By Maida Azhar, November 22 2023—
The concept of self-forgiveness carries a profound weight, as it often requires a considerable passage of time and introspection to extend this essential compassion to oneself. I, too, traversed a lengthy journey to find solace in forgiving myself for my past mistakes. My evolution towards self-forgiveness was intimately tied to the moments I spent gazing into the mirror, examining my reflection with critical eyes and directing harsh judgements at the canvas that God had meticulously painted as me. Within the self-reflective arena, I often uttered unkind sentences to myself such as “you’ll never measure up” or “you’ll never possess the conventional beauty of those in your class or on social media.”
The wisdom of Albert Einstein runs through the corridors of my memory. In a well-spoken way, he stated, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life, believing that it is stupid.” In the world of education, where prodigies seemed to be the norm, I felt akin to the fish, constantly believing that I lacked the intellect and the potential for success, for I did not hold the intelligence of my peers. Throughout my school years, I unwittingly convinced myself that I was inherently unintelligent.
The cruelty that my fragile self was subjected to on a daily basis compounded my inner turmoil. I endured taunts and labels deeming me ugly stupid, pathetic and a disgrace. I frequently heard the refrain, that if one did not possess physical beauty, they should, at the very least, be intellectually gifted. Regrettably, I possessed neither attribute. Consequently, I spent a significant portion of my life steeped in self-perceived failure. Days merged into nights, weeks transitioned into months, and months melded into years, as I found myself progressively vanishing into the abyss of my own insecurities.
There exists a distinct moment fresh in my memory, a turning point that radically shifted my perspective. I lay in bed, gazing up at the ceiling in a profound realization washed over me like ocean waves. I envisioned my future self, seated on my deathbed, contemplating the life I had lived. It was at that moment that the gravity of my choices struck me. I pondered whether I wanted to look back on a life where self-loathing and self-criticism overshadowed every mistake I had made and every imperfection I possessed. Alternately, did I desire to spend my precious existence acknowledging my errors, nurturing self-love and embracing the unique individual that I am? As human beings in this complex society, we are incessantly bombarded with societal expectations and beauty standards, fostering feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Even celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga and so on who were highly praised for their beauty, have faced relentless bullying for their appearances in their youth.
Before we embark on a journey of self-deprecation, it is important that we confront a universal truth — criticism and judgment from others will forever persist, regardless of our quest for perfection. Thus, it is significant to invest our one and only gift, life, in a manner that will one day bring out a nostalgic smile as we reflect upon our existence. Most importantly, it is a life where we offer ourselves the forgiveness that we so readily give up on others, acknowledging that failures and mistakes are integral components of the path to success. Forgiveness, self-love and pride in our achievements should be the foundation of our self-narrative.
To all the readers who happen upon these words, I encourage you to envelop yourself in a warm embrace. Take a moment to reflect on the aspirations of your younger self, and strive to make them proud through your accomplishments. Each day, offer yourself the gift of forgiveness for the imperfections of your past. Recall the failures and missteps or not setbacks, but rather stepping stones toward personal growth and achievement. Forgive yourself, love yourself and take pride in the remarkable milestones you’ve reached on your life’s journey. Remember, you are enough and your story continues to unfold with strength and grace.
This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.