Where Our Attention Belongs: A birthday reflection on insecurity and some BLM thoughts

[content mentions: BLM, police brutality, insecurity]

C.G. Jung — ‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’

This piece has little to do with celebrating my 366-day-loop-around-the-sun but perhaps the fact that I recently turned 23 will give you the bits of motivation you need to finish reading. I always doubted I’d be someone who recalls exactly what age they were when significant events happened to them, but I will remember being 22 and the year 2020 for a very long time.

I have been grappling with posting more about BLM because after July, I will preface with the fact that the growth I have seen from many people in my life and on my feed has been one of the greatest highlights of this year. But for others in my life, I honestly cannot tell if people are working behind-the-scenes or have simply forgotten commitments they made. I was flooded with vows and commitments in July and regardless of what I outwardly see, I hope with all of my being that people feel even half as empowered as they did then to participate in the movement: the donating, the rallying – the real work. Still, I have decided I am going to keep talking about Black life, Black joy, and my experiences as a Black woman as we watch our world – slowly but surely – change around us.

But first – insecurity story time.

I spent the majority of my adolescence silently grappling with insecurity. And I rarely showed it. I went to school, I saw my friends, I put myself out there and tried my best – then I came home and didn’t look in the mirror if I could help it. A lot of people have probably been here before. Insecurity can present itself insidiously – in those we find the most confident, in those who speak up the loudest in our social circles. This is all part of the show – what we reveal of our lives is in many ways, an act. Even with good intentions, every day you present yourself in some manner of your choosing to the people you encounter. Accordingly, it can become easy to live in the lies we tell ourselves – committing to an act on a day to day basis (living our real-life version of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige).

High School Iku

I will admit that it’s not always a bad thing. When you act like something long enough, you become it – and this can also apply to beneficial feelings like happiness and gratitude. This phenomenon can be a reminder of the roles we play in defining our own stories when we have the privilege of control over certain circumstances. I think this “act it, become it” ideology is ultimately what pulled me out of my own insecurity.

Beyond this, my insecurity then and the bouts of insecurity I have experienced since, have all been affected by what I was paying attention to in my day-to-day life.

What Had My Attention

I grew up glued to YouTube and these were the girls on my screen:

Videos I used to watch throughout my adolescence

This is no fault to them or their content. However, it’s unsurprising that constantly seeing and admiring teenage girls who looked nothing like I ever would, often made me spiral without even realizing. This reigns true today – I spent a lot of time this summer muting and unfollowing accounts that were definitely subconsciously feeding my insecurities. This may also apply to you and wherever your insecurities stem from – often others and what we are feeding ourselves.

I followed new accounts that were better for my well-being and a couple of content creators who at least looked like me:

Accounts I follow now

Now at 23, I can say that the vast majority (if not all) of the time, I am unapologetically myself and would not change who I am for anything. I know this sounds very cliché but that’s the great thing about cliches: they’re almost too good to be true but when you discover that they are, it’s a beautiful thing.

Our attention is our life.

I can admit, I was “sleepwalking”, “on autopilot” – for years. These are lofty characterizations of what it’s like to be out of control and often blissfully unaware. It is not as outrageous as it sounds.  We complain constantly and scroll endlessly. We forget about gratitude and we forget to truly wake up when we “wake up”.

There are a lot of hints that you may be living this way. In my experience, one hint is that you are (whether you are ready to admit it or not) finding your worth in the external world rather than the person you are inside. This can include spending several hours of the day on social media and spending a lot of time complaining about never-ending grievances. Everyone has been there, just some are willing to admit it about themselves and to themselves. A good friend has recently reminded me that awareness is the first step to addressing most struggles – so just admit things to yourself. You should be able to be honest with yourself – you are your home.

It’s uncomfortable to shift your attention from the everlasting dopamine cycles of me, myself, and I. So uncomfortable that sometimes for me, it’s about formally structuring things in – reading time, nights for movies and documentaries, enrolling in an online course. I also rely on some designated accountability partners to make sure I don’t fall into certain patterns of behaviour.

Now where is BLM in all of this?

In the months since the George Floyd protests and Black squares, I’ve been observing how easy it is for people to return to doing little to stand up against oppression. It is not something I always call out – but it’s palpable. It’s a cycle as old as time – outrage leading to complicity. And even with subtle changes and progress, the big picture solutions are still not completely in sight. It’s the distractibility of our minds. Before we know it, 50 years have gone by and the same events repeat themselves – waiting for someone to figure it out for us. We wonder why humanity has been so stagnant – a collective sleepwalking. We had President Trump attempting to unite his “proud boys” and general voter base to reject the 2020 election results. This is the same energy that fuelled the formation of the Confederate States and the start of the American Civil War following Abraham Lincoln’s election due to Lincoln’s anti-slavery stance. The common denominator across centuries has been – the attempts to uphold white supremacy. Regardless, what is going on in America is a distraction, pulling our attention from everything that is still happening at home.

So, here are reminders of what’s still going on to wake us all up a little:

  • Police brutality in Canada: Another Black life lost to police brutality in Canada did not receive justice this fall. Abdirahman Abdi was a Somali-Canadian man who died following a violent arrest by Constable Daniel Montsion and another officer. The result was an acquittal.
  • COVID-19: The Toronto Fallout Report was released in November 2020 and revealed astounding disparities in COVID’s impact on racialized populations.
  • COVID-19: Coast to coast, cases continue to arise disproportionately affect people living in low income circumstances with little done by our government to protect them. In BC, “about 45 of West and South Asian respondents and 37 per cent of Black respondents reported having trouble meeting their financial needs during the pandemic, compared with 29 per cent of white respondents.”

Example finding from the Toronto FallOut Report

Other than on our own wellbeing – this is where our attention belongs.

Cheers! Sign up here to be notified when I post next. Always on a Tuesday.

P.S. This is a reminder to take some time away from your screen if you need. Some ideas: go for a walk, meditate, read a book. 🙂


  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/officer-monstion-judgment-abdirahman-abdi-family-supporters-reaction-1.5758515
  2. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/11/12/a-fight-for-the-soul-of-the-city-report-shows-how-covid-19-has-deepened-torontos-racial-and-economic-divide.html
  3. https://thetyee.ca/News/2020/11/19/Vancouver-Poorest-Neighbourhoods-Highest-COVID-Rates/

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