Direct Textbook is proud to announce the winner of the 2018 High School Senior Scholarship Essay Contest. At Direct Textbook, we are proud to support students seeking aid for their college experience.

Meet the winner of the 2018 High School Senior Scholarship Essay Contest, Thea Showalter!



Thea will be attending Northwestern University in the fall. She plans to double major in saxaphone performance and gender studies which will allow her to express her creative and academic passions equally. As Thea embarks on the next step in her life as a student, she is most excited for the opportunity to meet and collaborate with new people and explore ways to help others through music and social programs. In her spare time, Thea loves to hike, read, and play her saxaphone.

Here is Thea's winning essay addressing the questions: "What is self esteem? What role does self esteem play in your life?"

"Growing up as a young woman, I learned that accepting compliments is a dangerous game. I deflected them or simply flung them back like they were missiles instead of kindnesses. If someone took the time to tell me she liked my shirt, I would reply jokingly, "Oh, I just forgot to do laundry" or "I like yours. Want to switch." Every one of my female friends seemed not only unable to accept a compliment, each went actively out of her way to compliment everyone else while constantly insulting herself. All through middle school and most of high school, I thought that this kind of joking self-loathing was "being polite." I externally condemned my sense of fashion, my appearance, my performance in school, and even my ability to play the saxophone. Internally, I became more insecure about all of my external characteristics, worrying day in and day out about how others perceived me. I worried about seeming arrogant, about having overly high self-esteem, about appearing vain. I felt anxious a majority of the time, awkward as the center of attention and utterly, totally unable to accept a compliment.

After I found a like-minded friend, I began to see the issue from an outsider?s perspective. I would compliment her clarinet playing, and she would respond "oh no, I need to practice more". I would compliment her fantastic job on the dance team, or admire her new haircut, or her high score on a history test, but I never got through to her. My compliments were deflected or dodged like bullets. I saw her anxiety and wanted badly to comfort her, but she was deaf to kind words, absorbing only insults.

Not longer after this, my band director and I were talking. He brought up a solo I had performed the other day and told me I had done a nice job. Unconsciously, I opened my mouth, preparing to point out that I had been out of tune, when it clicked that I too had this deeply ingrained trait of degrading modesty. I shut my mouth, opened it again, and stuttered, "thank you." My band director looked surprised, and oddly, gratified. I realized he saw me as polite and grateful, rather than rude or vain.

What I realized is that self esteem is not arrogance or vanity. It's not self-glorification or egotism. Self esteem, to me, is the ability to be honest with the person it is easiest to lie to: yourself. Healthy self esteem requires a belief in your own strengths and an awareness of your own weaknesses. Without an awareness of your own weaknesses, you cannot avoid mistakes. However, without faith in your abilities, you cannot recover.

This understanding of self esteem as honesty has helped me with confidence and my own self image. I understand my strengths and weaknesses, and I can be honest about myself, with myself and with others. Improving my self esteem has made me more supportive, caring, and perceptive."


Direct Textbook offers a variety of scholarship opportunities including a haiku and photo essay contest. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed on upcoming scholarships.

    Jun 18, 2018    Comments     (3)   Share: Share This Page Share on Facebook Tweet This Share on Google Plus


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