Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Of not being good enough


Studying is the new praying. I’m having serious issues with studying; I actually study religiously. That might be a good thing for a normal, worldly person. But if you are from a bible freak family, religiously means something completely different.

There is never an ‘enough’ point, never a ‘done for today’, always one more prayer, one more article, one more book to read. It’s not that hard, studying law. Really, so far a lot of it has been memorizing things. I’m pretty good at memorizing things word-for-word, a great advantage I find when you study something like law, which is extremely memorize-y.

But I don’t find an end of the day. I can’t sleep well anymore because I feel it’s a waste of my precious studying time. It’s all I ever think about. The idea of not getting an A freaks me out. I don’t really know why, I suppose it is because I come from a community where if you didn’t have an A in purity and lifestyle and bible knowledge, you were a fail. It’s very much a “holier than thou” attitude, extended to studying. I feel very much like I did as a teen, wearing my A as a badge of honor. A scarlet letter in reverse, so to speak.

I’m feeling very bad these days. I hardly talk anymore when I see my friends and when I’m spoken to, I only bark “yes” in order to shut them up. I want to find some peace and stop the thoughts from hammering in my brain, stop my mental self from going through the shelfs of knowledge to detect that one little spot where information might be missing. I’m afraid to watch movies and read books out of fear that the new information might overwrite something more important (what the…??).

I’m feeling like my self is pulling me back into old behaviors where I need to be punished for ‘failing’, that failing being not having done enough on that day. I feel like I need some sort of consequence for my disobedience to my home-made plan of how much to do in a day. I feel that I’m actually craving pain on some level, thinking that it would give me motivation to keep going beyond the limits.

And at the same time I hate myself for not being cheerful enough, not being friendly and happy and all those things. I feel the need to apologize all the time, to anybody really. I, again, feel the pressure of conforming to those images of the woman handling everything with a smile and a cheerful attitude. Where they right? Is my place at home? Is this happening because women are not made for this? It’s hard to silence the voices creeping up on me, whispering that I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I should go back to what I’m made for. Suddenly, the biblical bubble looks so comfortable from outside. I have to remind myself that it’s not true and I know it. I have to remind myself

I can do it, I can do it.

Is it working?


6 thoughts on “Of not being good enough

  1. School can be stressful, but it’s up to you to keep your life in balance. It’s possible that a counselor might be helpful in dealing with these perfectionist tendencies. I *like* getting As, but I get them because my motivation is to master the material so I can provide excellent care to my future patients. I learn just as much from missing questions as I do from the ones I get right, because I am eager to learn. If learning is your objective, good grades follow.

    If you motivation is to prove yourself “good enough” then what you’re doing by going to school is not a positive thing mental health wise. You ARE good enough. You DESERVE love. A degree won’t change that. Please don’t use school to torture yourself. You DESERVE BETTER.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. Peace and good will, SS

  2. these feelings are normal to a point – some people just strive for more than others. if you are really feeling bad and you are in bavaria there should be a free “psychosoziale und psychotherapeutische beratungsstelle” at your local “studentenwerk” ( they are really helpfull and deal with this stuff all the time. you don’t need an appointment, just show up.

  3. I can understand the mindset.

  4. It’s not that you’re not cut out for this, it’s perfectionism and anxiety. Do you think that maybe you’re pushing yourself to maybe prove something to your parents? To yourself? That you were right to leave and you were made for things beyond homemaking? Maybe that’s why you’re pushing yourself so you can get measurable proof of that.

    A’s are great, studying is great but over-studying can actually ruin your grades. And you don’t have to be cheerful. It’s university, it’s stressful and misery-inducing even when you love the material you’re learning. It’s not wrong to be cranky and short in the middle of finals. The pressure and stress you’re feeling is normal and people who grew up in the mainstream feel it too. It probably isn’t exactly the same because of individual differences in backgrounds but it’s still a lot of pressure and anxiety.

    I’m sure you’re doing great.

  5. I know this feeling far too well (had similar childhood). I call it “the old old story”–the miserable cruel tale that I was told about the nature of God, the world, and myself. I am sorry that you’ve had to bear such a gigantic load of crap!

    It might be useful to write down the story that you were told. For me, the center of the nastiness went something like this: “You are made wrong by God and must make up for it but no matter how hard you try no matter what you accomplish no matter how you scour your heart you will never make up for it because you are an awful creature but if you give everything and work without stop until you die you might find relief and perhaps even grace, if God decides to give it to you.”

    As I became better able to name the various parts of the story, to see its colors, to hear the tones of its lies in my heart and mind and body, I could slowly disengage myself from it. “Ahh, it’s the old old story again! Stupid thing! Because the truth is that God made me and He/She makes only beautiful things and God loves what He/She makes. The truth is that God’s deepest desire is for me to simply enjoy Him/Her and all creation, and to love it all as well as I can, and that includes myself.’ Then I pull the nasty bits out with a mental tweezers and throw them into a bottle I keep by the back door. Yup, I keep an old bottle on the floor in the back corner specifically for the oldold story. Huh.

    But the sweetest of all is that I don’t need that silly bottle much anymore. Your nasty story’s power will eventually fade, if you study hard to get an “A” in the most important course in your curriculum–to learn to be kind and gentle to yourself (It might help to think of those people/places/times who/when you’ve felt love for others and practice applying that overflow towards yourself. ]

    You wrote: “I feel that I’m actually craving pain on some level, thinking that it would give me motivation to keep going beyond the limits.” This is you telling yourself that you need help. We humans need each other and we need a lot of help when we’ve been damaged so deeply.

    It might be useful to research Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Judith Herman put out an amazing and helpful book: “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence” This book saved me because it described my experience and pain and gave me the clarity to find a wonderful therapist whose speciality is veteran PTSD, and she helped me out of it. I’m not cured but I now live a life with streaks of joy and long swaths of deep peace.

    Be patient, dear. You obviously are a lovely young woman and worth every bit of the hard work of beating back the monsters.

  6. Okay. Deep breath. You can do this!

    Is it possible that you’re assuming that hours spent studying automatically equates to academic performance? Because the two are not necessarily related.

    I highly recommend Cal Newport’s blog Study Hacks ( — this is a good example. His blog has lots of nuts-and-bolts technical advice for how to study efficiently and manage a busy schedule, and I used his techniques to good effect when I was doing some post-baccalaureate class last year. He has a couple of books too but I think you could get a lot of what you need from the blog.

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