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How To Get Rid Of That Churchy Appearance And Establish A Solid Personal Identity?


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Maybe I'm being a little too image-centered, but I'm obsessed with NOT looking like a Christian.  I know, it sounds a little strange: how can you tell whether a person is a Christian or not just by looking at them?  But, sometimes, dear reader, you can.  You see, I grew up an American middle class white boy.  My mother always, always forced me to tuck my shirt in and comb my hair carefully to the side, no matter the occasion.  Whether I was off to church, school, the park, or just playing with my friends, there I was with my long white socks, cargo shorts, tucked in shirt and carefully combed hair. No wonder the kids at the library called me gay (I have nothing against gays, I just don't identify as one).  I tended to get laughed at wherever I went.

 

After I grew up, left the faith, left my Bible Belt circle of friends, and wizened up to the harsh reality of the real world (which, in America, isn't really that harsh at all, but definitely seems harsh when you grew up completely unexposed), I decided to revamp my image, to varying degrees of success.  I've had several haircuts and my clothing style, for a long time, was always changing, it seems.

 

I'm 26 now.  For MOST Americans (and I would even go so far as to say most human beings), their identity is a product of years and years of building on something.  They invest in their identity, and are comfortable with it.  But me, well, I had to start over from scratch after exiting my tiny social circle, full of jabronis and fundie misfits.  I didn't know how to dress properly, how to carry myself, or what kind of hairstyle was "en vogue" for normal American guys.  I've been struggling to figure out WHO I want to be and how I want to present myself, for years.

 

Case in point?  I was at a rave once, and some kid asked me if I was Amish.  That was just after I left Christianity, 8 years ago.  But still.

 

Sometimes, when I wake up on a Sunday morning (even if I am in Bangkok, Thailand), roll out of bed, get up to brush my teeth, and look in the mirror, sometimes I see that old churchy, Christiany face and hair.  After all, I had that look for a good 10 years (from 8 to 18) before I realized what a doofus I appeared.  That identity is so deeply ingrained on my subconscious, I don't know how to get rid of it.

 

I carry around with me this deepset fear that when people look at me, they see a fundie Christian jabroni.  It's just baggage from my past, and its not rational.  Right?

 

So how do I get rid of that and become happy and content with a more normal version of myself?

 

 

 

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By the way, all of this can also apply not only to external appearances but also to self-identity in general, which I also struggle with, but that's for a different post.

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Go for clothing that's comfortable rather than dressy.  Gradually increase the interval between haircuts till you have a hair length range that's easy to maintain and looks good.

 

But above all, practice relaxing your face muscles.  There's something about a tight, squinting smile that brings TV evangelists to mind.

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if you are a thai, get into a yellow shirt, and ho protest,,,, you are not churchy, just someone who loves the king,,,,

 

if not wear a red shirt and protest against the yellow shirt, then you become an admirer of the cute PM of thailand,,,,

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Maybe I'm being a little too image-centered, but I'm obsessed with NOT looking like a Christian.  I know, it sounds a little strange: how can you tell whether a person is a Christian or not just by looking at them?  But, sometimes, dear reader, you can.  You see, I grew up an American middle class white boy.  My mother always, always forced me to tuck my shirt in and comb my hair carefully to the side, no matter the occasion.  Whether I was off to church, school, the park, or just playing with my friends, there I was with my long white socks, cargo shorts, tucked in shirt and carefully combed hair. No wonder the kids at the library called me gay (I have nothing against gays, I just don't identify as one).  I tended to get laughed at wherever I went.

 

After I grew up, left the faith, left my Bible Belt circle of friends, and wizened up to the harsh reality of the real world (which, in America, isn't really that harsh at all, but definitely seems harsh when you grew up completely unexposed), I decided to revamp my image, to varying degrees of success.  I've had several haircuts and my clothing style, for a long time, was always changing, it seems.

 

I'm 26 now.  For MOST Americans (and I would even go so far as to say most human beings), their identity is a product of years and years of building on something.  They invest in their identity, and are comfortable with it.  But me, well, I had to start over from scratch after exiting my tiny social circle, full of jabronis and fundie misfits.  I didn't know how to dress properly, how to carry myself, or what kind of hairstyle was "en vogue" for normal American guys.  I've been struggling to figure out WHO I want to be and how I want to present myself, for years.

