Meagan Smith recently named Petal's Distinguished Young Woman

(Meagan Smith will compete in the state finals in July.  Visit for more details.  Smith submitted this essay to WDAM7.)

In today's society, expectations for young people are ever changing. However, I have discovered that by forgoing comparison and striving to be your best self, you can discover true self confidence through being healthy, involved, studious, ambitious, and responsible. Each day, you are presented with opportunities that must be seized in order to become your best self.

Being healthy has always been the easiest element for me to accomplish. I was both a gymnast and a dancer throughout my childhood, and continued to pursue gymnastics to the highest competitive level outside of the Olympics. Through gymnastics and dance, I learned the importance of physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices that have helped keep me in exemplary health, and given me the physical capacity to be my best self.

Being your best self is not only about you; it also encompasses how you affect others in your community. Through service oriented organizations such as Beta Club and Spirit Girls, which is an exclusive community service organization affiliated with Forrest General Hospital, I have learned the importance of being involved in the community. Through the Big Brother/ Big Sister Organization, I have had the opportunity to mentor a young girl from a less blessed household than mine. It has completely changed my outlook on life to see the way her face lights up as I walk through the door to spend time with her each week. Through this little girl, I have learned the importance of caring for others and getting involved with those less fortunate than you. One not only needs to be aware of what occurs in their community, but must be willing to reach out and make a difference.

To be your best self, you must never stop actively seeking knowledge. Being studious is an important element because it teaches you to strive for the "A", which trains young students to be disciplined and goal oriented. While school may be the first environment where we encounter mentally challenging situations, we will continuously run into tough problems in life that will require a studious mind to solve.

Not only did gymnastics and dance teach me how to stay healthy, but also how to be ambitious and responsible. In my opinion, ambition and responsibility are the two most important elements because they are an underlying factor in the rest. After all, it takes an ambitious, responsible young woman to be healthy, studious, and involved in the community. Being responsible requires you to be independent and accountable for your own actions. It is our responsibility to make the right decisions and to strive towards becoming our best selves. You are  get to decide what kind of life to lead, and responsibility allows us to carry our lives in the right direction.

Ambition gives me power to be my best self by supplying me with the self motivation to stay healthy, study, and make a difference in my community. Ambition is the inherent desire to wake up each day and be a better version of yourself than you were the day before. Without ambition, goals could not be set nor achieved, and we would ultimately have no sense of purpose.

Health, community service, academics, responsibility, and ambition are integral parts of who I am as a young woman. It is imperative to exemplify each element and inspire others to strive to live in the same way I do. Being my best self is a lifestyle that I choose to embrace, and has taught me to greet each day as an opportunity to better not only myself, but the world around me.