I’m heading out of town this week to attend the 60th Anniversary Miss USA Pageant, which will air this Sunday, June 19th. The Miss Universe, Inc, folks (the parent company of the pageant) have invited all of us old “has-beens” in for the celebration. I’m very excited! It’s been almost 30 years since I won waayyyyyy back in 1982. And I believe it’s been at least 27 years since I attended a Miss USA pageant, the last one being a judge in 1984. I think. It’s been so long, I can’t remember! What I do remember is that for many years after winning, I disassociated myself from the title.
I worked in the television news industry a few years after giving up my crown and took on a belief that being a beauty queen was a detriment to my career. Most of my fellow news workers didn’t appreciate the doors that were opened for me as a result of winning, when they had to work their tushies off to get there. I understood and bought into the belief that being a “hard news” woman and a former Miss USA didn’t mix. So I never mentioned the title with the hopes that it would make my co-workers happy and that I would fit in. Pretty soon, I had all but separated myself from my win.
I eventually left the TV industry to become a mom and had two daughters. I had a lot of concerns for my girls, worrying about what it would feel like to be the daughter of a Miss USA. I didn’t want them to ever feel as if they were “less than,” and had to live up to some kind of standard I had set. I just wanted them to feel loved, so I continued to push the title away.
As many of you know from the stories I’ve shared in both The Enlightened Mom and Message Sent, in the moment of winning Miss USA, I felt a lot of confusion. I felt emptiness. My ego was thrilled to have won, but my spirit asked, “Is this it?” It was that thought that haunted me for years. It wasn’t until I stepped onto my spiritual path that I began to understand. I had been looking for love from the outside world, rather than from within.
But here’s the real clincher. Just a few months ago, I had a big AHA moment. It hit me that the love I had been looking for in that moment of winning had a little bit to do with the judges and the audience, but a LOT to do with my then fiancé. I couldn’t enjoy the moment because I feared hurting him. His love was the love I was seeking and didn’t want to lose. So I suppressed myself. I couldn’t embrace that moment of winning Miss USA because I was more concerned about him than enjoying the moment and the incredible gift that was being presented to me. That was the beginning of disassociating from the title of Miss USA to make others feel loved and happy. But at the core of it all was the need to feel loved. I didn’t want anyone to hurt for fear that I would lose their love. I did this with my co-workers and I did it with my kids.
Thankfully, as I have walked the path of The Enlightened Mom, I have discovered a different kind of love. The love I described above where you suppress yourself for others isn’t love. That’s dysfunction and codependency. The love I’m referring to is the love you find inside when you honor and love the way you were created, no longer having the need to look for love from the outside world.
That was the gift of winning Miss USA. It was the beginning of my awakening to finding the love within. Many years ago I asked in meditation why I had won the crown. I heard, “Terri, when you think of USA, you think of freedom.” That’s when I knew that winning the title was about finding the freedom to be me.
I can now embrace the title fully. I’m not sure when it happened, but one day it hit me that no one could say that they had won the title of Miss USA 1982 except me and that God had given me this wonderful gift for a reason. Not only was it about finding the freedom within me, but to help you find the freedom within you, too. This freedom within is the love that we’re all seeking.
So as I prepare to leave for this pageant adventure, I want to leave you with some thoughts: what part of yourself are you suppressing? What gift inside of you have you disassociated from to win others’ love? What are you ready to embrace to finally give yourself some freedom?
As for me, I am going to have a blast at this pageant, fully embracing this part of my path to finding inner freedom. And who knows, if you find yourself in Vegas for the weekend and see an old “has-been” wearing a sash and crown doing a pageant wave, it will probably be me!