3 Ways to Empower Yourself Mid-Semester, as Taught by ‘Miss Congeniality’

Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, “I’m possible.”

Take a Movie’s Advice is a weekly column attempting to discover the similarities between our favorite movies and real life. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show.

Many of us started off the semester with a ton of enthusiasm and drive. “This is going to be my year!”, we said to ourselves. But now that we’re mid-way through the Fall semester, the excitement, at least for me, has begun to fade. Midterms, stress, and peer pressure are just a few of the obstacles that disrupt our moods and make us feel less than confident in our abilities.

It starts getting tough when we’re faced with difficult situations and don’t know the right words to say or actions to take. Feeling disempowered can come from various sources: arguments with a significant other, stressful academic courses, harsh criticism, and even unsuccessful job interviews. 

According to the Huffington Post

“true personal empowerment has to involve real world evidence of our ability to have an impact on our relationships and social surroundings.” 

Empowering oneself, then, is a constantly changing process that requires taking action, making adjustments, and then reflecting on the results. 

For college students, we can empower ourselves to make decisions that we’re proud of, whether it’s in the classrooms, resident halls, or campus in general. Not sure where to start? Don’t fret – our favorite agent and beauty pageant participant is here to help. 

Here are a few tricks to becoming a more empowered individual, courtesy of Gracie Lou Freebush from Miss Congeniality.

About the Movie 

Directed by Donald Petrie, Miss Congeniality (2000) is an action comedy film revolving around Grace Hart (Sandra Bullock), a FBI special agent turned beauty pageant competitor. After failing to follow her superior’s orders during a sting operation against Russian mobsters – which results in a fellow agent being shot – she is demoted to desk work.

A couple of weeks pass, and the agency is informed of a bomb threat at the upcoming Miss United States beauty pageant in San Antonio, Texas. While Grace is confined to her desk, her partner Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) is put in charge on the case. After a little brainstorming, it’s decided: Grace will go undercover at the event…. as a pageant competitor.

Beauty pageant coach Victor Melling teaches Grace the ins and outs of what it takes to be a successful in this competition. Our heroine also takes on a new persona: Gracie Lou Freebush, replacing a contestant from New Jersey.

From a serious makeover and compiling a list of potential suspects to wowing the audience with her glass harp and self-defense skills, Grace has a lot of things she needs to handle. But with a little preparation, some snarky remarks, and a few tricks up her sleeve, Grace knows that she can swoop in and save the day.

Want to watch the movie before reading further? You can find stream it on Netflix or via Amazon Prime Video here.

Here are some ways to empower yourself, even when it feels like life is intent on crushing your soul.

1. Stand up for yourself and others.

As a young girl, Grace is seen intervening a playground fight in order to defend the boy she likes. However, instead of expressing gratitude, the boy responds rudely to being rescued “by a girl.” Even despite his reaction, Grace continues on her quest to do the right thing.

Throughout the competition, Grace’s dedication to altruism never falters, resulting in support from both  other contestants and members from her special operations team.

Each college campus is different, but we all have encountered problems that affect the wellbeing – whether mental, social, or physical – of every student.

I occasionally pass the my school’s life center where the windows are lined with colorful graphics and posters calling individuals to speak out and take action. From underage drinking to racial and gender discrimination, there are countless issues that surround us during our college years. 

While it can be difficult to speak your mind on every topic, it’s important to stay true to your values and beliefs despite what everyone else thinks. Channel the power within you and be an advocate for yourself and the surrounding community.

2. Try something new.

In the film, Grace’s work environment at the agency differs heavily from the culture of the Miss United States beauty pageant. It takes her a while to get over the culture shock.

With the help of Vic, Grace is coached to talk, walk, dress, and act in a certain way in order to embrace her new role as Miss New Jersey. As she becomes more comfortable with the other contestants and feels more competent in her skills, Grace gains the confidence to tackle any obstacle (and suspect) that stands in her way.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to New York for a leadership conference with my professional business fraternity. At the time, I was fairly fresh to the organization and the thought of a nine hour car ride with members I barely knew intimidated me. Some of the members were older, equipped with clever inside jokes and stories that I didn’t understand.

I was like a fish out of water who was frantically trying to find its way back to sea.

However, once we were all settled in and went out as a group to dinner and hangouts afterwards, I felt more at ease. After throwing myself into conversations with my fellow members, I started to learn more about the organization and the people involved. As a result, I felt more confident to share my opinions during breakout sessions with other universities. 

Regardless of the situation, we always feel more empowered when we continue learning and gaining new skills. It may take time to learn new things, but it almost always pays off. We are all capable of doing anything we set our minds to.

3. Think positively.

Negative thoughts can cripple even the strongest and most empowered woman out there. Feelings of insecurity, anxiety, or lack of confidence ultimately hinder our progression in life.

When Grace is first given the task to transform into a beauty pageant contestant, she is determined to perform the role well. However, she doubts herself halfway through the process and wonders if she will be able to catch the right suspect and win the support of other contestants.

In one particular scene, Vic is coaching Grace on how to properly respond interview questions, which will account for 30% of her final score. After he comments that Grace is an “incomplete person,” she quits her undercover role.

Afterwards, Grace tells Eric that the team chose the wrong girl and believes that she’s not meeting their expectations. In response, Eric gives her words of encouragement and explains that she was chosen to go undercover because of her intelligence and hard work. While his support does influence Grace to a certain extent, it’s her own words and reminders that get her to continue with the operation.

Grace begins replacing her negative thoughts with positive ones, realizing that no matter what happens, she is an important member of the team. 

Whether you’re running for a position in an organization, preparing for an upcoming exam, or going after a cool internship, just remember a simple phrase from Grace: “You ARE the job.” 

We all support our friends in their goals and dreams, but it’s never too late to support ourselves too. Take your mental state seriously and feed yourself positive thoughts. It just might be the key to unlocking your dreams.

What do you think?

Do you find yourself thinking negatively? How do you combat negative thoughts and empower yourself? Tell us in the comments below.


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