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How Do You Forgive Yourself

I feel uncomfortable in my body. I resent my body. I do not subscribe to the idea of body-positivity newsletters and Instagram posts. I just do not like my body and I want to be aware of this feeling.

Artwork: Tina Maria Elena Bak

About this time a year ago, I was applying to universities abroad for my higher studies in the Public Policy Program and was full of hope and life for a thrilling 2020. By February 10, 2020, I had received admission offers from every university that I had applied to. But come March and in the space of just a month, the novel virus had become a pandemic and the whole world went under lockdown that we had never witnessed.

Reports and images from Italy and Wuhan were scary and spine-chilling. Hospitals ran out of beds. There was not enough protective equipment. Medical systems across the world started to collapse. The system, which was already broken, abandoned common, poor, black men and women and queer people.

Millions of migrant workers were forced to leave cities in India and walked hundreds of miles to reach their homes in far-flung areas. Several of them could never reach home.

My pain and difficulties are nothing compared to what billions of people have gone through in a year. We have lost many valuable lives and good people. We saw religious fundamentalists take over democracy and aristocratic regimes use the pandemic to advance their agenda.

Today, I want to talk about the negativity, the sheer amount of hatred for self, and failure, awareness, and insecurities that I accumulated in the last 9 months. Many of these instances and sensitivities were foreign to me and I did not know how to respond to them.

Representative Image, Source: Google

Fear of Failure

The COVID emergency forced many non-governmental organizations to shut down and some had to lay off their employees due to the funding crisis. My organization too laid off around 200 employees - many of them - very young, some had just become parents, some were recently married and some had bank loans to pay, feed their family and some were the sole bread-earner of their families.

I have always been lucky and privileged in some way or the other and so, I survived the cruel lay-off. But the guilt and the appalling stories from my colleagues and friends who lost their jobs had left a scar on my mind. Despite this, I was financially safe.

But my job role was changed and I had moved to a new role. I knew nothing about the new role. I had no interest in the role. I had no skill at all to do the job. This filled me with the fear of failure. I did not know how to do the tasks I was assigned and I suddenly had become irrelevant in my own eyes.

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Changes in the Body

This change in the job was not the only thing that saddened me. I had started to become fat. My hair started to thin and hair-fall increased with time. None of my clothes fit me anymore. These were quite evident in physical changes that I could not control. I could not sleep most of the nights and spent several nights being anxious. The daily - routine changed and I slept during day time and worked during the night. I could basically do nothing - neither sleep properly nor work to my satisfaction.

These physical changes were something that I never desired and I was realizing that it would make me look -'ugly'. My physical ugliness will make me socially unacceptable and I still have this fear which I try to battle each day. I feel uncomfortable in my body. I resent my body. I do not subscribe to the idea of body-positivity newsletters and Instagram posts. I just do not like my body and I want to be aware of this feeling.

Beauty Will Not Save Me

I'm not very old, I just turned 25. But the fear that I have achieved nothing in my life, I am far behind, I am not good enough, I will die unfinished; all these had driven me up the wall. I turned down 3 marriage proposals because I know I am not ready, I know those girls and I do not have love as basic premise or even know each other properly but the idea that I will probably not have the same tempting marriage proposals later - has affected me. My body, too, will not be physically attractive and perhaps, I will not be liked and loved. I often thought of the worst.

Artwork: Noor (Instagram/noorranix)

Failure in Love: The Need to be Felt Needed

Though I never made a full-time attempt to love a person or most often, I loved people from a distance because I could not afford to just give away my space to someone, give away my privacy, and expose all my darkness completely in light for the other person. I just could not do it. I could not disintegrate -however, I may like to.

But I did fall in love and like always, from a distance and I could never gather the courage to tell the person that I loved her, I cared for her deeply and I would really love to be with her. I could not express this to the person I love. Because I am not sure of acceptance and I fear rejection. So, I kept my love discreet and buried everything.

I, like any other human being, want to be loved and love someone but that's only to survive the cruelty of aloneness and I have never been this needy, this thirsty. The need to be felt needed has only grown.

Artwork: Noor (Instagram/noorranix)

Absolute Loneliness

I have always been away - from family, from friends and I loved being in solitude and isolation. My childhood in boarding schools was lonely and I often spent time in the school library - reading poems, stories, Premchand, and writing diaries.

I never thought that aloneness will ever bother me. But 2020 has changed everything. Despite being at home with my parents, I was dearly lonely. I could only think of all the negative and imperfect things that I am. My world was limiting and closing slowly and daily. My imagination and dreams could only see great uncertainties and limitations.

In September, both my parents suffered from life-threatening medical conditions. The emotional and financial burden broke me totally. My world was collapsing.

I often heard people around me telling (or mentioning in their conversations in groups) that they are there for support, to listen, to be with you, to keep company. But on many occasions, nobody listened to me even when I was very clearly telling them (mostly at work) that I need help, I have reached my threshold, I am on the edge.

I know that they were not obliged to help me and it would not be right to blame them because everyone was going through something or the other. But, I came very close to realizing - why many people take their lives, why they lose hope and why this utterly beautiful world seems unfair, foreign, and unjust to them. I realize why they feel they do not belong, or no one belongs to them, and why they do not matter in such a vast-huge universe. After all, we are just very tiny particles.

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Validating Self, Reclaiming Self

All of these were happening to me and yet many people, who know me, thought I was doing very well. little did they know that I was dying inside, decaying within. I had lost charge of myself. Everything else was just a facade.

I never thought that I will feel this way, I will experience this great sense of uselessness and will be so empty. This was sudden. I didn't see it coming. I was helpless.

However, there was only one thing that I could do - I was aware that these changes were happening to me. I was and I am acknowledging what was and is happening to me.

I am aware that I have lost faith, my confidence, my courage, and my determination. I know that I have become comfortably numb and I am on auto-pilot mode. I acknowledge it.

I still do not know how to take charge of myself. But a simple act of acknowledgment is helping me reclaim my strength, my faith.

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Last month, I took some time off and volunteered to work with a grassroots election campaign in Bihar. I met people - diverse, rural-urban, men, women, queer, workers, artists, singers, community-organizers; I traveled in rural areas, listened to people, spent weeks in a rural area away from all comforts of modern life and I was beginning to take back my life. (People have different coping mechanisms, different passions that help them stay sane. My example is about me and can not be a general antidote.)

"The art to survive is to believe that you can always start over. Always."

I started doing what turned me on - the work I loved the most - the field trips, singing people's songs, writing poems and the interactions and conversations with people helped me feel worthy, I felt I mattered and I am important to myself.

I was making progress, slow but still moving on. I have been able to switch jobs, do the work that I love, and begin fresh. I have started to restore my faith in my ability that I can begin again, I am not behind. I am exactly where I need to be to get where I want to go. It assures me that I am going to take care of myself and those who depend on me.

I know that I have wounds and need closure and healing. I know that I might never accept some of the changes that are happening to me. I know that I will grow old and I will have to stay with me. I know it will hurt me. I know that these trying times have scarred me but I also know that I will always take care of myself.


And I write this note to tell you that things will be messy. Life is difficult and challenging. Times are not easy. Roads are bumpy but I assure you that you will be fine. It's a journey worth taking. All you need to do is to give yourself a chance, forgive yourself until you are there until you have achieved what you want to achieve. And even if you fail, detach, find a new goalpost, choose a new destination. Our lives can not have one fixed goal post. So, acknowledge, forgive yourself, and allow life a chance.


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