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.