Entering beauty pageants redefined this mom's perspective on her own beauty.
Maggie Baumann, M.A.: Terri Graham of Orange County, Calif., is a lot like many moms in America. She has two kids, ages 9 and 7, and a 21-year-old stepdaughter. She's been happily married to her husband, Mark, for 11 years. Her role as a mom takes her in the car a lot, running her kids to and from school.
Terri also has a career as an exercise physiologist, and is the owner of The Metabolic Treatment Center in Lake Forest, Calif. There she performs metabolic rate testing, body composition analysis, and prescribes healthy and safe exercise prescriptions to people from all walks of life -- from the elite athlete and eating disorder client to cardiac rehab patients or any individual interested in improving their health/wellness.
Besides her family and career, Terri had always felt being "average" (in terms of how she looks) was the safe way to see herself in terms of her own beauty. In her young teen years, she suffered from anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder, and athletica bulimia. She saw herself as too short and too "heavy" to be a successful runway model, too full-figured to be considered "petite," not full-figured enough to be "plus size," and too muscular to fit in with traditional modeling or beauty pageants.
But her perspective on beauty and her own inner strength changed when she entered her first beauty pageant -- the California Mother/Daughter Pageant, in 1988 -- at the age of 19 with her own mom. At 5 feet 2 ½ inches tall and a weight that can fluctuate between 122 to 150 lbs, Terri took a risk she never imagined she was capable of.
She stated, "It was my own brand of shock therapy, and something I did to help me overcome social anxiety." Terri believed if she could stand on stage in a swimsuit and heels knowing that the judges' eyes were on her, she could do anything -- even master one of her fears of presenting oral reports in college.
Well, to her amazement, she didn't come in dead last: Terri placed 18th out of 38 contestants, many of whom fit the perfect tall, thin prototype of a beauty queen. "That was my first wake-up call that I wasn't completely unfortunate-looking," she revealed with a smile.
Since this initial pageant, Terri has participated in 14 others over the years. During this time, she's overcome her social anxiety and has accepted being "average" as a sign of beauty in and of itself. Terri has held one national title, Ms. Armed Forces All-American 2005. Her next pageant, The American Renaissance Pageant, is scheduled for June 2010 in Las Vegas. Terri will be representing California, and will be competing in two divisions: Mrs. Division and Ms. Civic Division.
So What Does Real Beauty Mean to Terri?
Terri believes beauty has many different meanings -- and it most definitely comes from within the soul. "Beauty," she said, "is strength with tenderness, compassion with fortitude, empathy with intuition, pride with humility, spiritual maturity with a childlike sense of wonder and fun."
Although the 40-year-old mom remarks that she cares what she looks like on the outside, she is far more interested today in developing her spiritual attributes than her physical ones.
At her last pageant, a judge asked her, "If you were a sandwich, what would your ingredients be, and why?" She answered with a humble heart: "I would be made up of all of the ingredients of a HERO sandwich, because every woman like me who has suffered childhood sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and overcome an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and low self-esteem is not only a hero, but a beautiful one."
Terri believes what makes her beautiful is that she is a survivor living life as a VICTOR, not a VICTIM.
For Terri, beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder.
|Maggie Baumann, M.A., is a marriage family therapist intern working as a counselor in a private practice in Newport Beach as well as at The Victorian in Newport Beach, a residential treatment facility providing care to women struggling with eating disorders, addictions and body image. Maggie has written for various publications and appeared on national television promoting eating disorder awareness and prevention. She also facilitates an eating disorder support group in Newport Beach. You can reach Maggie by email or visit her website at MaggieBaumann.com.|