February is Black History Month & what some like to call the Month of Love. For me, it is a time of self-reflection as I often find myself reminiscing about the past and contemplating the future.

I recently came across a video I made in Grade 12 for my Media class. The video visualized my personal essay titled “Inner Shards,” and I was so delighted to find it because I thought I had permanently lost the essay due to technological issues. Now a 20-year-old Black woman, watching the video transported me into the past as I listened to then 17-year-old me narrate her story.

So, in the spirit of this month, I would like to share that story with you and dedicate a love letter to my younger self and all the young Black girls reading this.

I usually think my old works are cheesy or cringe, but this piece stood the test of time. In fact, I think that was the peak of my writing and video editing skills, haha. But, I’ll let you decide that:

Transcript of Inner Shards

When I looked in a mirror, I used to see a healthy, confident, strong-willed girl standing with a gracious pose, arms out, lips curled into a smile, beaming at me. 

A girl determined to achieve her goals in life no matter what anyone else says, a girl ready to change the definition of impossible, a girl blossoming into a woman in her own gentle way.

Now, when I look in a mirror, I don’t see that girl anymore. She became a shadow, evidence of what once was. I look in a mirror and gaze upon a clear reflection of a feeble, bashful, unsettled girl slumped in an uncomfortable pose, arms crossed around her chest, lips I can’t see as she bows her head and stares at the shabby, structured tiles on the floor. I want to comfort her and ease her distress, so I reach out to hug her but instead, my fingers lock into themselves, and I embrace myself. I cry and yell because I am aware that she is not me but a sickening portrayal of society’s perception of my individuality. The mirror stands witness to my breakdown, and it persists in upholding an extrovert ideal I know I will never abide by but will live my entire life desperately trying. 

I’m the kid who gets a satisfactory grade in class participation. The one, the teacher, frantically taunts to SPEAK UP. The one who scurries to the back of the class party and watches others. Yet, I never thought of it as a problem or a disorder. I could be bold and loud, which in fact, I was. I had a plethora of friends, and we would constantly chatter, making a jest of each other at the highest of volumes. It wasn’t until my family traded an old life for a new one in Canada did I begin to explore the concept of Carl Jung’s term, Introversion: “an attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents.” 

Why would I rather stay inside and read a book during recess than play outside? Why was making friends so complex for me when my brother already had ten? Why was I fond of losing myself to a beautiful world of imagination and endless possibilities when I was alone? Why? Why? Why? I questioned. 

I eventually adjusted to a new life of loneliness and entertained myself until I made friends, people I would still be in close contact with despite being a thousand miles apart. But as frequently as we moved houses, towns, and eventually provinces, my perception of self altered. Everywhere I looked, society hung mirrors to tease me of my reflection. I began to despise mirrors so much that when I used the washroom, I would put my head down to avoid looking at the supposed image of myself. Ridiculing my personality wasn’t enough for the mirrors, so soon, the talents and skills that came naturally to my introversion became caricatured. 

Mirrors are made out of glass, and glass can be shattered without difficulty. 

I stand once again in front of a mirror, and this time I don’t hesitate to look at my reflection, and a being I have grown to loathe looks back at me as well. I take off the armours that prevent my true identity from showing, the garments of shame and embarrassment, my head-gear of self-pity, the coat of many colours, each for different occasions. A tremendous amount of burden lifts off me, and finally, I can breathe again. The interplay between how I perceive myself and how others perceive me isn’t stagnant; it is ever-changing. It is an interaction. It is a tango between two forces, the individual and the society. And I have the power, even if it took me years to realize that, to control the flow of the dance.

When I look in a mirror, I can now see a healthy, confident, strong-willed girl standing with a gracious pose, arms out, lips curled into a smile, beaming at me. 

A girl determined to achieve her goals in life no matter what anyone else says, a girl ready to change the definition of impossible, a girl blossoming into a woman in her own gentle way.

Photo of me @ 17 🙂

I get chills every time I read it!

