Scrupulosity: Spiritual Perfectionism
Ever heard the term “Scrupulosity?”
Neither had I… until I found out I suffered from it.
Scrupulosity is characterized by pathological guilt or anxiety about moral or religious issues. It is more commonly known as religious anxiety.
Scrupulosity is most common in people who participate in high-demand religions.
Growing up, I was hyper-obsessed with obeying all the rules, making other people (especially God) happy, and doing what was right.
I was a religious perfectionist.
And my perfectionism was directed inward AND outward towards others.
I was terrified that if I wasn’t righteous enough, obedient enough, selfless enough, repentant enough, diligent enough, or “good” enough, I’d let my family or church leaders down… or worse, that I’d let God down.
I remember one night looking into the sky and seeing a full moon shine with a reddish glow.
I was terrified that it was a sign Jesus was going to return… which meant the wicked sinners would burn, and the righteous would be saved… and I felt unprepared! The thought literally made me convulse in fear. (Yes, I realize how weird this sounds.)
I also found myself judging, condemning, and correcting the behavior of others when they weren’t living up to the unrealistic standards I had created in my head.
For much of my life I’ve lived with feelings of deep shame, unworthiness, and fear.
And I believed the only way to get rid of those negative feelings was to be better and do more…
More prayers. More worship. More scriptures. More service. More sacrifice. More obedience. More sincerity. More faith. More devotion. More fervor. More conviction. More guilt. More everything…
Turns out, that only made things worse for me.
I couldn’t understand how living my religion seemed to bring everyone around me joy, peace, and happiness, while deep down, the more I tried to do, the more I was flooded with anxiety, depression, and shame.
Was there something wrong with me?
Was I broken, evil, or unworthy of love?
Turns out, I was just struggling with Scrupulosity — religious OCD/anxiety that often shows up as “Perfectionism.”
When I got help, learned more about the causes of my anxiety and perfectionism, why it was so easily triggered by my church culture which placed high demands on me with fear of eternal consequences, how it made me so miserable, and more healthy ways to deal with it… I started to get better.
The last few years are have been some of the best of my life.
I don’t carry around the crushing shame and perpetual inadequacy in my heart like I used to.
I don’t feel like I’m always letting everyone down.
I’m not afraid that if people see my flaws and mistakes, they won’t love and accept me anymore.
And I don’t believe that being perfectly obedient to all the rules is what gets me to heaven.
Things can get better.
So, as we have more conversations about mental health on the social medias, I wanted to shine a light on scrupulosity… just in case you needed to hear about it like I did.
And if this story resonates with you, don’t hesitate to reach out!