not in Primary anymore

my self-respect is not my clothing

 

by Tinesha

 

Young Women’s Leader: Ladies, how do you feel when you dress immodestly?

(This is a trick question. No one answers. To answer means you’re admitting openly you’ve been immodest. I have been immodest, and I’m currently racking my brain, thinking of how I’ve felt. I remember. I just felt normal? I keep quiet.)

YWL: What a silly question. Of course none of you would dress immodestly.

(Quietly praying and hoping that my MySpace page really is set to private. I put up a picture of a dress that came above my knees. I’m tall! I’ll say that if she says anything to me.)

YWL: Ladies, immodest dressing is a sign of lack of self-respect. Dressing modestly shows you respect yourself.

 

I remember countless lessons like this when I was in Young Women. I was never sold by the “dress modestly for the men” or “dress modestly to keep bad things away” aspect of modesty. I was, however, sold on the idea that “modesty means you have self-respect”. I wanted to respect myself. I had been immodest once or twice. When I was 15, I was uncomfortable with myself—something not unknown to many teenagers—and lacked self-esteem. This idea that modesty was connected to self-respect was enticing. I wanted people to think I respected myself.

 

I actually didn’t really think a whole ton about being modest—it just sort of seemed to happen—but I do remember wistfully looking at my non-member friends in the 95 degree weather in short shorts as I felt dehydrated in my plaid Bermudas. I remember thinking how much I admired my friends—members and non-members. I quickly realized that maybe—just maybe—self-respect was not equivalent to clothing choice, but I was quick to put that out in my mind. Even at 19, I found myself buying short dresses and nervously wondering if other people would think I lacked respect for myself. I had self-respect, and I knew that…so why did it matter?

 

This summer, I was done with the modesty thing. Here’s the truth: a piece of fabric does not determine your self-worth. (I worked in clothing retail for the first time ever this summer. I have folded at least 500 pieces of clothing. I promise that self-respect is not a piece of fabric that just happens to cover certain parts of your body. They don’t sell it for $22.94 at your department store. It’s not a $1.50 shirt. I’ve folded a lot of clothing. There is NO magic self-respect in pockets or in the sleeves.)

 

This summer, I purchased things I loved and that felt good on. I wore things that fit my style, the event, and the weather. I’ve worn dresses that cover my knees, long sleeves, short sleeves, tank tops, halter tops, v-necks, bikinis, one-pieces. I don’t hunt for only modest clothing. I’m not on the hunt to only wear clothing that’s deemed immodest. I wear what I like. I wear what I feel is comfortable.

 

My self-respect was never built off of clothes. I didn’t start respecting myself more because I was covering myself up. I started respecting myself when I surrounded myself with people who respected me. I started respecting myself when I found what I was good at and involved myself in those activities.

 

I feel insulted and angry when I hear that self-respect is based solely on the way we dress. If we seriously think that we can look at someone and determine their self-worth, reality check. We have no idea, and we don’t get to judge. None of us have some sort of great sensor that gets to say, “Hey, she’s on a level 5 today on the invisible self-respect chart”. The length of piece of fabric on someone’s body isn’t some kind of measurement for self-respect. (I’m not Merriam Webster or anything, but I seriously doubt that ‘length and cut of fabric’ is the definition of self-respect.*)

 

I thought of the ways I feel I respect myself. I respect myself by not insulting myself. I respect myself by being honest about my feelings. I respect myself by disassociating myself with people who hurt me. I respect myself by trying to better get to know me. And I just think that someday, when I see Christ again, He’ll be excited to see me no matter what I’m wearing. And I won’t care what I’m wearing, because I’ll be so excited to see Him. I imagine He’ll be far more interested in the way I treated myself and others, then what kind of outfits I decided to wear on this earth.

 

The pictures below illustrate my point. They are both of me in two different dresses that I wore to very different exciting events in my life. I don’t remember the dresses. I remember how I felt during the event—proud, excited, and pleased. I remember being surrounded by people I admire, I remember being happy. Neither one of these dresses or photos indicates a level of self-respect. They’re just dresses. Just fabric, sewn together, bought online. Self-respect comes from inside, not from what we put on.

 

COLLAGE

* I’m not Merriam Webster, but clearly I should be: a proper respect for oneself as a human being (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-respect)

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12 Responses to “my self-respect is not my clothing”

  1. dorothy

    I can’t add anything to this–only tell you that you said it perfectly.

    Reply
  2. Kelsey Wilcox

    Oh man. Story of my life!! Thank you so much for this article. Plus, it definitely helps because my mother happens to be the Young Women’s prez 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  3. AllyGriggles

    I really liked that you talked about the ways that you can have self-respect outside of your clothing choices. I know that modesty does not equal self-respect, but I guess I never really thought about what did. But absolutely cutting out toxic behaviors and people is a sign of self-respect. We need to talk more about what “self-respect” means outside of clothing, especially when it comes to YW lessons.

    Reply
  4. Lady G

    This is wonderful! I’ve been trying to figure out why I still struggle with feelings of immodesty and I think that it’s been tied into my worry about respecting myself.
    I second what AllyGriggles said. We need to have more conversations on what self-respect is outside of the narrow definition of clothing choices. I’d never thought that cutting out toxic behavior or relationships was a sign of self-respect. Brilliant definition.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  5. AJ

    Amazing post. The fabric on your body is not evidence of whether or not you respect yourself. This notion only stems from the idea that women who dress “immodestly” are worth less than “good girls.” All human beings deserve a basic level of respect – you don’t get to look someone up and down, judge their “modesty,” and determine, “no, you’re not worthy of my respect today.” It seems even sillier when you consider how ideals of modesty change so drastically according to culture, country, and time period.

    Reply
  6. KT

    Yea, I don’t really get the whole dressing modestly equals self-respect equation. I walk around the house half naked sometimes (no pants on after getting out of the shower if I’m hot) and I feel quite comfortable – more comfy than if I had pants on. I’m pretty sure that tribes in Africa don’t feel they have no self-respect when they wear little to no clothing, have breasts showing, etc.

    I think it’s all what you make of it. If you treat breasts in a taboo manner, then they become taboo. If everyone walked around with their breasts showing all the time, they wouldn’t be sexualized – they’d be normal visuals.

    Reply
  7. Thomas

    The idea behind modesty is a true principle that God found out first, and society has been rediscovering over and over again through the centuries. It has nothing to do with insecurity about your body, it has to do with directing attention to you and not Just your body.

    Please don’t misunderstand, if you dress immodestly you can certainly have a high sense of self-esteem, but most every girl finds finding the right guy and things working out on a deeper level is harder and harder depending on the level of skin your showing others when they interact with you. If you google articles about modesty in interactions with others or studies that have been done on it, the anatomical evidence for objectivization of women who don’t dress modestly is very convincing. I’ve included one example, but there’s lots of them.

    http://bemily521.hubpages.com/hub/howtoattractaguy

    Reply
  8. teaching modesty | Young Mormon Feminists

    […] the things I was taught by my well-meaning leaders were based on falsehoods, such as the idea that self respect is tied to modesty or the false claim that men are carnal, wicked beasts who cannot control their sexual […]

    Reply
  9. southernbelleinstuttgart

    I’m a southern Baptist and I am so glad to read this! I’ve struggled with conflicting messages about modesty. after being tormented by misogynist Christian perspectives, it was actually an atheist boy that put things in perspective. He said, “You have so much more to offer your husband that just your body.” And heck yea I do! Just realizing my value was dependent on if I wore a cardigan or not altered my self-respect, instead of sitting around wallowing in shame for a sun dress that I wore (in 100 degree heat and high humidity).

    Reply

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