Speaker Sarah Leeper promotes honesty and courage


The Mirror reporter

One in every five people is diagnosed with a mental illness. However, many of those people diagnosed hide their illness behind layers of false appearances.

Speaker Sarah Leeper addresses SPASH students during Mental Health Awareness Week. (Brett Lesniak Photo)

“The more time we spend forcing these labels on the outside of our boxes, the greater it is we are suffering on the inside from what we are using those labels to hide,” youth motivational speaker Sarah Leeper said.

To honor National Mental Illness Awareness Day, Leeper told an audience of approximately 300 Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) students her personal story about living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Leeper used a cardboard box to emphasize that everybody has things on the outside of their box that they consider acceptable and whatever they believe is undesirable gets shoved inside the box.

“We can throw all these things in here and pretend to hide them, but our boxes are not strong enough to carry the weight of these contents for that long before they break,” Leeper said.

Leeper vividly remembers the day her box broke and describes it as the most liberating moment of her life. She had buried all her imperfections inside her box until the box was too full and all of her insecurities flooded her thoughts.

Leeper was consumed by so much fear all at once that she broke down. Nonetheless, her mother comforted her and told her a quote she would never forget.

“Maybe being yourself means loving everything you are, even the things you don’t like,” Leeper recalled her mother saying.

In a world where people strive for acceptance, it can be easy to let the characteristics on the outside of their box define their personality or future.

If Leeper were to believe that she wasn’t good enough to win a Job’s Daughters pageant then she would have never had a chance to travel the world or become a motivational speaker.

Countless people struggle with everyday fears and insecurities, however, Leeper points out that it’s alright to be different, it’s alright to have imperfections and it’s alright to show people who they really are inside their box.

“When you are honest about your challenges it gives other people the permission to do the exact same,” Leeper said.

Although Leeper has Generalized Anxiety Disorder she was able to stand in front of an audience of students because of three simple factors: fear, challenges and big dreams.

Being honest about fears, challenges and dreams will lead one to be honest about who they really are as a person.

“When we hide fear, challenge, and dreams inside of our box, what we’re really hiding is ourselves,” Leeper said.

SPASH FCCLA/HOSA Leadership Class members join speaker Sarah Leeper. (Brett Lesniak Photo)