Deserving a Win

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

No matter how hard I try, there will be times when I feel like I can’t do anything right. I spent years developing a very bad habit, one where I’d rob myself of any credit I’d deserve. Everything I’d achieved in my life didn’t belong to me; to even think about claiming it for my own was sacrilege. Almost three years after I’d stopped believing Christian doctrines, this still is something I find difficult to shake.

Most often, it shows up in how uncomfortable I am in taking care of myself.
Whether it’s assistance or praise at what I do, the idea that I’m deserving of positive accolades feels like I’m taking credit for myself. Even writing about the idea right now is causing me tension in my hands and chest. Whenever I even think of praise for what I’ve done for myself, my first instinct is to run and hide. At the sight of such cowardice, I find it easy to despise myself.

To my old religious self, there’s nothing wrong with doing this. Humility is a virtue, and I’m just recognizing the reality that only a deity can give people the good things in life. Taking credit for myself would rob a supreme being of its due. No, I should just work harder at trying to get divine rewards.

Despite knowing how silly it sounds, it still won’t stop happening.
It didn’t take learning a fringe Christian doctrine or going to some private, heretical meeting. This is a standard extension of a normal article of faith. As years went by, I personally accepted this article to the point that it has become a core part of my being. Fixing it is the hardest thing in the world to do because doing so involves an inherently painful process.

I can’t even be angry about it, because anger is just one of the many ways these religious artifacts stay nestled in my mind. Being angry means I shut down instead of figuring out a path to healing. Getting worked up means I’m letting empty echoes from church dictate my reality. Acquiescing to it isn’t an option either because that’s tantamount to rolling over and dying.

I need a win, because I deserve one. So does everyone else who has put up with divine robbery.
Somehow I managed to get through undergrad, law school, and a bar exam while exhibiting symptoms of debilitating mental illness. I should have been getting professional help at the time, but I kept deluding myself into thinking I was okay. Despite that monkey on my back, I did all that I set out to do. At no point did a divine entity show up and give me a nod of approval.

All this time, it has taken a slow process of being more assertive with my rejection of faith. I’ve gone from quietly accepting that I did all these things for myself to being confident that I had done so. Going this far is a victory in and of itself. Although I’ve got a lot longer road ahead of me, I should be okay with how far I’ve gone.

Even if there’s just one deconvert out there who can identify with what I’m going on about here, that’s too many people who know from firsthand experience. It can feel like there will always be that one article of faith that can’t be shaken, that rains on the proverbial parade. Well, the parade will still happen, because everyone who gets out has earned one.

13 thoughts on “Deserving a Win

  1. Forgive me, I’m just trying to understand what you mean on a personal level when you wrote this: Humility is a virtue, and I’m just recognizing the reality that only a deity can give people the good things in life. Taking credit for myself would rob a supreme being of its due.
    Do you still believe this to be true?
    I had no idea that there were such “dictatorial” rules in any of the Christian religions. How awful to be told that one owes one’s accomplishments to a higher power.
    It’s possible to both recognize what you’ve achieved and be humble. Humility is a matter of not screaming out to the world how good you are, but at the same time, quietly and graciously accepting it when someone notices of their own accord. In my own self I am proud of how far I’ve come. I only mention my accomplishments when necessary: to connect with other people in similar situations or to demonstrate my competence. But at the same time, I’m like you. I hate talking about it.
    Unlike you, I have no idea where my guilt comes from. I should probably work on that.

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    • Hey Linda.

      The quote is actually a reflection on my old view of things. While I was taught that humility is supposed to be this restraint in bragging about oneself, in practice it was more like me being ashamed of anything good I’d ever done. For a long time growing up, I’d be told to be quiet about talking about my accomplishments. Sometimes, I’d be told that it was prideful. While I’m sure there were times that I’d brag as a kid, eventually I just stopped saying anything positive about myself.

      Or worse, I’d put myself down if I mention something positive. I’ve done that recently when talking with people about the book I wrote. It’s something that makes me cringe whenever I do it, but I can’t stop doing it.

      At any rate, don’t beat yourself up over your guilt. Something I’ve learned in therapy is to replace “should” with “would like to.” It helps me see the extra constraints guilt puts on me at times.

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  2. You got through law school and passed your bar despite your having severe depression. That’s a fucking “miracle.” Plus, you write such amazing posts like this one. Seriously. See, I’m giving you practice to accept the accolades that will inevitably continue to come.πŸ˜‰

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  3. Dude – I absolutely understand. It’s one of my least favorite aspects of fundamentalist thinking. The doctrine of Denial of Self as a necessity to Spirit-filled Christian Living is a vile and insidious thing. We were taught early on to take credit only for our failings and calling out to Christ, but that our “victories” were only possible through Christ Who Strengthens Us blah-blah. Here’s something fucked-up that you’ll appreciate, I think: I hated being praised because I *love* being praised and it made me feel self-centered and sinful that I loved that praise. When I rejected Christianity (5 years ago this month – woot!) I had to retrain myself to just fucking say “thank you,” and enjoy the moment. I had to retrain that it was perfectly acceptable and good to be proud of something I had accomplished.

    Now I just try and enjoy the moment when I did something I’m proud of.

    And yet, if you’ll notice, even after 5 years, I still have to try.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Sirius, I can truly relate to your experience and those who have posted responses. I also feared that sense of pleasure in acknowledging anything positive about myself. It’s so freakin’ liberating to be free from that sick mentality.

    Humility is still a value of mine, though not higher than self-respect or -esteem. I can get super excited about an accomplishment or aspect of personal growth and I don’t usually consider it a problem unless I find that I’m comparing myself to someone else or feel some compulsion to get someone else to recognize it.

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