I'd done and it reminded me of a time a few years ago when I'd been suddenly blocked by another friend I had met in pageantry. That friend was someone I admired, looked up to and had been working with on a project to protect children. To be blocked by her with absolutely no mention of "why" and with no further word of the project we had discussed doing together was hurtful. To this day, I don't know what happened but I do know that a few weeks prior I'd had a falling out with someone who had been taking part in storytelling, gossiping and lying. That resulted in several people within our circle of influence having to sift through what was true and not true. It probably didn't help that I walked away from the conversation, refusing to take part in the gossip and leaving everyone to decide what to believe for themselves. But to this day, the majority of my friends have stuck by my side because my actions have shown them not to believe the gossip. When someone cannot control you, they will try to control what others think of you. So I began wondering if a similar situation had taken place here. Was there a rumor going around that I'm not part of that is attacking my character? Have I unintentionally or unknowingly done anything to perpetuate this rumor or give credibility to it? Or was it because I openly said on Facebook that I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton? I have no idea but I do know I'm not alone. I know that everyone out there has faced this before. Maybe that is why this quote by Josh Shipp was perfect timing for me: "Authenticity trumps everything." I was talking to a friend earlier today about being authentic in pageantry. In fact, I was saying that one of my biggest regrets at Mrs. America in 2016 was losing sight of why I was there. I became too wrapped up in wanting the perfect dress, the perfect answer to a question, the perfect costume that I lost focus of my "why." In the end, as I've said in several post-pageant videos, I have only myself to blame for the regret. I'm not sorry I didn't win Mrs. America, I'm sorry I didn't go in being 100% myself. Looking back, every time I've lost sight of who I am, I generally fall flat on my face (not always literally). Whenever I think, "I should do xyz like her because she is so great at it," is when I stop being authentically me. And why is that a problem, aside from not being able to pull it off? Because people can tell when you're being fake and it makes it harder for them to trust you in those times where your character is being tested and you're being accused of doing and saying things you didn't do or say. We have moments in our lives that test us, that push us past our breaking point - I'm thinking of my divorce and my entire congressional career - where we act or say things that are out-of-character for us. And then we have times where we do them because we feel inferior and our self-esteem is hitting rock bottom so we tell ourselves, "If I was just more like her, I'd be better." There are three things I want you to know: You are amazing the way you are No one could ever replace you The world is missing out on your potential when you spend your time trying to be someone you're not Today, as I began to wonder what I had done to lose an acquaintance, I found myself questioning and wondering whether my authentic self was good enough. And I was reminded that every time I've strayed from who I am, every time I've tried to be like someone else because I thought it was better, that's when I've made the most mistakes in life. That's when I have the most regrets when I look back on moments. That's when I'm the most disappointed. Don't change who you are to please people, because that's when you usually end up hurting you, and them, the most.

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