Many strive for success, but few are willing to fail. There is a certain mindset that comes with the desire to succeed: the losers are defeated, while the winners are inspired. A time I experienced failure was when I competed for the title of Miss Rhode Island Teen Italia. This being my first pageant, I was hesitant when deciding on whether or not to enter. The negative reputation and social stigma that comes with being a pageant queen was a fraction of what concerned me; my main fear was losing. Despite the encouragement I received from my family and friends, this was a decision I needed to make through my own deliberation.
My main concern was having the level of confidence needed to make myself vulnerable. After all, it's one thing to be comfortable in your own skin, but it is another to allow an entire crowd of people to judge you for what you are. I worried not only about what others would think of me, but also how it would feel to compare myself to contestants who may be prettier, funnier, or more talented than me. I wouldn't know the outcome unless I tried, so I made the leap and gave it my all.
The pageant ended up being one of the most unforgettable experiences I have ever had. I was the first runner up-- an excrutiating two points away from the crown. Surprisingly, I wasn't mad. The adventure was a challenge that allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone. I had to applaud myself for trying in the first place, because that in itself was an accomplishment to me. Even though I may not have won, I did not leave empty handed.
My new found connections, friendships, and optimism changed my perception of success. It made realize that failure is only a stepping stone; it is a fundamental building block to success. If you live in fear of coming up short, you'll never take risks. By taking risks, there will always be a slim chance that I will succeed-- and I would rather have some chance than no chance at all. I am undoubtedly my own worst critic, and toughest competitor. My journey has taught me to take risks, because behind every successful person is an opportunity to improve.