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The contest closed July 20th. The winning entry is posted below.

We have now launched our third annual haiku scholarship contest for 2013. Six cash prizes will be awarded to winners, and you can enter here.

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we never share your email address with third parties. 2013 Scholarship Essay Contest Winning Entry:
"What is self esteem? What role does self esteem play in your life?"

If only I had a more prestigious job...If only I went to a better school...If only I were more clever...If only I were more creative...If only I didn?t have acne...If only I had a smaller nose...?

Those are the excuses I used to abdicate self-esteem. There was always another "If only..." I could pull out of the bag as justification for feeling shoddy, its theme relevant to the different stages in my life and whatever particular inadequacy at the time I had chosen to fixate on, such as my appearance throughout my teens, or with my mind upon entering higher education. Lately (meaning the last six months to a year), I've been adding up the multiple fires and bombs I have set off in my personal and professional life and wondered, as a matter of character, exactly just what kind of person am I?

I am a person who ingested the message that no matter what I am special, one-of-a-kind, and free to pursue whatever whim crops up all because I exist. But existence alone is not sufficient reason to have self esteem, to have self love and pride. Self esteem is not given, it is earned.

For example, my attitude regarding my character has all been based on the "If only..." philosophy; I've squandered time lamenting the things I had or didn't have that would give me self esteem. If only I wasn't fired (3x)...If only I had never cheated...If only I hadn't dropped out...If only I had not caused a car accident... There are nights where I'd tailspin into those thoughts, crying heavily as if enduring self-propagated misery would provide me absolution. The problem with the approach of expecting to receive my self esteem if only _____, is that nothing results from it except swollen eyes and red wine on white carpet.

Earning self esteem requires acceptance of one's absolute responsibility over their life, which implies a rejection of "If only...". I no longer rationalize "If only I weren't a woman...If only I had the money...If only I lived there...If only someone would..." because entertaining such ideas is an attempt to evade pointing the finger at the sole variable in control of it all: myself.

Now I have self esteem, because I know I am my driver for it; I am the force behind how I feel about myself. If I don't feel confident raising my hand in class -- study enough to feel competent. If I feel cruddy about constantly depleting my bank account -- spend less and work harder. If I feel regret over past lies and transgressions -- take the necessary steps to restore some credible honor. The crazy thing is, that the moment one rejects the paradigm "What will give me self esteem" and replaces it with the model of "How will I earn self esteem" actions and decisions that will boost self esteem inevitably follow.