How To Love Yourself
How To Love Yourself – Amy’s Story
“It will be fun and a great opportunity to get to know yourself” That phrase was one I heard often in my pre-teen and adolescent years. To be honest I always thought it was a bunch of bologna.
“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself”
How does someone not know who he or she is? Shouldn’t I be the person who knows myself best? It wasn’t until I was 19 years old that I realized I had no clue of the type of person I was, what I stood for (if anything), and where I was going.
“Stand for something or fall for everything”
I wish I would have found this quote when I was entering middle school….but let’s be honest my middle school self who knew everything wouldn’t need such silly guidance. I attended the same small school from my first day of kindergarten until my high school graduation (more on that later). In some ways this made my transition to middle school easier because I wasn’t starting at a new school where I didn’t know anyone. Thankfully, I had a great group of friends, however that doesn’t shield you from the struggles of being a pre-teen girl. I distinctly remember shopping with my mom for back-to-school clothing and refusing to purchase or even try-on clothing that I didn’t see my friends wearing.
I was a follower. It didn’t matter what I liked to wear or what I liked to do, if my peers didn’t approve, I didn’t either. Here I was at age 14 living a double life (okay, okay…maybe a little dramatic but you get my point). I would go to school and only do things that my peers thought I should be doing, eating and wearing. Then I would come home where I could be myself. You see at home I was just a normal kid who didn’t care about what was on trend and who liked who. All I cared about was riding my bike, watching “7th Heaven”, and eating Easy Mac (oh to have my Jr. High metabolism!). Part of the problem was I didn’t have a niche. I have always had a lot of different interests, but I didn’t have any particular place where I fit in. I wasn’t exceptionally good at sports or the smartest student in my class. It wouldn’t be until later that I would learn in order to find your true interests and your niche; you have to know yourself and be confident in yourself.
“Comfort is your biggest trap and coming out of your comfort zone is your biggest challenge”
Thank goodness middle school does not last forever! Once I got to high school, I felt like I was finally finding myself (or so I thought). I still had a core group of close friends, was involved in different groups and teams, and was even voted homecoming queen by my peers. The problem was comfort zones are very deceiving. I lived in a bubble. I never ventured away from what I knew. I had found a very comforting spot where I was accepted and everything was well known. As my final days of high school were coming to an end everyone seemed so excited to be closing this chapter and here I was hoping time would slow down because I didn’t want to leave the familiar. It’s hard to be excited for a new chapter in your life when you have no idea what that next chapter will look like.
“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”
It was the summer between my high school career ending and before my college career began that I made a decision that would forever change my life. It had been the first time in my life where I didn’t have a plan and for this perpetual planner, it was terrifying. So once again I went back to the familiar. I had pursued modeling when I was about 16, but as you can imagine it can be hard to model when you don’t have any confidence. Pictures don’t lie. Around this time a flyer came in the mail for a pageant. My first reaction was “Heck.no.” I had a very surface and stereotypical opinion about pageants and the women that competed in them. I wanted to model and pageants were not the vehicle to do that…or so I thought. A few days later my mom and I went out to run errands. The pageant flyer came up in conversation and after some research we both thought it might be a good opportunity that might lead into other modeling jobs so I decided that when I got home I would sign up. As fate would have it, when we got home another flyer was in the mail for a different system, Miss Nebraska USA. I signed up later that week. I won’t go into all of the details of my preparation (or lack thereof) because that is beside the point.
That weekend, in January, in the midst of a winter storm, will always stand out in my mind as a life-changing weekend. Immediately at check-in, I knew I was not equipped for this role. I had just turned 19 and still very much felt like a teenager and here I was competing with women who were 26, well educated, and knew exactly where they were going in life. Talk about a cold hard dose of reality. Remember what I said about comfort zones being deceiving? Well I learned that in about 2.5 seconds of being out of mine. In terms of scores and placements, that weekend would not be considered a success. I didn’t place or win any awards. However, to me it was a fork in the road. I realized I could take this opportunity and learn from it or I could go back to my familiar safe zone. Thankfully, I chose the first of the two.
That following year I finally realized what it meant to truly know myself and realized I never knew who I was. I always tried so hard to please others and to be what I thought others wanted me to be. It finally took one weekend where I stepped out of my comfort zone for me to realize I had no idea who Amy was. I was a shell of a person who only did what I thought others wanted. It took having my familiar surroundings stripped away from me to realize I needed to focus on just me. As mentioned above I didn’t come close to the crown that year and I didn’t win the pageant the following year, or the next, but finally on October 30, 2011, I was crowned Miss Nebraska USA 2012.
It can be scary to step out of your comfort zone, but for me it’s a scarier thought to think about where I would be had I not taken that leap of faith. By taking that one step it started a chain reaction and now I actually seek opportunities that push me. I’ve learned that having that slightly nauseous/butterfly feeling in my stomach is usually a good indicator that I’m doing something that is going to help me grow and break the borders of my comfort zone. Speaking of butterflies, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes I learned at my first pageant:
“It’s okay to have butterflies, as long as they are all flying in formation”
So spread your wings and see what is out there!
Amy Spilker holds a BA in Communications and Sociology from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She has been actively involved in the community and specifically enjoys mentoring young girls and women as she knows first hand the importance of having strong role models. Amy held the title of Miss Nebraska USA in 2012 and spent much of her year traveling across the state promoting several organizations. In her free time she enjoys traveling, hiking with her fur child, and filming videos for her YouTube channel centered around beauty & fashion.