05 November 2014

Self-Worth: An Ongoing Struggle

Until the age of 25, the time that I finally realized that being gay was a fundamental part of my identity, I had been programed to view myself in very destructive terms. I don't remember exactly when it was that I first felt fear about the possibility that I was gay- only that it was before I really even knew the terminology to describe what I felt. Really, I think I just understood that what I felt was taboo and could never be revealed to anyone. That fear turned into resentment. I resented myself.

Due in large part to that self-resentment, I grew hungry for the validation of others- as if to prove to myself that I was good and worthy by appealing to those around me. I did well in school and got along with teachers because I learned that it would result in praise and compliments positive feedback about my worth. I was a "good student" a "bright kid." In the Church I learned that if I followed the rules and listened to my leaders, I would get similar feedback. Parents admired me for not causing trouble, for having a "strong testimony." I craved validation from any source I could find.

The sad thing is, that while people around me expressed all those positive things, I could never internalize them. Deep down I thought that if they really knew who I was, if they knew my secret, they would never say those things. I wrote off every expression of admiration and every compliment paid to me. I taught my brain to immediately dismiss any affirming language directed at me and became very uncomfortable when people complimented me for any reason. In my mind, I believed that I was unworthy... that I was a fraud. If people really knew me, they would be disgusted.

I wish I could say that I've been able to undo this pattern of thought. But after four years of learning to embrace myself and live authentically, I still struggle to view myself as valuable. This permeates most aspects of my life. The shame and guilt I unnecessarily hauled around for most of my life continues to have far reaching effects. I struggle with learning how to overcome this toxic pattern of thought that I adopted in my youth. One can't simply undo 25 years of negative rhetoric with the snap of the fingers.

Validation simply cannot come from the outside. It will never come from the praise and admiration of others. It hasn't worked yet, and it never will. Somehow, I must learn to find it within me. I need to believe in myself and value the person that I am and allow myself to be the priority in my own life. How do we reconstruct a view of ourselves that isn't full of negativity and self-doubt? How do we re-program our brains to view ourselves as good after so many years believing we are evil? I don't know that there is an easy answer... and I feel as if I am wandering in the dark knowing I am bound to make mistakes as I struggle to find the answer. I just hope I can get up and brush myself off if/when I do stumble.


Sridhar Chandrasekaran said...

You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.

Andrew said...

I hear you saying there is the daily sometimes a overbearing cloud of your experience of the Mormon religion, voices of dissent from people at BYU or in your previous ward.

The Amish community finds most all modern technology taboo, and bad. Up until now they have never even used cell phones. Their religious experience is that demanding for rules to protect the community. Recently, leaders have started to experiment with one of the first models of a cell phone, clamshells which nokia first launched in 1996. Cell phones are bad and taboo, but suddenly they are being tried out. They are ever so slowly flirting with the reality aside from their years of religious experiences, that maybe God intends good things to be used as the gifts that they truly are.

Several aspects of The Christian Church and most certainly the majority of Mormon wards, are like the Amish. They have rules that slam out some of God's greatest gifts. Slowly, over time, as we magnify the history of the whole church, we see that those gifts eventually are fully embraced. The years of experience before those periods of time have shadows of a lesser more ridiculed life.

Christ who grew up in a most religious world, started to see that certain teachings from the pharisees and elders were not from God. A rebelling rabbi started teaching differently, challenging the religious way. Jesus was becoming himself. He felt different than what he had been taught for twenty years. By opening his mouth, he changed what it meant to follow "Commandments", (the greatest of which is love) so much so that he was killed for it. (Luke 4:15, Matt 15:14, Matt 23:13) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

Loving a man, desiring a man, performing the song of Solomon on a man, journeying your life with a man, is an amazing and incredible experience, one that was given to you by God. Go out in faith and live it out with joy. After all, the Amish are getting cellphones, there is nothing disgusting about it.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart." (JER 1:5)

"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."Psalm 139:15-16

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