So I am relatively new to the faith, I converted about six months ago. I’ve had quite a few difficulties. Lately, I’ve been wondering if what I’m doing might be scrupulosity. I’ve been against labeling it as such because I was afraid that “scrupulosity” might just be my excuse for being lax about sins, but I’ve been struggling again and I guess I thought it was worth delving into.
I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but looking back at my life, I’m seeing more and more of it. Anything that I was ever slightly good at - writing, debating, sewing, anything at all academic - I had to be the BEST at it, because I felt people wouldn’t respect me otherwise. I thought if I couldn’t be perfect at what I did, nobody could notice or like me at all. I never considered this a problem in my secular life, although now I feel it may have accounted for a lot of stress and anxiety throughout my childhood (and still today). The only thing that I’ve really managed to stick to so far is sewing, and I’m wondering if that is maybe simply because nobody yet has spoken a word against my talent. I’m still struggling with this problem, mainly because I have found that indeed the better I am, the more respect and attention people pay to me - something I value far too much for my own good.
I’ve been thinking of how this might have transferred over into my spiritual life. I’ve always known in my head that I don’t need to be perfect in order to be good, but since the day I converted something deep inside me is constantly, always saying “If you can do better, you need to do better”. The problem is, I had trouble finding my limits. I was brand new to the faith and I was pushing myself into immediately acting like I’d been at it for years, because I thought that technically, I was physically able. I wasn’t.
So I slowed down. I did things like allowing myself to wear short sleeves, and pray less than an hour a night. And I’m ashamed to say - it was difficult. It took probably two weeks to convince myself I would not be condemned for revealing my elbows or praying only as much as I felt necessary. But I slowed down a lot of things, and stopped worrying quite so much.
I kind of thought that was the end of it. I thought I had slowed down, back tracked, and that I was all good. It’s been about 2 or 3 months now, though, and I’m beginning to think maybe it hasn’t fully resolved itself.
When I pray at night, every night I worry that I haven’t prayed enough. I cannot go to sleep after having prayed in my own words, I have to say a scripted prayer because otherwise it might not have been sufficient. Every Sunday at mass, I worry that maybe I didn’t pay enough attention, didn’t make the most of the celebration. Lately when saying my night prayers I’ve begun doing an examination of conscious…today, though, I just couldn’t. All I could do was think back on the whole day, on how I hadn’t said any prayers in the morning, about how I stressed and worried about finals instead of praying, about how I wasted time screwing around while buying Christmas gifts, I didn’t finish my homework, I didn’t do anything right. And every day after that I just feel worthless. I feel worthless in my spiritual life and my secular life, and I feel like I can’t ever make something of myself because I’ve spent years trying and it always ends in failure. Then I remind myself that the point of religion is that you keep trying and I can’t just fail, I can’t just give up, because this is the most important thing in my life and if I fail this, I fail my entire existence, and no matter what I always have to keep trying and trying until I find a way that works and then I just try to go to sleep, because what on earth else can I do?
I’m so sorry for ranting. I guess writing it all out has made me realize how bad it all really sounds. And I need to get rid of this, but how do I do that? My need for success stems back to when I was 3 years old and couldn’t make any friends in preschool, so I had to try to be the one who could climb the monkey bars and fold paper right and paint things within the lines so maybe the other little kids would like me better. And the exact same thing through kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school… But I cannot apply the same habits to God that I do to people…the point here is not to try to earn some respect from the crowds, it’s to better my immortal soul. But I just don’t know how to do that any other way.
I guess I kind of sound like a basket case. Maybe I am. To be honest, it kills me a little to ask for help like this, but I think at this point…maybe I really do need it.