Dear Pageant Parents (and really anyone who has contributed to a young woman's journey),
First off, let me start by saying, you're doing a great job. You've raised a daughter who has the courage, determination, and grace to step onto a pageant stage, and that in itself is a victory.
As a former Miss Kansas and a veteran of the pageant world, I've been in your daughter's shoes. I've felt the butterflies in my stomach, the thrill of the spotlight, and the immense pressure that comes with competition. But I also know that as a parent, you have your own set of challenges to navigate. This blog post is for you.
Pre-Competition: Building a Solid Support System
In the weeks leading up to the competition, your daughter needs your support more than ever. Here's how you can help:
Validate Her Feelings: Imposter syndrome is real and it can hit hard. Remind your daughter that her feelings of doubt or anxiety are normal, but they do not define her capabilities or her worth. If it feels right, share your own stories of self-doubt and how you overcame them to help her feel less alone in her struggle.
Focus on Her Strengths: Make a list of her strengths and achievements - maybe this is something you do together, or something you encourage her to journal on her own. I kept a list in the back of my planner that I would look at when I was feeling low and it would help boost my confidence and remind me of how far I've come.
Honor Boundaries: Respect her space and her process. Each competitor has their own unique way of preparing, and it's crucial to honor that.
Encourage Self-Care: Remind her to take breaks, to relax, to eat well and sleep enough. Mental and physical well-being are the secret cornerstone of resilience.
My favorite part about the mone of June is seeing all of my Facebook memories pop up with posts from my parents and family sending me well wishes throughout my seven years of competing to be Miss Kansas this first week in June. From my dad and brother building my first spinning easel in Virginia and mailing it to me days before I left for the competition, to my mom driving overnight to the final night of competition the year I won my first prelim award - my parents have always literally gone the extra mile to make sure I felt supported during the competition.
Two of my favorite stories: My mom's love language is absolutely gift-giving. She always makes sure I'm packed away with little notes throughout the week to keep me motivated. One year, she had a different trinket gift, complete with a designed and branded note of encouragement that I got to open every morning of Miss Kansas week, reminding me that I am loved, I am worthy, and I am capable.
Another year, my dad TOTALLY surprised me showing up to Miss Kansas. He was sending me all of the "sending love from Virginia" texts, and literally as the national anthem was playing on prelim night 1, I look up in the backstage balcony of the arena and said, "wow that really looks like.... MY DAD!???" and promptly burst into tears.
The Day of the Competition: Managing Anxiety
As a parent, sitting in the audience can be an emotional roller coaster. Here's how to keep your nerves in check:
Practice Mindfulness: This can be as simple as taking slow, deep breaths or doing a quick meditation in your seat. It sounds silly, but now that I'm a coach watching my girls compete - I know the heart-racing feeling and sometimes I forget to breathe!
Stay Positive: Remember, your emotions can affect your daughter's performance. Try to maintain a positive and calm demeanor to help her stay focused and relaxed throughout the week.
Trust in Her Capabilities: You've seen her prepare, you've seen her dedication. Trust in the hard work she's put into this moment.
I think it was the same week my dad surprised me at the state competition, he texted me after my interview (thank goodness, or I would have bawled before going in). He said he took his daily run that day around the perimeter of the community college campus where we had the competition.
While he was running, his sole meditation was to literally surround me with love and confidence as I was going into, and actually in the room during my Miss Kansas interview. He timed it so that he was circling the college and sending good vibes during the most critical part of the competition, and also probably to calm his own nerves with a little vitamin D and exercise.
I know, cue the waterworks.
Post-Competition: Celebrate Her Effort, Not Just the Outcome
Whether your daughter wins the crown or not, her courage, determination, and resilience are worth celebrating. She has stepped into an arena that requires tremendous bravery, and that in itself is a victory.
Celebrate Her Achievements: Win or otherwise, she has accomplished a tremendous feat. Remind her of that when it's appropriate.
Encourage Reflection: Help her reflect on her experience – what she learned, how she grew, and what she would do differently next time. Maybe wait a few weeks (or months) for this part, but after she's recovered from what I endearingly call, "the pageant hangover," gently encourage the self-reflection or schedule a call with me with Beyond the Crown to process the space beyond the competition.
Support Her Next Steps: Whether she decides to compete again or move on to a new goal, stand by her side.
My mom has always been very pragmatic with the pageant journey. I have shoeboxes full of letters saved from her that she would send after the competition and throughout the year reminding me of how proud she is to have me as a daughter, how she tells all her friends about what I do as Annika - regardless of what crown is or isn't on my head.
Whether it's a well-timed note with just the right words, a phone call while I'm on the road to let me vent a little bit, or the most thoughtful and creative gift, my mom has always slipped in the cracks of my pageant experience to make sure I know that no matter what happens, she's my number 1 fan.
Every pageant journey is unique, and every competitor needs different kinds of support. But through it all, one thing remains constant: your unwavering love and support are the most valuable assets your daughter can have on this journey. So to all the pageant parents and support systems out there, remember, your love, support, and belief in your daughter shine brighter than any crown.
Keep supporting, keep cheering, and remember to enjoy the journey just as much as your daughter does.
Here's to you and the incredible young woman you've raised.
You've got this.
xoxo - Annika
PS. Shout out to the pageant siblings, too. Y'all know what's up.