Beauty Pageants - How Beauty Pageants Affect Girl's and Women's Self-Image and Self-Esteem

When a girl, teen or woman decides to enter a beauty pageant, there will always be someone in her life who will make a statement about the negative effects that competing in a pageant will have on her self-image and self-esteem.The conversation gets even more heated when a mother puts her baby, toddler or young child into a beauty pageant.

Usually, the negative statements will come from people whose only exposure to the world of beauty pageants is what they've seen on TV shows like Toddlers and Tiaras or read in the tabloids. Believe me, I know the positive effects of pageantry, and at times, I will shake my head in disbelief at the behavior I see captured by the cameras.


The thing you have to understand about the media is that it's a business. In order to stay in business, a profit must be made. To make money, people need to watch the shows, or buy the magazines. Advertisers will only invest their money where the masses are watching and the ratings are high. Drama is what captures the attention of the viewing public; so the media is going to feature the outrageous, extreme actions of the few dramatic participants that will keep their audience wanting more.

Beauty Pageants - How Beauty Pageants Affect Girl's and Women's Self-Image and Self-Esteem

To make the assumption that all pageants will have a negative effect on a woman's self-image and self-esteem isn't accurate. The 80/20 principle applies to the world of beauty pageants as well, meaning 80% of the drama comes from 20% of the participants. So if you're in a pageant with 10 contestants, there will be 2 people who will create the drama. But let me ask you, which contestants are people going to focus most of their attention on? The 2 contestants who are stirring the pot, of course. It's like a car accident. You know you're supposed to stay focused on the road in front of you, but you can't help looking as you drive by.

Parents ultimately decide if a minor participates in a beauty pageant. Just because the child wants to enter a pageant, that doesn't necessarily mean they should at that time.

Children and teens physically develop at different rates. This has a huge impact on a young girl's self-esteem and self-image. Parents, be mindful of this transitional phase in a girl's life. Listen to what your child is saying before, during and after competitions. If you hear or see any of the warning signs listed below, waiting until they are physically and emotionally ready for a competitive environment may be a better choice.

If you're a woman and you hear your inner voice saying or feeling any of the following warning signs, the same goes for you. There may be unfinished business in your life that needs to be dealt with before you compete so your experience will be a positive, healthy boost to your self-esteem. It's normal to have one or more of these thoughts immediately pop into your head after the names have been announced. It's when these thoughts linger and repeat over and over in your head long after the pageant that they should serve as a warning sign.

Warning Signs:

  • I'm not good enough because I didn't win.
  • I need to beat the other women because you're either a winner or a loser.
  • They don't like me because I wasn't chosen as the best.
  • I'm a loser and worthless because I didn't win.
  • I'm ugly because the judges didn't pick me.
  • What did I do wrong? Why didn't they like me?
  • There's something wrong with me.

Basing your self-image and self-esteem on the subjective feedback and approval from a panel of strangers is not healthy. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to the other contestants, stalking them on Facebook to learn everything about them, or doing pageant after pageant because that's the only time you feel worthy, there may be something else going on.

If the only time a girl or woman hears the words "you are beautiful", "I love you", or "I am so proud of you" is when she's wearing makeup, nicely dressed, physically fit, or when she wins the title, the potential for pageants having a negative impact on her self-image is increased.

Be honest with yourself. What do you want from the beauty pageant experience? For women, there's nothing wrong with a pageant competition to recharge your battery, or to experience a glamorous, fun event. The last time you may have dressed up in formal attire was your prom or wedding. It's very positive to take some time for yourself to enjoy the company of other accomplished women and celebrate you. However, if there is a little voice inside telling you that "capturing this crown will finally prove I'm beautiful"; or " I'll finally be someone important as Miss/Mrs__", rethink competing at this time.

Participating in a beauty pageant will build self-esteem and self-image if used as a tool to polish the complete healthy person that you already are. Pageants open career doors, offer an opportunity for community service, develop confidence and communication skills, and are fun. A professional, experienced pageant coach can help keep you on track. It is very important to surround yourself with people who make you feel better about who you are when you're with them.

If however, you're using beauty pageants as a way to try to fill an empty hole or prove to someone that you're good enough, that's a warning sign. It may be beneficial to work with a certified Life Coach, or other licensed professional, to work through some unsolved life issues before competing so your pageant experience is a positive one.

Beauty Pageants - How Beauty Pageants Affect Girl's and Women's Self-Image and Self-Esteem

Rhonda Shappert, is an iPEC certified expert pageant coach. In addition to holding multiple titles herself including Mrs. Ohio America, her clients have won titles at local, state and national pageants. Her free special report, 10 Insider Secrets to Winning, is available on her website