Learning to Trust Yourself After Losing Your Faith

Losing your faith can be very destabilizing. Religion provides structure and a prescribed set of rules to follow, and this can be very comforting. For those coming out of religion (especially high-control, high-demand religion) it is not uncommon to feel lost and unsure about many things, including yourself.

Though I'm confidently "exvangelical" at this point in my life, my deconstruction process was cautious and slow. One reason for this is that my religion had conditioned me not to trust myself. It told me not only that I was born inherently bad/sinful, but warned me to "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). Normal emotions (such as jealousy) and basic urges (such as sexual desire) that I experienced as a human being were deemed shameful or "from Satan". I was told that I should have a "personal relationship" with the Lord and that he "speaks to me", yet I heard nothing, no matter how hard I tried.

When I approached church mentors and leaders with questions and doubts about doctrine, my critical thinking was not encouraged or validated. Instead, it was explained to me that I wasn't seeing or understanding scripture the right way, and I was reminded that having faith in things I can't see is a "beautiful" thing. I felt guilty for my skepticism and embarrassed to be a "Doubting Thomas" ("Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).)

Growing up in this environment taught me that everyone else must know more than me. There was a hierarchy of (mostly male) authority figures above me who always knew better (from God/Jesus down to pastors/deacons/teachers). My lack of trust in myself manifested as constant advice-seeking and an inability to make my own decisions (among other things). I was always asking others for their opinions instead of trusting my own, and any time I had to make a choice I was paralyzed with fear that I would choose incorrectly.

I've since realized that one of the most beautiful things about "losing" your faith is gaining trust in yourself. If you are in the midst of your own faith deconstruction and find yourself unsure of where to turn for guidance, turn inward. Whether you know it yet or not, you have all of the resources you need within yourself. You know yourself better than any person on this planet, and your thoughts and opinions are just as valid as any other person in the room, whether that's a pastor, colleague, or president of the United States! I still remember the first time I was seeking advice from an "expert" on something and suddenly realized that I, in fact, disagreed with them! This was huge for me. It was such a thrill to discover that I was listening to my own gut for the first time instead of immediately abandoning my own instincts and bowing down to someone else's opinion (just because I had put them on some sort of pedestal in my mind). Learning to listen to your own inner voice takes time, and is still something I work on daily!

It can be daunting to take on the responsibility of discovering your own personal values for the first time, but it is far more empowering than outsourcing your authority and agency to something or someone else. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. YOU know what's best for YOU.