You are at a party, event or even a church function, hoping to maybe meet someone with whom to connect. Someone who might care about who you are, a friend perhaps. You are introduced to someone who looks nice and with an inkling of hope, you strike up conversation. They say, “Oh nice to meet you….What do you do?” Automatically, in an effort to win their approval, you frantically come up with some embellished version of what you are currently doing, or not doing. Whatever their response, you feel a little empty at the end of the night. Were you good enough? You’re exhausted from putting on this front like everything is spectacularly perfect in your world, smiling like you are actually happy and confident. When will it end? When will you actually BE confident?
My friends and I have all dealt with these questions and struggled with measuring up to the next amazing woman. But thankfully last year, I had this life changing revelation that our identity is not in what we do. This was big. Your identity is not in what you do, titles you’ve won, the achievements and accolades on your resume, you salary, the degrees behind your name, acts of service you perform. No, your precious worth and value is not defined by those things at all. Kind of hard to really and fully believe that, isn’t it? Especially in this cut throat, competitive society in which we live. It took me a while for this concept to go from my head to my spirit, but once it did, I was transformed.
I grew up as the first of 4 children and always felt this strong need to make my parents proud. Since I was a small child, I performed. I danced, sang, did musical theatre, cheerleading, swim team and gymnastics. In all of these things, the formula was: good performance + approval from others = success. As a child, this spirit of performance became engrained in me. I learned that recognition gave me value. Therefore, I was driven, worked hard in school, ran for every leadership position, won awards, was selected for honorary leadership conferences, and Interned for the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill as the only high school student. To be completely transparent, I felt this need to prove to everyone (whoever that was) that I was smart, not just a pretty face or “dumb blonde.” I had been teased and made fun of by my peers. My teachers didn’t take me as seriously as other kids in the classroom. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to crush stereotypes. I also wanted to be Miss USA. My value was in performance + approval.
So, I had success because I was extremely focused and goal oriented. Miss USA represented the pinnacle of the well rounded woman to me. I had dreamed to be her since I was a little girl, she seemed so out of reach, which made it all the more enticing. I thought, “If I could just win Miss USA, I will finally believe in myself and be fulfilled.” There were countless hours upon hours of self improvement work in; interview skills, public speaking, being poised under pressure and mastering mental toughness and power thoughts. Finally, it was the night I had been preparing for. I had packed as if I were moving to NYC the next day, the stakes were high, this was my little’s girls dream all coming down to one night of performance and one panel of judges. On April 19th, 2009 my childhood dream came true, I became Miss USA! It was pretty unbelievable, all that dreaming, preparing, praying and positive thinking came to life. I was on cloud nine…for a couple weeks at least. But then, something went wrong… I felt empty. I had a diamond crown, sash and national title to prove I was worthy, valuable and beautiful now. So what was missing?
To put it lightly, I struggled with my true identity and self-confidence through high school and college. Being Miss USA was supposed to cure that. But actually, quite the opposite happened. I had a personal stylist, walked red carpets, attended balls and galas, shot for the cover of magazines, did tv interviews, and traveled all over doing spokesperson work. This was all dazzling, but after the lights, cameras and crowds faded, I would come home at night and feel so empty and depressed. Why??
After reading several self help books, all with a central theme on the power of positive thinking and the law of attraction, I finally turned whole heartedly back to God. In seeking Him, He showed me that I had been placing my value and worth in a title. I thought winning Miss USA would give me the fulfillment and confidence I had been waiting for. But this is a worldly crown, one that won’t last forever…only a year actually. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:25. I competed for the approval of others, not just the judges, but everyone. But there were message boards that would tear me apart, rank and compare me to other women and it seemed like criticism was constantly coming at me. I definitely was not winning the approval of everyone, it felt like hardly anyone as matter of fact.
I knew God had a purpose in allowing me to win Miss USA, but I wasn’t sure exactly what until a few months ago. My purpose was to learn and share with you that long lasting joy is not in what you do or the titles you accumulate. Those will fade. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21. The reality is, your accomplishments will always be outdone by someone else. There will always be someone prettier, skinnier and smarter, so our worth has to be in something more than how this world defines it. But we don’t have to subject ourselves to this worldly formula of happiness.
The Lord showed me that in Him, we no longer have to fight for victory but we fight from victory. As His daughters, we have already won! The King of the World is our Father, He is for us and He overcomes fear. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37. Being more than conquerors means we already have the victory. We have won the battle before it has begun, as long as we operate boldly from the truth, rather than out of fear. So I have replaced my worldly crown of diamonds and emeralds, with an everlasting crown. One that no one can take ever away composed of; peace, faith, courage, hope, confidence and joy.
“For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:38-39. It is time to conquer the insecurities this world has placed in our hearts, claim our royal identities as chosen daughters of the King and start walking courageously in the power of God. Because, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31.