Sara Westbrook is a motivational speaker, singer, author, and creator of UPower Presentations. With over 450,000 students, educators, and parents having experienced her presentations, she has subsequently been featured on CTV, SiriusXM, and Global TV. Using her unique hybrid of speaking and singing to share activities and a Choice Making Formula with her audience, she teaches people how to think and act beyond their emotions so they can make character-based choices rather than emotion-based choices. In the wake of Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought it would be great to sit down with Sara and find out what led her to where she is today, as well as how we can combat some of the most prevalent mental health issues that the population is facing in this day and age.
What did you do prior to becoming a motivational speaker and what led you to where you are now in your career?
I started as a singer. When I was 3 years old, I told my Mom I was going to be a singer, by the time I was 8 I was taking singing lessons, and by the time I was 11 I was a paid performer working at a dinner theatre. At the same time (age 11), my life as I knew it was beginning to fall apart with my parents’ separation and eventual divorce. To add to my emotional stress, a student in my class started making fun of me which really affected my self-worth. Even though I started to absorb all of the negative emotions I was feeling, I was still able to get good grades, hangout with my friends, and put a smile on my face.
Since my Mom could see I was taking on the weight of the world, she decided to arm me with skills that would strengthen my confidence and help me bounce back from the challenging circumstances and tough emotions I was experiencing. She began putting me into personal growth courses that had me look at my mindset, my choices, and my accountability, which, at my young age, was a massive shift. This not only helped me bounce back from my childhood challenges, it is also was a huge factor in setting me up to be where I am today.
It wasn’t until I was 19 years old when I was singing in a mall that a school principal asked me if I would sing and speak at her school. I agreed even though I was really nervous. I decided to feel the fear and do it anyway. I’m so glad I took that leap because it was the start of my career of being a Professional Speaker/Singer/Author.
If 19 was the age where you had the pivotal moment of realizing that you could make an impact through speaking at schools, then when did you come up with the idea for the UPower project?
Ages 19 to 25 were really about figuring out what my speaking would be about. I started to question why people think the way they do and how emotions work. For example, you can put 10 people in the same situation and they all come out with a different perspective, but yet they were all exposed to the same circumstance. They will all have a slightly different emotional response, a different way they process it, and some may dwell on the circumstance while others bounce back - that always interested me. I decided I wanted to put together presentations that spoke to resilience, emotional management and character-based choices.
This might be a good time to let you know what UPower means…
UPower is your personal power to choose your actions, reactions, and beliefs regardless of the circumstances.
What was the biggest thing holding you back from starting your own business?
I was afraid to take the leap into doing this full-time because I started to wonder if it would even work, how it would all play out and most of all, how it would look. I felt anxious, nervous, questioning if I would be enough, if it was sustainable, and if I was the person for this. There can that insecurity within yourself and if you allow that voice to get bigger and louder, then that fear grows, and it can be easy to give up before you’ve even started.
I made sure to remind myself that I was enough and… why not me? My goal became doing one thing per day to help move me in the direction of my desired end result. Then, at 25, with the support of my husband and family, I really dove in and decided to go for it. What's really cool is that my Mum has worked for me for 12 years now and we have never looked back!
After 12 years being self-employed, have those negative feelings gone away?
I still have moments, for sure. We all have moments where we have made mistakes that trigger big emotions. We can begin to get really hard on ourselves instead of taking a breath and remembering that we are okay and that we are enough. Mistakes are part of the journey. Whether it's in business or our personal life, perfection does not exist. It is never about perfection but rather the art of reflection and redirection. If we can reflect on our choices, learn from them and bounce back with lessons learned - that's where the growth happens.
I also find talking to other entrepreneurs helps me to move through tough emotions and challenging circumstances. Having a sounding board and learning from one another is so important!
What scares you about the influence and responsibility you now have speaking in front of young people and adults every day?
Whenever I speak and share to an audience, I have to remember that I am not in control of whether they choose to take on my message. My hope is that people walk away with messages and skills to help build their emotional well-being, resilience, and confidence, as well as the courage to choose to try them out.
What do you think is the most prevalent issue when it comes to the mindset and mental health of young people? How can this be managed on an individual level?
I would say that a lot of us get so focused on a circumstance in our life that we forget to look at the emotions that the circumstance has triggered. For me, my parent’s divorce triggered sadness, anger, and a little bit of relief actually (because the arguing would stop).
Learning how to identify, manage, and move through emotions in a healthy way is essential to overall well-being. We all feel a variety of emotions each day. One minute we can be nervous, anxious, embarrassed, jealous, and angry, while the next minute feel elated, happy, silly, and grateful.
Emotions can be uncomfortable to feel and to talk about. No matter the age of my audience, they struggle to share how they are truly feeling. Emotions affect all of us. It's important to be able to identify them, move through them in a healthy way so that we can bounce back, and believe that regardless of the emotions we are feeling, we still matter.
What is the lasting message or impact you intend to leave on the world?
I want people to remember me as a role model who was respectful, compassionate, authentic, and who helped others tap into their emotions.
Want more to read?
Read Sara's most recent blog article, "3 Sure-Fire Ways to be Resilient", on her website at: https://www.sarawestbrook.com/3-sure-fire-ways-to-be-resilient/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Patrick MacDougall and I am a licensed REALTOR® based out of Tillsonburg, Ontario. I service the Oxford, Norfolk, and Elgin County areas and work everyday to bring as much value to others as I possibly can.