Interview with Amanda Springob: Mental Health Youth Speaker

Amanda SpringobInterview with Amanda Springob: Mental Health Youth Speaker is a vivacious college student and motivational speaker. Throughout high school, she lived a double life. Although she was a successful and popular student, it wasn’t until she conquered internal conflicts of depression and anxiety that she found the secret to living in this awkward, confusing, beautiful world.
 
Now, she offers powerful insight to teens and teachers. Amanda shows youth how to lead empowering lives and gives educators a glimpse into the mind of a millennial. She speaks to thousands of junior high, high school, and college students at educational conferences and school assemblies.
 
I met Amanda through a social media group for professional youth speakers called YSU.BSP (Youth Speaker University – Back Stage Pass). The Facebook group was created by Josh Shipp, founder of Youth Speaker University. I was impressed by Amanda’s honesty, integrity, as well as her passion for speaking, commitment to inspiring youth and adult audiences, seasoned communication skills, and mental health issues knowledge.
 
What led to your decision to become a public speaker?
 
I kind of fell into this path accidentally! I was the president of a leadership group in high school and we decided to do an anti-bullying campaign. We were looking for a speaker to talk about their experiences with bullying as a kickoff event. I loved TED talks and performing – and I had plenty of experiences with bullying as a victim and a perpetrator. I allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of my whole high school by telling my story. People really loved it and my school asked me to repeat it for our junior high. Later, I spoke at a conference for school counselors and made connections with other schools. I’ve pursued this career because I can use my voice to help those who are afraid to speak. This has become bigger than I could’ve imagined and I hope to continue on this path. I hope to reach as many people as possible to spread the word about causes that I’m passionate about.
 
What unique message do you have to share with the world?
 
For youth, I tell them it’s okay to be imperfect, messy, and vulnerable. I want to let them know that their issues matter, even if people tell them they’re just being “hormonal” or “melodramatic.” I want them to know that flaws are not something to hide, and that they don’t divide us – they bring us together and give us strength in numbers. Instead of trying to be perfect, we should learn the benefits of being boldly and proudly weak.
 
I want adults to know that teens are smarter than we think. It can be hard for us to remember what it’s like to be fifteen and falling in love for the first time or seventeen and taking the ACT. I think sometimes adults get so caught up in their own stressors that they invalidate teenage experiences. All struggles matter – age doesn’t define how deeply we hurt. When I speak, I deliver a message for students, but I want to provide teachers with insight and let them see inside a millennial mind. In this way, educators learn to more deeply connect with their students. 
 
What message do you believe young people need to hear? What tools can you provide?
 
I think young people need to know that imperfection is perfect. A big part of this comes with learning how to be patient, trust the process of life, and have faith that everything will work out as long as we constantly strive for growth. There will always be bumps in the road, but if we persevere and learn from our experiences, they can become opportunities instead of setbacks. 
 
I started a blog and YouTube channel called A+ Life. This toolkit informs teens and teachers about mental health, adolescence, and resilience. Every month, we focus on a specific theme (past topics include relationships and imperfection), and use videos, blog posts, and other resources to view different perspectives on that topic. This content is designed to help teens understand their present, help teachers understand their past, and move everyone toward a more constructive future. You can find out more at the A+ Life website.
 
What childhood and teenage experiences had the most impact on your decision to be a speaker and mental health advocate?
 
I have been a perfectionist my entire life. While this attribute empowered me with determination and fantastic work ethic, it also made me incredibly insecure and a victim of crippling anxiety. In school, people called me “Miss Perfect.” I was a leader in multiple clubs, starred in plays, and sang solos in choir. I took AP classes and dance classes – but, inwardly, I was a mess. I spread myself way too thin and I couldn’t afford to make errors. When I made minor mistakes, it haunted me for days. I overcompensated by taking on more work for myself. I buried my imperfections with a spotless reputation.
 
My preoccupation with perfection stemmed from the fact that I was incredibly insecure. I hated the way I looked and I assumed no one would ever find me attractive. Much to my surprise, a boy I liked for years asked me out when I was fifteen. He was stunningly handsome and I deemed him to be the most perfect person I’d ever met. Over the course of two years, we had an on-again, off-again relationship in which I experienced sexual assault, toxicity, and became even more insecure about myself. By the time the relationship ended for good, I felt worthless. 
 
Eventually, I discovered cognitive behavioral therapy and was forced to confront my emotions and insecurities. I had closed myself off from being honest with people for so long that this seemed impossible for me, but the more I began to speak up and share my story with others, the more I realized that people loved the real me more than I ever considered they would. This experience is what made me want to talk about mental health – because learning to share my story was what saved me in the first place.
 
What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?
 
