Hello and thank you for sharing your story!
I am so sorry the whole experience was not a positive one, but I am happy to hear that you took something away from the Red Flannel Pageant. Whether it be good or bad, you did it! You got the chance to grow and do something no one can take away from you. It took courage to go on stage and show your unique self to the world. For that, my dear, I commend you and I am proud of you!
I can’t tell you how many times I felt alone and different even as I competed so many years ago. I think a good example is the photo below. I was so shocked and amazed that I had won I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. (Video proof exists and it’s hilarious.) In all honesty I had just started growing out my mohawk at the time so how could a punk rock chick win? It still makes me laugh to this day.
I had different views on the world and in a small town with traditional values, it was hard to be heard and be respected. But you know what is so great about being somewhere you feel like you don’t belong? You can choose when to leave and learn about what you don’t want out of life. Life gives you what you need when you need it and sometimes hard lessons about life are exactly what we need.
Best of luck to you and all the best,