How I Broke the Good Girl Rules and Won Miss USA!

It was May of 1982 at the Miss USA pageant in Biloxi, Mississippi. I could barely breathe. Miss Texas and I stood on stage, hip to hip, as the two final contestants. One of us was about to be named the winner.

I was convinced Miss Texas would win. She had been the front-runner during the whole competition and I had been the underdog. I wasn’t your typical contestant. Miss Texas had long flowing blonde hair and a beautiful red evening gown. I, on the other hand, had short brown hair, a simple dress, and had shared in my Top 12 Interview that my friends and I often spent Saturday nights at the Tastee Freeze in my small hometown of Cabot, Arkansas, and the guys drank a little beer and dipped a little Skoal on the back of a pick-up truck while one of my friends played the banjo. I definitely didn’t fit the mold of a Miss USA!

But Miss Texas didn’t win. I did! Wow! I couldn’t believe it!!

My reaction to being named the new Miss USA showed just how shocked I was at being crowned the winner. I had broken the rules of being a pageant winner!

There was something else going on that if the judges had known I probably wouldn’t have won. Just months prior to winning, I often tried to beat up my boyfriend.

I was an emotional mess. I had lived my life as a good girl, trying to get it right and be the best so I could “win” people’s love. By the time I got to college, I was a basket case. I drove myself into the ground trying to be “really good” by keeping up my high grade point average, believing THIS would bring me success and happiness in life. Plus, I constantly gave myself up in my relationship with my boyfriend trying to keep him happy. Nothing was working. I felt depressed, angry, in fear, and often a complete control freak.

Thankfully, during the second semester of my sophomore year in college, I knew something needed to shift. And that’s when I decided to break the good girl rules, step off of the hamster wheel of trying to get it right, and I quit school. I didn’t understand that this is what I was doing. I simply knew that my life wasn’t working and that I had to make a shift.

For the first time in as long as I could remember, I felt happy. I felt free. I had no idea where I was going but knew that where I had been was not right for me.

It was just two months after leaving school that I decided on a whim to be in the Miss Arkansas pageant. And I won! Two weeks after that, I left for the Miss USA pageant.

What a whirlwind! Now when you see the picture of my crowning moment and my mouth as big as the Grand Canyon, you can understand why I was in such shock!

Miss USA winning moment headshot insert  Miss USA nice mouth

Winning Miss USA taught me a lot of things. The biggest lesson that I learned, however, is that a seed was planted that said, “When you break the good girl rules and follow your heart, miracles show up.”

As I said, a “seed” was planted. It would take a long time for me to understand what  caused my emotional angst. Once my year as Miss USA was over, I stepped right back into the good girl rules of trying to get it right and onto the hamster wheel of stress again.

It wasn’t until I became a wife and mom that I knew I had to get to the bottom of my emotions. I thought it was my job to make my stepson “be good.” I believed this was the loving thing to do. However, instead of feeling loving, I often found myself screaming at him. I hated who I was. I could see that I was handing my pain over to him and would eventually do the same to my two little girls. And that’s when I made a commitment to heal.

As I dove into my emotions to look for the gift of what my feelings were telling me, I discovered that it was my need to be good and “get it right” that was causing not only my emotional suffering, but my family’s as well. But as I gave myself permission to break the rules, everything shifted for the better!

I became a happier wife and mom, and my whole family dynamics changed. And as I continued to unravel the good girl rules from my life, I stepped onto a magical adventure of abundance and miracles! I found my gifts and my life purpose. But most importantly, I finally felt free to be me.

Now I understood why breaking the good girl rules is so important:

Breaking the Good Girl Rules = Inner Freedom

Now after 20 years of studying the good girl rules and working as a spiritual coach and energetic healer, I see that it is the good girl rules that cause lack in our lives. It is only when you make a decision to break the good girl rules that you find emotional freedom within. And as you find this love within, you open up to receive abundance and miracles in your outer world because you feel “enough” simply for being you. You step off of the hamster wheel of stress and struggle, and just like I did, you step into your gifts and life purpose.

One day while in prayer and meditation, I asked, “God, why did I win Miss USA? There’s got to be a reason.”

