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Self-forgiveness is important and worthwhile pursuit

Constant cycle of self-blame can hold us back in life

To be down because of bad decisions one makes is part of life, what is more important is the decision whether one bounces back or remains miserable.
To be down because of bad decisions one makes is part of life, what is more important is the decision whether one bounces back or remains miserable.
Image: 123RF

Forgiveness is an essential part of healing and affects the state of our overall wellness.

Through forgiveness, we are able to move on with life and be freed from anger, guilt and shame.

While we are often taught about the importance of forgiving others, not enough is said about the journey of self-forgiveness and what it takes to free oneself from the prison of self-blame.

Whether it’s a mistake you made or an experience that happened to you, it is important to acknowledge the past, feel the emotions that come with it and work towards healing and forgiving.

For 27-year-old Bathabile Gijana, growing up without the necessary support, love and care meant that she later had to come to terms with the fact she is not to blame for her traumatic childhood.

“I’ve had to accept that I was never at fault for some of the things I’ve been through. For instance, I never chose the family I was born into. I never chose a tough upbringing,” she said.

Bathabile Gijana.
Bathabile Gijana.
Image: Supplied

Getting started on the journey of self-forgiveness was not an easy thing for Gijana to do.

She has had to battle with her thoughts and get rid of beliefs she had adopted as truth for many years.

“I used to believe that I was experiencing hardships because I was attracting them. I also used to think all these things happen simply because it’s me and that they do not happen to other people. I always had that assumption.” 

Having to make sense of her reality through the lens of a past characterised by abandonment and trauma, she has found that being at peace with her experiences has been a game changer. 

She has also had to be aware of the damage caused to her inner self to embrace healing.

“I kind of didn’t experience my childhood. I had to be a mother to myself. I had to grow even before I was a grown up. I took all that blame and I believed that it was all my fault. I was convinced I was the problem.

“My experiences contributed to low self-esteem and self-doubt. I felt as though I was not good enough. But I have had to accept that I have done nothing wrong and my childhood was not my fault.”

Having a relationship with God, actively working towards her healing and reconciling with her parents who were absent in her childhood are some of the things that have made Gijana’s journey of self-forgiveness enriching.

Acknowledging that the journey of self-forgiveness does not happen overnight and that she cannot entirely wipe out her past, she continues to intentionally walk her journey.

“It’s not easy to unlearn the blame game. It has taken loving and appreciating myself again, appreciating my past too. I am who I am because of my history. I’ve had to learn to not despise my past experiences.”

Though still on the journey, Gijana believes self-forgiveness has been an important and worthwhile pursuit. While some days may be better than others and the past cannot be erased, she aims to keep on keeping on.

“Self-forgiveness has positively affected the relationship I have with myself. I’ve grown to love and appreciate myself. I’ve grown to develop confidence and self-esteem. But it is still a work in progress because I still have experiences in life that trigger my past.”

According to life and relationship coach Siyathokoza Nsizwane, self-forgiveness is crucial for a healthy relationship with yourself.

Siyathokoza Nsizwane.
Siyathokoza Nsizwane.
Image: Supplied

“A healthy relationship with yourself is one of the most important relationships you can have. At the end of the day, you are your greatest asset and you are all you have. It’s important to love, embrace and accept yourself,” she said.

Nsizwane believes that being self-critical forms part of why we may find forgiving others easier than forgiving ourselves. The grace we so generously extend to others is the same grace we often fail to give ourselves.

“Unforgiveness is a state that comes with self-criticism. The two go hand in hand. More than just the world being hard on us and criticising us on a regular basis, we do that to ourselves as well.”

She further warns against existing in a constant cycle of self-blame as this can affect many aspects of life including relationships, work and how we show up in life.

Ultimately, Nsizwane encourages embarking on the journey of self-forgiveness as it is freeing and allows for the thorough enjoyment of life in the present moment. 

“Most of the time you are blaming yourself based on a past experience. This means you are unable to move away from what has happened. This forces you not to be able to enjoy and celebrate where you currently are in life.”

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