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Being Human

December 1, 2015

One of the things I desperately struggled with in my transition from teenage years into adulthood was learning to forgive myself. As a teenager, I was a self-centered and obnoxious child, a typical  parents’ worst nightmare. I was ill-disciplined, stubborn and selfish. Against my parents’ great wisdom, I followed my own instincts; with all their sound advice, I disobeyed and went on my own path and when they tried to reason with me, I argued that they didn’t understand me (Oh, but they did! I was just too young and immature to see that they were really looking out for me).

When the teenage euphoria finally wore off, I became more aware of the consequences of my actions and they humbled me. All of a sudden I wanted to be a child again (an obedient one, that is). I wanted run into my parents’ arms again and rest in the knowledge that everything would be OK. But my time of being their baby girl was up; adulthood was knocking on the door and that meant that taking responsibility for my actions. I soon learnt that growing up meant that there were consequences for every decision and that realization brought my fast-paced life in a screeching halt.


My parents ushered me to adulthood the best way they knew how but they could not shield me from the pain that comes with becoming an adult. So at 19, I ventured into the world fearful, doubtful but never alone, my parents’ support kept me going. I was alone and far from home and all of a sudden, that adventurous part of me slowly started to die in the “big, bad world”. I learnt that in the real world, failure was frowned upon, mistakes were not tolerated, disappointing your parents brought shame, swearing made you a bad person, wearing no-name clothing made you cheap and not having money made you a failure. I could not deal with all this pressure of being grown up and as a result, I did what every person does when they feel under attack; I hid within myself.

I pretended to have it all together. I smiled, I was chatty and friendly but deep down, I started to draw away from people. I said a lot around my peers but nothing meaningful. I made it seem as though I was okay but I was sinking. I was surrounded by many people but felt incredibly alone. And so I poured my feelings on my journals; I buried my flaws around people and only revealed the parts of me that I perceived likable. I was drowning in shame and embarrassment, but who could I tell? I was scared of being seen exactly how I saw myself: broken, flawed and ruined. It was easier to keep up appearances, and I did. I was not safe to out myself.


For many years, a friend I grew up with would say to me, “You need to let yourself off the hook about the things from the past…” And I would reply rashly, “Yeah, I know.”

But as she repeated it, over and over again over the years, the words penetrated through my tough exterior, and eventually broke me down, until one evening I wept in her arms. I cried because although I had said “Yeah, I know,” on many occasions, I was still punishing myself for mistakes I had made as a child. I had not really accepted myself- scars and all. I still saw myself as someone who was deeply broken and undeserving of good things.

And that lost, vulnerable feeling of realizing that I (still) had not forgiven myself scared me. And from that day, I was determined to see myself as more than just a broken person, but a person in the process of healing. I started to acknowledge my mistakes but not at expense of downplaying my comebacks. I began to focus on my light and not allow the darkness to draw me in. My mind was opened to seeing more than the ugly parts of me. I started to embrace the fact that my flaws, mistakes and foolishness along the way, did not erase the good that existed in me still. Finally, at age 25, I was on a journey to forgiving myself.



I don’t know what life has brought your way, I don’t know what scars you have incurred, I don’t know what mistakes you have made, I don’t know what has tainted your soul, I don’t know what pain you have suffered, I don’t know what guilt you’ve entertained or what lies you’ve allowed yourself to cling to, but I hope you learn to forgive yourself.


Resist the temptation to be hard on yourself over a situation that didn’t pan out, or a relationship that didn’t work out, or a bad habit you haven’t cut out, cut yourself some slack instead. We all have room for improvement; it’s called being human.



Love and light,

Nono Cele

Tweet me: @Nono_Cele


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