I have been thinking a lot about some of the issues I have had to deal with recently due to my loss of faith. One of these things is my self esteem, or lack thereof. I have never had a good self image. I have spent the last few months trying to figure out why. I realized it is primarily due to my religious upbringing.
Up until I was 14 years old I had to wear long dresses all the time. The reason given by my mother for this was that it was feminine and helped to keep men from lusting or raping you. This made me stand out compared to peers who were dressed “normal”. I was regularly mocked for the way I dressed. This made it even harder to try to make friends when the rare opportunity arose.
Being homeschooled my social life was family and church. For some this would be fine. For me it hindered learning how to develop friendships, with which I still struggle. Also being a pastor’s daughter it feels like you are always being watched and judged by everyone. Some expect you to live up to a higher standard and others are just waiting for proof that you are the “naughty pastors daughter” that they think you must be. For the record I was a good pastor’s daughter.
I’m also an emotional eater and binger. This of course has resulted in being overweight. So the more awkward I felt, the more I ate. I have come to realize that this cycle needs to stop. I have been slowly been headed in the right direction but it is not at all easy.
So I have a poor self image and am socially awkward. To top this off I was taught a twisted view of sex and sexuality. Women were not to be sexually appealing. Sex was for marriage only and the woman was to submit to her husband regardless of mood or headache. It was a basic understanding that women generally didn’t care for sexual activities but we were to do it to please their husband. If you didn’t, you risked causing your husband to lust and/or act on that lust. If the wife was doing what was asked of her at home then the man wouldn’t stray. This made for some twisted thoughts when I heard of affairs. I always had the thought, “what was the spouse not doing at home that made the other cheat?” I have recovered from this thinking, but still struggle with other issues.
I’ve learned there is no harm in seeing myself as sexually appealing. I still struggle with having an attitude that sex is for the man. I still slip into being the “pleaser” and not someone that should be pleased in return.
Now looking at the religious upbringing I can’t figure out how anyone can have good self esteem. Christianity teaches that you are a horrible sinful person and there is nothing you can do to improve yourself. Your life is empty and meaningless unless you have Jesus. Even after you find Jesus you are constantly begging for forgiveness for every little thing you think of which he wouldn’t approve. I remember being about 15 years old, after having an “enjoyable” shower, I had the realization that I had committed a sexual sin. I spent over an hour on my knees crying and praying, begging God to take the desire away. I look back and am heartbroken that anyone can feel that way about one of our most basic instincts. It is a good thing that desire wasn’t taken away. Haha. I have become quite accepting of sexual desire.
With these thoughts how can anyone feel good about themselves? It is no wonder I don’t see myself as being that important. I know differently now but all that programming can be so damn hard to undo. I’m very glad that my children will not have to deal with these thoughts about themselves.