 

Case in point?  I was at a rave once, and some kid asked me if I was Amish.  That was just after I left Christianity, 8 years ago.  But still.

 

Sometimes, when I wake up on a Sunday morning (even if I am in Bangkok, Thailand), roll out of bed, get up to brush my teeth, and look in the mirror, sometimes I see that old churchy, Christiany face and hair.  After all, I had that look for a good 10 years (from 8 to 18) before I realized what a doofus I appeared.  That identity is so deeply ingrained on my subconscious, I don't know how to get rid of it.

 

I carry around with me this deepset fear that when people look at me, they see a fundie Christian jabroni.  It's just baggage from my past, and its not rational.  Right?

 

So how do I get rid of that and become happy and content with a more normal version of myself?

 

 

 

------

By the way, all of this can also apply not only to external appearances but also to self-identity in general, which I also struggle with, but that's for a different post.

 

Stop calling people in Pittsburgh, " the English." :-) Don't speak in Dutch.

 

Grow a mustache. Wear jeans and a t shirt. Shop at Hot Topic. Wear a shirt that says "Atheist" on it. Buy a Harley. Wear sneakers.

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Go for clothing that's comfortable rather than dressy.  Gradually increase the interval between haircuts till you have a hair length range that's easy to maintain and looks good.

 

But above all, practice relaxing your face muscles.  There's something about a tight, squinting smile that brings TV evangelists to mind.

 

Take a look at Joel Osteen...then do the opposite. :-)

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I understand the feeling completely, no matter how hard I try I get the feeling of having to be a shiny happy christian all of the time. And I can't ever seem to relax around people that often anymore. Christianity seems just like such a huge part of my identity that, even though I'm comfortable with the atheist label internally it just seems rather off. Like it is not a label that belongs on me. I felt strange while I was searching for some new spirituality that I was just thieving someone else's clothing just so I could feel alright again. Unfortunately, I have no answers to fix the clothing issue. I still have to dress as one so...

 

Well, if I could make a suggestion: perhaps you could try finding some sort of interesting piece of jewelry(like a shark tooth), or start carrying around a messenger bag that's quirky maybe that would help a little bit?

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Embrace your former self. You were once a Christian and it formulated a lot of your beliefs and you probably believed you'd always be a Christian and now you're not. Don't run away from your past self, just embrace it and accept it as part of who you are/were and keep moving on. Don't worry what other people think.

 

What kind of styles do you relate to? What kind do you find appealing? Just start throwing stuff together. Watch a couple male-based What Not to Wears (there are a few of them) if you want some basic tips (or a foundation) then build up from there. The biggest rule is accepting your body and finding clothes that fit and flatter it. Get some trash mags and see what the celebs are calling trendy.  Go to a bar and see what the other guys are wearing that you could see yourself in.  Go to a store and just try on a bunch of outfits until you find a couple or a few you really like.  

 

Get a tattoo if you want, try out different styles-- have FUN with it! Experimenting with different clothing styles is supposed to be fun! Dye your hair, wear some jewelry. And just carry yourself with confidence. And if someone does ask if you are a Christian just laugh it off and say "Not anymore." 

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All good advice, thanks.  Pretty much all I've been doing.  I guess when all is said and done, what I really want is to forget that the old me ever existed... an impossible task.

 

if you are a thai, get into a yellow shirt, and ho protest,,,, you are not churchy, just someone who loves the king,,,,

if not wear a red shirt and protest against the yellow shirt, then you become an admirer of the cute PM of thailand,,,,

 

Hahaha, I wonder what would happen if I walked around in a half red, half yellow shirt...

 

Embrace your former self. You were once a Christian and it formulated a lot of your beliefs and you probably believed you'd always be a Christian and now you're not. Don't run away from your past self, just embrace it and accept it as part of who you are/were and keep moving on. Don't worry what other people think.

 

What kind of styles do you relate to? What kind do you find appealing? Just start throwing stuff together. Watch a couple male-based What Not to Wears (there are a few of them) if you want some basic tips (or a foundation) then build up from there. The biggest rule is accepting your body and finding clothes that fit and flatter it. Get some trash mags and see what the celebs are calling trendy.  Go to a bar and see what the other guys are wearing that you could see yourself in.  Go to a store and just try on a bunch of outfits until you find a couple or a few you really like.  

