Sunday night I tuned in to watch the Miss USA pageant. One of the contestants graduated from my high school and went to Mississippi State, majoring in aerospace engineering. I held my breath waiting for our state to be called out, only to be disappointed when impossibly tall, impossibly thin contestants were named the top 15. As I scoffed, thinking, “Not everyone looks like a malnourished supermodel,” I also realized not everyone can major in aerospace engineering either.
These days, beauty is only one category in which we compete against one another. We also feel the pressure to be smarter and more ambitious than our peers. The prevalence of sites such as Pinterest and the popularity of blogs where people can highlight their clothes, their Martha Stewart craftiness, their inner-Julia Child in the kitchen or all their amazing world travels can leave us with a laundry list of categories in which to compete.
When I was a little girl and came to my mom complaining that my dress wasn’t from Limited Too like the other girls’ on the playground, my mom would make me read the Dr. Suess story of Gertrude McFuzz and Lolla-lee Loo. Gertrude only had one little feather, and Lolla-lee Loo, well, she had two. After going through trials and tribulations to acquire more feathers in order to compete with Lolla-lee Loo, Gertrude realized that “she had just the right amount of feathers for her kind of bird.”
Like Gertrude, we run ourselves ragged trying to compete with the Lolla-lee Loos of the world. Some people are blessed with beauty, or brains or both. Others have impeccable style and the finances to fill their closet with designer threads. Some can whip up a delicious, from-scratch meal and with the right instagram filter make it look like the cover of a cookbook.
And then, there are the rest of us. Gertrudes with just one little feather. If we think of the world as a pageant stage we may never feel adequate with this feather. Luckily, the world is not, and it is filled with all sorts of birds with different feathers, beaks and colors. When we stop competing and start loving ourselves just as we are and appreciate what we do have, that is when we truly win.
Anna Rush is a law student from Hattiesburg. She graduated from Mississippi State University in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @annakrush.