How to be Beautiful: A Lesson Learned During Miss Universe Canada

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I’ve been meaning to get something off my chest for a while. Many women, especially in today's day and age, are constantly bombarded with images of Instagram models, girls in bikinis or other images of women with perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect makeup etc. Whether we ladies are cruising on Instagram or Pinterest, or watching anything on YouTube, we are constantly faced with the unattainable status quo. Women are raised up to such high standards of beauty that it is exhausting to even fall short. Nevertheless, women still spend countless hours and hard earned dollars on spin memberships, fake eyelashes, booty workout apps, fake nails, lip injections and even go under the knife. FOR WHAT... more Instagram likes? 

I've been meaning to share something for a while that I have swept aside like an old yearbook hiding under the bed for far too long. My feelings, collecting dust, were never addressed, but now and then come back to haunt me.

Back in 2012, I competed in Miss Universe Canada. Secrets out! Despite what they say about beauty pageants, it taught me a valuable lesson about my relationship with my body. I have always had a fairly healthy relationship with food. Besides milk, there is nothing I do not eat, in moderation of course. I have never said "no" to the basket of bread, to an occasional wing night, to pasta and dark chocolate. I love food, and I love the whole experience that comes along with food. My body, on the other hand, is a different story. 

During the months leading to the pageant, we attended different training sessions. Our personal trainers would measure our body fat and provide us with the necessary tips and workouts to improve our overall physique. There was nothing wrong with their advice, for instance, adding on extra cardio to tone your legs? NO PROBLEM, I'll take on that challenge. The problem arose when I discovered many forums and blogs discussing the upcoming 2012 pageant. The people writing on these forums and blogs did not know any of the delegates personally, did not know what was going on during our training sessions or had any insider knowledge of the competition itself. These so called "trolls" were commenting and ranking us based on our photographs and bios pre-written for us on the Miss Universe Canada website.

From calling me "average" to saying I was a very uninteresting person, the commentary finally affected me after the competition. Even when I returned home, people would say things like "she's gone down hill", "what happened to her, she used to be pretty"... blah blah blah. Okay, so I'm not wearing stilettos on the daily anymore, or wearing loads of makeup or wearing perfectly tailored dresses every day. NO! I went back to normal life, the life I had before I was a beauty queen contestant. 

A lot of these negative comments about my physical appearance emerged as negative feelings I had towards my own body. I was starting to let the opinions of others affect how I felt and how I looked. For years after the pageant, I hid my body away, bought one-piece bathing suits, skipped meals, conducted countless research on nose jobs, took long hiatuses off social media and started to dislike my own body. PATHETIC RIGHT? Well from a confident outsider's perspective, it may seem pathetic. But when you're in the midst of it all, consumed by only negative thoughts and full-on hatred for your own physical appearance, it's hard to shake. 

I thought I was in my own personal body shaming bubble until I recently read a news article interviewing 2016's Miss Universe Canada, Siera Bearchell, on body shaming. Apparently, I wasn't alone. After competing in the 2016 Miss Universe Canada pageant, Siera also received horrible comments from "trolls" on social media regarding her body weight. Even the people closest to her urged her to lose weight for the International Miss Universe pageant. Unbelievable! But as I read on, I was reminded of the over-repeated statement, "confidence is beauty", that was fantastically over-used during my time at Miss Universe Canada. 

For me, beauty [now] means being confident with who you are. - Siera Bearchell. 

I have been working on developing a stronger and healthier relationship with my body. Stereotype pageants all you want, but Miss Universe Canada does prove that "confidence is beauty", not the other way around.

After reading Siera's relatable experience, I feel extremely inspired by her strong outlook and confidence.  It is important to love your vessel. We need to stop body shaming, and encourage one another. Our bodies were given to us so that we can live the life of our dreams. We are all unique and different. We need to start loving our bodies and cherish them for all that they are. They carry us every day. So we must love ourselves, stay confident and stay true.

PS: If you're in need of a little body lovin' or a confidence boost? Just listen to Love Yourself by Justin Bieber or any song by Queen B or by Kanye West... Channel your inner KANYE! 

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