 

Get a tattoo if you want, try out different styles-- have FUN with it! Experimenting with different clothing styles is supposed to be fun! Dye your hair, wear some jewelry. And just carry yourself with confidence. And if someone does ask if you are a Christian just laugh it off and say "Not anymore." 

 

Great advice, thanks.  I grew up thinking that being comfortable and happy with yourself was somehow Satanic and that Fun was evil.  Think of the mom from the Carrie movie, at a much smaller scale.

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I find an angry scowl on my face not only works as an "un-christian" look, but also keeps people from initiating conversations with me unless absolutely necessary.

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All good advice, thanks.  Pretty much all I've been doing.  I guess when all is said and done, what I really want is to forget that the old me ever existed... an impossible task.

 

if you are a thai, get into a yellow shirt, and ho protest,,,, you are not churchy, just someone who loves the king,,,,

 

if not wear a red shirt and protest against the yellow shirt, then you become an admirer of the cute PM of thailand,,,,

 

Hahaha, I wonder what would happen if I walked around in a half red, half yellow shirt...

 

Embrace your former self. You were once a Christian and it formulated a lot of your beliefs and you probably believed you'd always be a Christian and now you're not. Don't run away from your past self, just embrace it and accept it as part of who you are/were and keep moving on. Don't worry what other people think.

 

What kind of styles do you relate to? What kind do you find appealing? Just start throwing stuff together. Watch a couple male-based What Not to Wears (there are a few of them) if you want some basic tips (or a foundation) then build up from there. The biggest rule is accepting your body and finding clothes that fit and flatter it. Get some trash mags and see what the celebs are calling trendy.  Go to a bar and see what the other guys are wearing that you could see yourself in.  Go to a store and just try on a bunch of outfits until you find a couple or a few you really like.  

 

Get a tattoo if you want, try out different styles-- have FUN with it! Experimenting with different clothing styles is supposed to be fun! Dye your hair, wear some jewelry. And just carry yourself with confidence. And if someone does ask if you are a Christian just laugh it off and say "Not anymore." 

 

Great advice, thanks.  I grew up thinking that being comfortable and happy with yourself was somehow Satanic and that Fun was evil.  Think of the mom from the Carrie movie, at a much smaller scale.

 

Now you know that's it's not Satanic or even slightly evil. It's part of being a human, experience different beliefs based on your life experiences. Ask yourself if it's something you wanna do or are you just doing it to make your mom happy? When you can answer that it's what you wanna do, you're on the right path. 

 

You can't forget who you were in the past, it's what helps make who you are now. Plus, you don't want to live in the past. Just accept it as past and live in the present. The past can't be change and that's fine. Don't focus on it, it will wear you down. Put your energy into the present moment, you'll be happier! 

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I put a streak of very bright colour in my hair.. well, a chunk really. Then I changed it from bright red, to blue, to violet. I got rid of all my 'sensible' shoes. I played around with funky glasses... then began looking for clothing that was comfortable.. and stopped worrying about 'image'. (grow your hair out and then find a really good hairdresser... not a barber, at least for the first good cut)

 

But I'm female and in a creative field so I have more freedom to experiment, and artists are expected to be a little quirky. My next move is an eyebrow piercing, but not in rebellion - just because I've decided I really like the look. Then a tattoo which I've been planning for years  lol

 

I've also found that finding the music that speaks to me really helps - not sure why, but there's an attitude that comes with music.

 

Hanging out with like-minded people also helps, our friends' 'styles' rubs off on us in small ways.

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I put a streak of very bright colour in my hair.. well, a chunk really. Then I changed it from bright red, to blue, to violet. I got rid of all my 'sensible' shoes. I played around with funky glasses... then began looking for clothing that was comfortable.. and stopped worrying about 'image'. (grow your hair out and then find a really good hairdresser... not a barber, at least for the first good cut)

 

But I'm female and in a creative field so I have more freedom to experiment, and artists are expected to be a little quirky. My next move is an eyebrow piercing, but not in rebellion - just because I've decided I really like the look. Then a tattoo which I've been planning for years  lol

 

I've also found that finding the music that speaks to me really helps - not sure why, but there's an attitude that comes with music.

 

Hanging out with like-minded people also helps, our friends' 'styles' rubs off on us in small ways.

