Singer / songwriter / motivational speaker and youth advice columnist, Sara Westbrook, is passionate about inspiring change in the lives of young people. She has been singing since the age of 3 and giving motivational speeches since she was 11. Impacted by challenges of her parent's divorce, issues with low self-esteem and the death of her father at a young age, Sara set out on a lifelong mission to help others through their emotional struggles. Today, she has her own show that she performs locally, nationally and internationally called UPower® and through her concerts and workshops provides participants with life skills to take on life in a powerful way.
In our our interview, Sara shares insight on how she copes through journalling, working through emotions and changing focus. Read more or watch the video portion of this interview with Sara to learn about how she takes care during hard times, what helped her through the loss of her father and how she makes a difference.
You have created something called UPower concerts and workshops; can you tell us what these are?
UPower Concerts are motivational concerts that provide tools to take on life in a powerful way! During my UPower Concerts, I use singing and speaking to inspire and to motivate people. I know that people face many challenges like depression, bullying, low self-esteem and relationship issues. I have discovered that people best relate to music, that is why I use singing and speaking to inspire and motivate. This is my way of letting people know that they have the ability to make powerful choices that will create a positive impact in their life no matter what the circumstances are. My UPower Concerts, and workshops are customized for elementary schools (grades 4-8), high schools, universities/colleges, corporations and conferences.
What are your performances like in terms of atmosphere?
In my concerts I choose to be authentic, real and honest with my audience when I am sharing my life stories and tools I have learned along the way. I believe this creates an atomsphere where healing, learning and FUN can occur! :)
How would your family and friends describe you and how has your upbringing shaped who you are as a person?
Good Question. I believe that my supportive friends and family would describe me as thoughtful, compassionate, caring, funny, wise and a great cook! :) My sense of humour comes from my dad. He was the funniest guy I know. We would make up skits and laugh and laugh. He taught me to look at the funnier side of life. Thanks Dad!!!Through the challenging times in my life I really have to give credit to my mum. As a young person, facing the challenges of divorce and low self esteem, I really could have become angry and bitter. However lucky for me my mum recognized what was happening and sent me to motivational courses and support groups. At first I ‘whined’ about going but she was smart. She said, ‘I must have forgot to tell you. There is NO CHOICE’. Best thing that ever happened because I learned it wasn’t the circumstances that defined me, it was my choices from those circumstances. So I decided to ‘take life one good choice at a time’ :o)
During your life you’ve had to deal with some challenges that some people have a hard time dealing with like your parents' divorce, having low self-esteem, and the death of your father. Can you tell us how you were able to cope with these difficult times?
Each one of those challenges were difficult to push through but not impossible. I realized that supressing my pain & upset was only causing me more pain. I decided that I had to embrace my true feelings. By allowing myself to truly feel I could then release the pain & move forward. I couldn’t always change the circumstances but I could change the choices I made. Here are some exercises that helped and continue to help me to me to push through:
- Journaling - allow yourself to release feelings and thoughts by writing them down. Don’t hold back when you’re writing. Be honest with yourself. This will help to release the ‘clutter’ in your mind, to let go of the pain and to help organize your thoughts. I also like to write down what I learned from the circumstance - what I learned about me, about others or about the world.
- Feel your emotions but choose not to live there forever. It is interesting that when upsetting or devastating events happen in our lives, the world doesn’t stop turning because of them. Your world may seem like it has been put on hold, but life around you keeps moving onward. This can be good because it can help motivate us to put one foot in front of the other and ‘push through’. Pretending something painful never happened and ignoring the emotions associated with it, is not healthy. Feel your emotions. Write them down. It helps to do it everyday, and when you choose to step outside and take on the day, leave the painful event behind. Only carry forward the lessons that you have learned.
- Changing your focus - we can all focus on what is wrong - what is wrong with our friends, our bodies, our family, our situations. Focusing on that just creates pain, desperation and frustration. Choose your thoughts wisely. Choose powerful, uplifting thoughts. Write them down. Read them and keep re-reading them. Choose to focus on being grateful for the simple things in your life, for example, eyes to see with, a child’s smile, your pet, a favorite food. You can create joy. Keep your focus on how you want your life to be. It can be hard at first, but it will get easier. Just take it moment by moment choice by choice. Everyone has their own ways of moving through Life's challenges. These are some of the tools that help me.
‘There’s been many times in my life Where I have doubted myself But I will achieve great things Because I refuse to give up.’ - lyrics from my song ‘Push Through’
Lyrics from your song “Never Walk Away” reads “So much pain - my heart hurt so much - I wanted you to call - missed your face, your smile - I didn’t understand why you had to leave - I felt so confused”. Can you share what this songs means and who you missed?
When I was 11 my Dad not only walked away from his marriage he walked away from me. I was devastated. I could not figure out what was wrong with me. My Dad and I had always had a wonderful relationship. I was clearing out a box the other day and came across a letter I wrote to my Dad when I was 13.‘Dear Dad, I just wanted to say that I love you and I always will. I wanted to ask you why you left, you just walked out and that really hurt me because I love you and wanted you to stay. If you would have told me why you left that would have made me feel better, even if I didn’t agree! I know you thought you were doing me a favor, but you weren’t. Maybe we can talk sometime! Love you always, Sara!’Now that I am older I understand he did what he thought would hurt me less. This does not mean what he did was right. But I had a choice…to blame him or to move forward. I decided if I kept blaming him I would not achieve what I eventually wanted….a relationship with my Dad. Just in making that choice I was able to feel loving towards myself and break free from the ‘blame game’. I realized that every one makes different choices…good or bad but it is their choice and they are entitled to it whether I agree or not. The key is to make a choice that will create what I want in my life.
Bullying has caused some recent tragedies in our local community, what do you think needs to be done to help eliminate this horrible trend in our local school system and on a larger scale?
We need to be retaught empathy. Somewhere along the way most of us have become numb to feeling emapthy towards others. We forget that each of us experiences pain, rejection, humiliation and sadness and it hurts.When any of us sees this pain happening to another person including ourselves we need to take a stand and say "no more"!
Fill in the blank. Sara Westbrook, the woman who ___________________?
Believes we all have the UPower to create an extraordinary life through the choices we choose to make regardless of the circumstance. We really need to stop blaming our circumstances and understand that it is our choices that define us not our circumstances.