Recovering from Religion - Phoenix Message Board › SELF-ESTEEM
PART 4 of Richard Yao's">Yao's recovery program "A TOAST to Life"
In fundamentalism we were told that "Pride goeth before a fall."
But we also learned to take things to extremes. Excessive pride can get us in trouble. But so can almost any excess.
We were conditioned to avoid compliments. We told ourselves, and probably still do tell ourselves, that God deserves the credit for what we achieve. We became self-effacing, and said things like: "It was nothing really" or "I didn't do it" or "It was the Lord's will."
As ex-fundamentalists, we may feel a strong sense of shame at having been under the sway of the fundamentalist mindset. As we learn to appreciate life outside of fundamentalism, we may feel that we had been "duped" while in fundamentalism. And we may feel that it was our fault that we were duped. From this sense, there arise feelings of shame and even guilt about having let ourselves be fooled. Such feelings are not productive. Although we may feel as though we are "taking responsibility" for having been fooled, such feelings of shame are often ways we have of punishing ourselves when what we really need is not punishment, but a pat on the back for having had the strength to leave. Shame and guilt do not reinforce our movement away from fundamentalism so much as they prevent us from achieving a healthy self-esteem.
Self-esteem is a necessary part of being a well-adjusted and productive individual. We should be able to take pride in our achievements, to take credit for a job well done.
Another attitude that some of us must confront is the feeling that we do not deserve anything. Being told that we were only sinners constantly in need of God's grace only served to destroy our self-esteem.
Feeling the flush of pride that comes with accomplishment may be very hard for us to bear at first. Our first instinct may be to reject the feeling, and to try and stamp it out. These feelings are frightening because they are so unfamiliar, and they trigger the old tapes and warnings about pride and sin. But we can, for example, make a start by accepting small compliments that come our way. We can move slowly and build self-esteem one step at a time.
We mentioned earlier that taking responsibility for ourselves is a major step toward building self-esteem. It works both ways: as our self-esteem grows we will want to take more and more responsibility for ourselves.
- Richard Yao