 

Damn Ravenstar.  I've always suspected you were one sexy lady.  Now you've proved it.

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Pick someone you admire or someone you think is cool from music, movies, or tv and copy whatever it is you like about their attitude and lifestyle, not just their hair and clothes. Just be sure it's still something you can fake comfortably until it really becomes part of you.

 

Don't be so quick about shedding your establishment image just to not look like a televangelist. You can have well cropped hair and dressy clothes and look like, say, an FBI agent or an international drug lord depending on a few small changes. What really gives off the Christian vibe is the big wooden smile and giving a firm handshake to everyone who walks up to you.

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Please don't be offended by this but it's something that all people who grew up as "good Christian kids" need to go through in order to form a new identity as a something else adult.

 

Have some fun.  Indulge.  Get drunk once in a while.  Find somebody you are attracted to and have some passion with them.  Listen to rock music.  It will open your eyes to the wider world around you.

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Go to Burning Man. Or just talk about the tickets you have to Burning man.

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Watch some old videos from the 80s of Billy Idol. Spikey hair, obnoxious leather, and a scowl. (OK, I'm dating myself and admitting a minor fetish, lol)

 

My husband is a macho car guy, and has one small yet chunky earring in the left ear, but that might be too old school for you. I'm personally not a big fan of tattoos because I've seen so many that are either cheesy or poorly-executed (or both), but maybe you could experiment with the temporary kind -- like a spikey tribal design on the back of your neck under your hair line.

 

My best advice would be your shoes. Chunky black boots with buckles or something. Vans in a grungy color / style. Go to one of those trendy teenage stores in the mall (which many of us would normally avoid), and see what the workers are wearing and what is on the racks. Belts and boots, and some kind of jewelry. Maybe a leather strap bracelet or something. Anything with a skull -- ha!

 

Just go out and have fun and rebel a little. Others here have given good "big picture" advice on that, and I think the clothes, hair, piercings, tattoos, etc. will come naturally to you soon enough.

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Find a gay friend who will take you shopping. Straight, ex-Christian dudes often look like door-knockers and need an intervention.

 

I used to dress hideously, trying to "please the Lard" as a good fundy woman. However, I am a hippie at heart, and I'm letting my hippie-ness take over.

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Straight, ex-Christian dudes often look like door-knockers and need an intervention.

 

 

I don't know, I've always been a jeans and T-shirt type.

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Straight, ex-Christian dudes often look like door-knockers and need an intervention.

 

 

I don't know, I've always been a jeans and T-shirt type.

 

 

Maybe the jeans and t-shirt attire gave satan a foothold, and that's why you lost your faith! eek.gif

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Straight, ex-Christian dudes often look like door-knockers and need an intervention.

 

 

I don't know, I've always been a jeans and T-shirt type.

 

 

Maybe the jeans and t-shirt attire gave satan a foothold, and that's why you lost your faith! eek.gif

 

 

Perhaps, but how did satan gain a foothold in the door-knocker, intervention-needing types?

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Straight, ex-Christian dudes often look like door-knockers and need an intervention.

 

 

I don't know, I've always been a jeans and T-shirt type.

 

 

Maybe the jeans and t-shirt attire gave satan a foothold, and that's why you lost your faith! eek.gif

 

 

Perhaps, but how did satan gain a foothold in the door-knocker, intervention-needing types?

 

Ah, tis a mystery.

 

I cringe at my former attire. I was a Good Girl and dressed the part--dresses, long hair, straight laced, nothing low cut. Yup. What happened there, hey? Wendytwitch.gif

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If you want to look cool you need to take up smoking

 

 

No, that is a horrible idea.  

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Straight, ex-Christian dudes often look like door-knockers and need an intervention.

 

 

I don't know, I've always been a jeans and T-shirt type.

 

 

Maybe the jeans and t-shirt attire gave satan a foothold, and that's why you lost your faith! eek.gif

 

 

Perhaps, but how did satan gain a foothold in the door-knocker, intervention-needing types?

 

Ah, tis a mystery.

 

I cringe at my former attire. I was a Good Girl and dressed the part--dresses, long hair, straight laced, nothing low cut. Yup. What happened there, hey? Wendytwitch.gif

 

I tend to think that all that dressing up for Sunday-going-to-meeting may have been what turned me into a jeans and T-shirt guy.

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