Someone asked me if being me was exhausting. It really took me back because I didn’t understand the question. My immediate answer was, yes. I keep my schedule packed full and my days are never the same. My life, is in fact, exhausting.

 

That’s not what he meant. He was asking if it was exhausting going back and fourth between “Mekayla” and “Mrs. America.”

 

(You totally should hit pause and go read my “To The Girl Who Hated Me In High School,” blog.)

 

It’s expected that people have different sides to them. When I get around my best friends, you would think that we were 13 again; giggling, smiling, talking about our crushes. Or perhaps I have a different persona when I am at the office. Being professional is very important and we all have to look the part, right?

 

One might expect that being a pageant girl has the same guidelines, understandably so. When I have my crown and my sash on, people instantly take notice. I mean, how many people do you see wearing crowns around town? Anything and everything I do while I have that crown on is recorded. All eyes are on me and the invisible spotlight follows me around like a dark cloud. Of course, in today’s society, if I did anything wrong, it would physically be recorded on a smartphone. What happens if I didn’t think I did anything wrong?

 

I’ve gone a long time in my life where I hid different parts of me. Most of my high school friends didn’t realize that I was a pageant girl. In fact, when I moved into my college dorm room, I was deathly afraid to tell my randomly-assigned-roommate about my involvement with the sport. (Did you actually did pause and read my high school blog?) In high school, I was in so much pain and no one had a clue.

 

Part of me was ashamed of those sides of me. Most of us keep a lot of secrets and we have every right to. For me, it got to a point where I couldn’t stand changing masks to accommodate the people around me. I couldn’t pretend to be jock-Mekayla, head to an appearance as pageant-Mekayla, then go to the office to be business-woman-Mekayla. Toss in a marriage and the Mrs. America title… how does anyone change masks that many times? Where do you keep them all?

 

I have lived almost my whole life trying to please everyone around me and hell yeah, that is exhausting. It wasn’t until I learned that someone besides my dog could truly love me unconditionally. Marriage does in fact do that. After some long hard talks and soul-searching, I learned to love myself unconditionally and that, my friends is precisely the moment I decided to compete for Mrs. America.

 

Living without a mask is a whole new concept. I didn’t realize before that I could be pageant/jock/wife/coach/daughter/dog-mom/business/writer/model-Mekayla until I tried it. I no longer have to try to make an impression on everyone I meet because I quit caring about their expectations of me. I could write a book of scenarios of people telling me “you are a lot different than I expected you to be.” I live for those moments.

 

Like anything revolutionary, there are going to be laggers; people resistant to the change. There have been a number of times that people have complained about my past or my appearance to my pageant director. Sadly, it had nothing to do with what I was wearing. My hair wasn’t perfect, it had split ends. Or I didn’t have enough makeup on. Or that time I posted a kick-ass motivational quote on my fitness page that happened to have the F word in it. They didn’t like that either. Ironic because the whole point of that post was to stop listening what others are saying about you and just be yourself. Unapologetically.

 

There is a world full of people that are ready to tell you who you are. The moment you stop living for them and start living for you is when you’ll figure out your true potential.

 

I’m Mekayla. I’m the Mrs. America who was sexually abused, loves dogs, goes days without showering, and only puts makeup on when she feels like it. I like working out, empowering women, praying for forgiveness, and I swear a little. Get over it. I have.

 

You can follow Mrs. America 2018, Mekayla Eppers, on Instagram at MissMekaylaFitness and SpilledMilkClub.

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