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Don’t let Scrupulosity Beat You Down!


December can be a time of stress as you hurry to attend Christmas shows, plan parties, finish shopping, send greetings, and help your family and friends complete last minute preparations. Whether you have been practicing the skills you’ve learned in therapy, have just begun treatment, or haven’t yet begun, your scrupulosity OCD may flareup.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 1

Indeed, Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on your religious beliefs and your relationship with the Lord. However, the season itself may trigger your scrupulosity. Questions may arise regarding your worthiness and God’s love for you. The uncertainty that shows up may lead you to obsessions and compulsions that get you stuck in the scrupulosity OCD cycle. You may obsess, “Am I righteous enough to deserve any blessings? Will I ever have pure thoughts?” The thoughts, memories, and images related to past sins may continue to torment you. You may question if you were sincere enough through the repentance process. At times, you may feel defeated and hopeless and believe it’s all your fault. “I should be able to control my thoughts!” Wrongly you believe you should, and thus start to beat yourself up.

The truth is there is no delete button in our minds, but you can learn to see your internal events (i.e., thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges) with a different mindset. Next time you notice the urge to put yourself down, consider the following:

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” 2

Most of the time we focus on the first part of this verse, especially around Christmas. Indeed, it is important to serve others, not only around Christmas time but throughout the year.

However, in His second and great commandment, Jesus asked us to love others like we do ourselves. Do you do that? Your scrupulosity may influence you to believe that you’ll become a selfish person if you develop self-compassion and self-kindness. Actually, it is the opposite. Think about it, when you have no confidence and have nothing left to offer, can you really love and serve those around you?

Research has shown that when people are self-compassionate they are able to recognize hardships as part of life and are able to ruminate less on how things should be. Self-compassionate people are able to see life with a different perspective that helps them improve their mental health. Self-compassion also increases individuals’ inner strength, courage and resilience when they face difficult situations. Self-compassionate people are also more caring and supportive in their relationships. 3

What do you think? Should you consider following the second and greatest commandment and act on what the research has found to be true? What will you do next time the urge for self-criticism comes?

Here is an exercise to get you started in developing self-compassion.

Notice Your Younger Self Speak 4

Find a comfortable and quiet place. Read the instructions first, and then close your eyes to practice this exercise.

Think of the time when you were a young child. Go back in time and see yourself as young as you can possibly remember. Maybe you were three or four years of age. See yourself at that age wearing your favorite outfit, shirt, hat, or shoes. Try to remember what your hair and face looked like, and how tall you may have been.

Get a clear picture of yourself as a child. Now imagine that child saying the words you say when you criticize yourself. As you hear those words coming out of that small child, in the voice of that child, how do you feel? Notice that feeling.

What would you tell this child as you hear her/him say those words out loud? How would you treat this child? As you hear the child berate herself/himself, notice if feelings of compassion and kindness arise towards this child. Go ahead and imagine treating this child with compassion. Take a moment to show kindness to this child. Repeat as needed.

Next time you become aware of harsh self-evaluations, be kind and compassionate as you would be towards your younger self. You can discover how self-compassion can help you become more confident and resilient. Remember you cannot give and share what you don’t have. Self-compassion and self-kindness are essential in everyone’s life –scrupulosity or not.

As you go about your everyday life, keep a close eye on the way you are treating yourself. Find out if the research is true. Be patient in the process.

Kindness begins with you!


1. John 3:16

2. Matthew 22:39

3. Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, NY: William Morrow, 2011.

4. Steven Hayes, “Dealing with Difficult Thoughts: Mental Brakes to Avoid Mental Breaks.” Filmed July 8, 2016. TEDx Davidson Academy, 26:21. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnSHpBRLJrQ.

Photo by Callum Skelton on Unsplash

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