A message came through me that said, “Terri, USA stands for freedom. The reason you won was to send you on a journey to your life purpose: To find freedom within and to help others do the same.”

I will be forever grateful for winning Miss USA. However, it is the miraculous journey of breaking the good girl rules to get there that was the greatest gift of that year.


Are you tired of trying to be good like I was? It’s time to stop the madness and get off of the hamster wheel of stress and struggle!
Grab my FREE Ebook and I’ll show you how.

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  1. Terri, your story is a great illustration of learning to let go and be fully yourself whether in the way other people think you should or not! I remember when you won Miss USA, and you looked so beautiful and “perfect” from where I was at that time. We’re good enough and wonderful as we are, it’s too bad it takes so many women such a long time to realize that! Thanks for offering this information to help other women who struggle.

    1. Thank you so much Carla! I appreciate your thoughts and kind words, and for taking the time to read and post here. I hope you have a beautiful day!

  2. I SO remember this like it was yesterday!! We all knew that “breaking the good girl rules” is what won it for you!!! Sometimes there are just no demands for “good girls” ????

    1. I’m glad you knew it Cindy! Lol! It took me a while to figure it out. Especially how playing by the good girl rules shuts you down energetically to abundance.

  3. Such an inspirational story! I hope that teenage girls and college kids read your story. Thank you for being so open and honest.

    1. Thank you! I’m writing my memoir now with the hopes that women and girls of all ages will read it.

  4. How many of us got the same “Now, be a good girl” message while growing up? I too struggled with trying to live up to others’ expectations and wasn’t true to myself. I enjoyed reading the story behind the crown and how you gained the courage to connect with love and emotional freedom. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Terri, I have known you since I was a little girl. I was abused by a an ex boyfriend and raped by a school mate at 16. I hid it for 2 yrs
    I had a baby at 22″out of wedlock and then Ai met a man you had 3 wonderful young boys. We had a baby together 3 yrs and the abuse started 3 yrs later ny him.
    Physical, emotional and verbal and aI hid it for over 23 yrs. (so I). My sister Suzi knew and was always there for me. When she passed on 1999 my thought aU was all alone protecting my kids..
    I finally got out of the marriage when my mom passed in 2010 and I think it was a God sent. I moved home to take care of my sick father.. I believe my guardian angel and Gid protects me and helped to have the strength to move out.. I think domestic violence and depression go hand and hand
    Gid is good and I remember the nite you won you title and you were the most beautiful woman on that stage. Your true answer about Taster Freeze was wonderful thing answer and was an awesome Cabot tradition. Thank yiu FI sharing your story. I am a stronger person fir what I want thru and thank God he was beside me . Gid bless and keep uo the wonderful work you do.

    1. Tracie, I am so glad you’re here and that you’ve found some peace. What a journey you’ve been on. I’m sorry you had to endure so much abuse. What I do know is that those who go through the darkest of times have the greatest light to share when they choose to heal and love themselves. I hope you’ll sign up for my free call. I think it would be really good for you to hear the information.

  6. Terri I remember so well my entire family watching you on the Miss USA pageant. I will never forget my Moms respse when you answered your question the way you did. I thought my Mom was going to faint. But my Dad made the statement that made me think. He simply said, “she told the truth and showed she was human.” “So many times our kids are afraid to be themselves because we won’t let them.” That really hit home for me! I was one of those Good girls too. Most people would say that Mom put the fear of God in me to always do right.However it wasn’t God that I feared, it was Mom. It took me until college to deside that I was a good person with my own heart and brain. I decided to stop trying to please Mom and start living my life and what Gods plan was for me. Life turned around and I became truly happy and I finished my degrees and surrendered my calling to music ministry. Life had been hard but very rewarding. Now after losing both sisters and my Dad, it’s me taking care of a terminally ill Mother. But I’m prepared to do this with a happy and grateful heart..

    1. Hey, Carlyn!

      Thank you for sharing your story. Your Dad was a wise man. And it sounds as if it rubbed off on you! How interesting that you are now taking care of your mother. What an opportunity to release any lasting resentments, if you have any. If you do, I encourage you to look at the pain she held in her heart that told her she needed to be good to be loved. She wouldn’t have put so many rules on you if she didn’t feel she had to follow them, too. Much love! ~Terri

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