I just realized that a bit of philosophical and personal growth I'm trying to muscle through is recapitulating the whole Calvinism movement in the Protestant tradition. (No relationship, or not much, to Calvin + Hobbes)
The short version is this: I have trouble subconsciously accepting the idea that I will always have intrinsic value as a human -- it's a classic thing for smart kids (I think i need to read Carol Dweck's "Mindset" about fixed vs growth mindsets- http://qedfoundation.org/fixed-vs-growth-mindsets/ ) where you think the important thing is Being Smart, or Being Good, and if you don't throw off enough signs that your smart or good, you risk being cast out or rejected somehow.
There's a weird parallel with (pardoning my oversimplifications here) Calvinism: a Calvinist believes there are the Elect, who are predestined to be saved, and everyone else, who won't be. This stands in contrast to (again, pardon oversimplifying) a Catholic way of being, where people's works and deeds are pretty important to directing one to heaven or hell, and getting forgiveness for the inevitable straying is very important.
You might think the Calvinists would then have a free and hedonic life style: either I'm saved or not, the die has already been cast, might as well party it up, and the Catholics would be prim and proper and on the straight and narrow, when in reality the opposite is more true... it feels like Calvinists are wanting to demonstrate their gratitude at being one of the elect (or maybe demonstrate they they are indeed in that number) by being uptight. Similarly, while Catholics have their own special blend of fear and guilt, they are often more comfortable with pleasures of this world, including drinking, gambling, and other visceral pleasures.
If the Calvinist veers from the straight and narrow, it might be them displaying they are irredeemably beyond saving. The Catholic point of view has a lot more room for making things right -- and there's a core there that's worth fighting for.
So I think somehow I internalized a Calvinist view, even as I don't hold with its supernatural origins, and actually find philosophically disagreeable. But I think now I'm finally reaching the point where I can think I have value as a person that will be there even when the telltales of Good Deeds and Smart Actions aren't there; the Deeds and Actions are the traffic, not the road signs.