As much as I would love to dissect everything in the essay, I will only touch on a few key elements that are relevant for this article:

Key Takeaways

  • In the essay, the main focus seems to be on my Introversion, but if you read between the lines and acknowledge how an introverted Black girl would have a different experience than someone else (hint: Intersectionality), then you know why I’m highlighting this issue. 

  • I love the use of mirrors as a metaphor for society’s perception of people and one’s perception of self. We mostly know of unrealistic body standards placed on young girls growing up and how this is even worsened for girls of colour, who don’t even see enough positive representation on the screens or in print. I appreciate that my younger self could recognize the other standards that we are held up to and how they are often connected.

  • This line hit me: “…it persists in upholding an extrovert ideal I know I will never abide by but will live my entire life desperately trying.” I still sometimes find myself presenting as the ultimate extrovert as a means of survival, especially in situations where as a Black woman, you have to put more effort than others to be taken seriously. “Quiet” by Susan Cain is a book that helps me navigate this complexity. 

  • “Mirrors are made out of glass, and glass can be shattered without difficulty.” – While I love the empowering message this line has and how it leads to the feel-good resolution, I noticed I didn’t touch on how exactly I shattered the glass. The essay makes it appear like I suddenly did, haha. While #BlackGirlMagic seems empowering on the surface, it takes time and effort to dismantle a system that wasn’t created in your favour. It takes a great effort to discover your self-worth and understand why taking care of yourself is an act of self-perseveration and political welfare. It takes time to realize how you can effectively advocate for yourself. Looking back, I probably rushed to the happy ending in the essay because I had not figured it out myself, but an A+ essay needed a resolution, so I imagined one. 

  • 3 years later, I’m still figuring it out, but at least I have a clue now. One thing that helps me shatter those mirrors is community care! In the essay, I explicitly mentioned my struggle with loneliness as a Black Introvert, and since the pandemic, it has been creeping again, but community care keeps me grounded. What is it? According to Heather Dockray, Community care is basically any care provided by a single individual to benefit other people in their life. This can take the form of protests, for which community care is best known, but also simple, interpersonal acts of compassion.

  • I practice community care by recognizing when to reach out to others – my family, friends, faith group, community members, colleagues, and so on when I need help, advice, or connection. 
    • This isn’t to negate the benefits of self-care (and there are many dimensions of it such as mental, physical, spiritual, etc.); you should obviously be taking care of yourself! It’s just essential to also know when to turn to others you trust. For example, I recently got this fantastic care package for WEW’s Galentine Event and I’m so excited to use it and have a video call with my friends to perform an “unboxing” of the package, faux influencer style.

  • There are several other issues referenced in this essay that I would love to dive deeper into (ex: unique experiences of young Immigrant girls), but I’ll save that for another time. Let me know if you picked up on any!

I hope you enjoyed my insights into the essay by 17-year-old me! Finally, I leave you with this:

Dear Black Girl,

Your hair texture is gorgeous. It is a gift from your ancestors. 

Your skin tells a story of beauty and triumph. Take care of it.

The way your lips curl into a smile lights up a room. Celebrate & honour Black joy.

You can be strong, but you can be vulnerable too. You are not alone.

You can find power in volumes, but you can find it too in the quiet. 

You were never meant to carry the weight of the world or societal expectations on your shoulders. Your back wasn’t created to hold the burden of systemic oppression or microaggressions. I’m sorry that when you speak out to advocate for yourself, they label you as “angry” or “aggressive.”

You deserve to take up space. You belong. Your presence is a blessing to others.

You are worthy of love and affection. You are enough.

About the Author

Priscilla Ojomu is a Nigerian-Canadian 3rd-Year BA student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology at UAlberta. Priscilla's work at WEW is fuelled by her passion for promoting awareness of the experiences of marginalized communities through accessible information and resources.

Literature, tea, podcasts, Studio Ghibli movies (Fun fact: she has 100+ collectible postcards of the feature films from 1984 - 2014), art, volunteering and advocating for equity keep her busy.