We live in a time when denouncing modesty is empowering and in a culture where embracing it is freeing. This issue is like a weight that is solely placed on women and that men avoid simply by a difference in their nature.
What is a woman to believe when she is caught between these two worlds? Is it better to display her body in an effort to desensitize it like so many other women are doing at this time? Are they truly empowered or is it a facade they have created to hide the discontent of unfruitful labors?
I am a woman caught between these two tailwinds — a young woman with more curiosity than experience in what the world has to offer, but a woman in this world, nevertheless. Though I am young, the portion of my mind dedicated to modesty is large and ever present.
I did not originally wish it to exist, but I have come to terms with the fact that it exists for good reason. I have traveled between being a woman of modesty and a woman who disregards it.
My first discovery of modesty is who modesty is for. I’ve learned that one dresses up for themselves, and dresses respectfully for the world around them.
The first thing you do in the morning to prepare to go out into the world is to dress yourself. You take into account your tasks of the day and the weather.
But then comes the second string of thoughts. How will others perceive you in this outfit? How can it be altered so that it keeps its purpose yet makes others think well of you?
This second part of dressing is a beautiful thing when embraced properly. It can open up new social connections and opportunities to display the internal contents of your being on the outside.
However, it can also cause great anxiety. In my experience, it is the times when I believe people will think negatively of the way I choose to present myself that I tend to choose immodesty.
It is easier to disregard others entirely and only dress for yourself rather than to take note of how people actually react. It makes sense that our society, then, is teaching its young women that the best way to feel good about themselves is to not think about others and to only dress for the sake of yourself.
I have been there and escaped there and returned there on numerous occasions over twenty-one years and I am here to say that it serves no one to disregard the world outside of yourself.
It is natural to think of others. Where the error lies is when you think of how others may tear you down, rather than how you can build others up. It is unproductive to anticipate the actions of others because it is outside of ourselves.
What we should think about when taking others into account is how we can serve them in a way that is uplifting to all. When one dresses up, she is saying I am ready to do something in the world, but when one dresses respectfully on top of this, it is further elevated.
Though I wished for years to deny it, I hold myself differently when I am modest, and others treat me differently too.
For so long I stubbornly held on to the belief that modesty was hiding what makes you beautiful and desirable. This made me resentful of the people who encouraged me to dress for others.
But the moment I grew tired of drinking up something so empty was the moment I was set free. I stopped worrying about what others thought of my body and began to focus on how to share my mind and capabilities with the world.
The most notable discoveries about modesty were as follows. It created peace in my life because I was no longer worried about people looking down on me or seeing the parts of my body that I didn’t like.
The compliments I received from others had less emphasis on the things given to me by nature — my body and physical appearance — and more so on the things I earned — my intellect, creativity, empathy, etc. Receiving this positive feedback on the parts of myself that I valued allowed me to search for internal qualities in others as well.
A chain reaction occurred and I began forming deeper connections. I respected myself and others in my life more. I stopped tearing myself apart and trying to fit into an outfit that was too small for me and began to search for clothing that served my body specifically. I escaped the prison of a self-interested mind and thought more of others in a healthy manner.
Modesty sincerely has set me free. I know now from experience that it is not something intended to hide our bodies and make us undesirable so that we are not a distraction. Rather, it is something that invites others into the parts of our lives that contain depth; parts of our lives that lie beyond appearances.
Modesty is a gift. It is an art. It is empowering, and I am grateful for it and the opportunities it has created in my life.