I am extremely grateful for, humbled by, and proud of the things I’ve done. Not many 20 year-olds can say they’ve given a TED talk or started a profitable business. As a die-hard perfectionist, I’m never satisfied. Some might perceive that as greed, but I see it as a reminder to never stop growing. To put a cap on my work and say “this is my biggest accomplishment” assumes that my peak has already passed. I’m only 20 and I don’t want to peak for a long time! I am always proud of something when it happens – like my TED Talk or getting good press – but, I don’t rest on my laurels. I use past accomplishments to motivate me to do the next big thing. 
 
What is your biggest career dream? 
 
I have dozens, but my biggest career dream would be to appear on Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions. I cry just watching people speak on this show. I think if I got the chance, I’d have to have doctors on hand to catch me if I fainted.
 
What advice would you give to your younger self?
 
I’d tell her to stop searching for perfection and instead search for self-acceptance. I’d tell her to be proudly weak: humble enough to admit flaws, but bold enough to stand tall, anyway. I’d teach her to find beauty in being unencumbered, unapologetic, and unafraid to be herself; to realize that people aren’t broken, but beautifully imperfect.
 
How would your friends describe you in three words?
 
Accomplished, professional, and stylish. 
 
How would you describe yourself in three words?
 
Anxious, sensitive, and creative.
 
What do you wish people knew about you that they may not know?
 
I am a duck – no matter how clean and precise I look on the surface, I am frantically paddling underwater. It’s funny – I talk about dropping the guise of perfection because many people still tell me I’m “perfect.” They look at my accomplishments or hear my speeches and assume I’ve had my happy ending. To that, I say “Um, NO.” There is no happy ending because life keeps going. Yes, I can stand on a stage and tell a story about a boy who did me wrong and how I still came out on top, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t times where I fall back to the bottom. I wish people knew that mental illness will never stop being a part of me – I still deal with it all the time and have even returned to counseling multiple times. What has changed is that it’s still a part of me, but not the part I define myself by. I’ve learned to stop chasing happy endings and find joy in the process of life. I wish people knew that I’m still learning and I always will be.
 
What is your favorite quote?
 
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. – Neale Donald Walsch.
 
Do you have a role model?  Who is it and why?
 
I have a lot of role models! I really love passionate people: Lin Manuel-Miranda, Emma Stone, Beyonce, and Michelle Obama come to mind. I think the people I look up to are unapologetically themselves. They’re not “too cool” to get excited about things. You can see it in their eyes when they talk about what they love – that spark empowers me to continue to do what I love.
 
Glennon Doyle Melton also inspires me. She is a self-help author and all-around brilliant human being. Her TED talk got me through a lot and was a big motivator for me to apply to give a talk. I met her in September on her speaking tour and it was the most magical and tearful (I was blubbering) experience of my life.   
 
Do you believe you are a role model?
 
I hope I am! The anxious, insecure side of myself wants to say “no,” but the empowered, self-love-y side of me knows to say “yes.” I don’t think I’m spotless, but I hope young people look at what I’ve tried to do and feel empowered to make a difference in their lives or in someone else’s life. I’m not always sure of myself, but I know I can create beautiful things and I hope that’s empowering to others. 
 
What impact do you hope to have on the world?
 
No matter what I end up doing professionally, I want to teach people to be kind. I think so many problems are rooted in low-self esteem that we project onto others who then project that onto others. If we learn to love ourselves and radiate positivity, it can change people for good. Sometimes our hearts are hardened, but I truly believe genuine kindness can change the world. We can break the cycle of toxicity by spreading love above all else.
 
Are you optimistic about the future?
 
I believe we have to be optimistic. When I expect the worst, I get the worst. But when I have a good attitude and persevere even when I’m frustrated, things tend to be okay. I believe positivity brings positive experiences even when things aren’t perfect. Complaining and dread make us feel unnecessarily bad. Why not feel good instead? 
 
Many young people feel discouraged about pursuing their passions. Why do you think that is?  What is your advice to teens with a dream?
 
I think people get discouraged because failure is a very scary thing! When you pursue a goal, you’re aiming at something you love knowing that it could end up falling flat on its face. If we live in fear of failure, we stay comfortable in our little comfort zones where life is boring and we never learn anything. I urge teens to make themselves uncomfortable. Do scary things. Ask people for help. Invest your time in the things you want to pursue. Take risks and make leaps. Don’t let the threat of loss stop you from getting a win. Everything is going to be twisty, turny, and it will never stop being that way, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t start the journey. 
 
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Amanda shared her coming of age story in a TEDxUWMilwaukee presentation called Saying the Hard Things: The Power of Speaking Up. She detailed the highs and lows of her teenage life in her relationships with men, depression, and small-town fame.
 

 

By sharing her personal experiences with depression, toxic romantic relationships, and insecurities, Amanda teaches teens that anything is possible through honesty, self-acceptance, and kindness. Amanda is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she studies Communication. Visit Amanda Springob’s website for more information.

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