Overcoming extreme anxiety to become a strong Indigenous female voice

Vancouver resident Jacoby Macdonald shares her leadership journey 

Feeling extreme anxiety or panic all-too frequently was something that plagued 19-year-old Vancouver resident Jacoby Macdonald for all of her childhood. Looking back, even today, she can vividly recall having trouble with sometimes the seemingly simplest of tasks like crossing a quiet street.“My legs would be shaking, and my knees would be knocking together as I worried about whether or not people were looking at me.”

Fast forward to her Grade 12 year when during an English class, she needed to read a poem in front of her classmates and fear was once again paralyzing her.“I was shaking so badly I thought I would lose the piece of paper I was holding or even cry,” admits Macdonald. Fortunately, now the memories just remind her of how far she has come.

Less than a year ago, Macdonald was invited to speak at an event that even the bravest of public speakers would typically shy away from. She was chosen to share her story at the world-famous WE Day, an annual celebration that brings together thousands of youth for the purpose of inspiring and empowering them through stories told by young leaders like Macdonald.

For weeks, Macdonald was prepped for speaking in front of 20,000 youth who would hear how she became a foster child at the age of three weeks which resulted in not knowing where she came from or a deeper understanding of her own self-worth. “Growing up, I never knew about my culture.”

Macdonald says for the almost four minutes she stood on that stadium stage by herself that day in 2018, she could see the faces of her listeners clearly and it just motivated her to dig even deeper into her story. In those moments, she was the girl everyone wanted to hear from, and she was the voice who could elevate the crowd’s view on the importance of reclaiming one’s culture. “I wasn’t really nervous which admittedly was strange. It was as if everything I had learned in the months leading up to that all came together.”

What led to this larger-than-life experience was Macdonald’s desire to reclaim her roots. Along that journey, she discovered Minerva BC. She explains at that time she was introduced to a newly launched pilot program called Indigenous Roots  The program provided Macdonald opportunity to develop her leadership confidence through outdoor experiences like hiking, canoeing and camping.

While enrolled in the program, Macdonald, who grew up with a non-native foster family, was alongside of Indigenous girls her same age. She explains learning more her Ojibway ancestry taught her to appreciate how important knowing one’s culture was when exploring your identity and place in society, and when trying to find your voice as a leader. 

Macdonald says she continues to feel more empowered and focused with each passing day. Although convinced reclaiming her roots was an important factor as to why she is doing so well, she is equally as adamant that her foster family, who stayed the same her entire life, played equally as important role.“I love my family. They mean everything to me,” says Macdonald.

Staying true to her values, Macdonald adds she chose her current place of work, the incredibly popular Earnest Ice Cream, was selected because of what they stand for. “I love my company so much because of their sustainability values and zero waste policy,” says Macdonald. And while she enjoys the steady stream of summer customers, Macdonald is already planning her next life chapter – the film program at Capilano University.

Minerva is committed to providing culturally-relevant programs in partnership with Indigenous women in their communities throughout British Columbia.  Click here to read how we are changing the face of leadership 

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