Clothing is, unfortunately, an inconvenient but necessary part of life (unless of course, you live in a nudist colony, in which case, I reckon you’d face a plethora of other inconveniences). Since the dawn of time, clothing has been designed to serve a set of purposes: to cover nakedness, provide protection from the elements, offer comfort, display status, etc.
Over the centuries, clothing styles have changed dramatically. You don’t see many people walking around in hoop-skirts or corsets today (unless you visit Disney World). It’s hard to disagree that clothes, at least in North America, have steadily decreased in surface area. It’s odd to think that an acceptable garment for a woman today may have stereotyped her as a prostitute 50 years ago. Many women grow up hearing that they should dress appropriately and not be the girl with the mini skirt that covers pretty much nothing, or the blouse that drops too low. We hear the same thing a million different ways: don’t dress like you’re advertising yourself. Don’t encourage the guys to look.
Yeah, okay, sure thing.
Cultures around the world have varying views of modesty. In some, showing the knee or ankle is considered outrageously slutty. In others, breastfeeding a child in public is commonplace. So where should one draw the line?
I have struggled with the modesty debate for some time. Not because I have a tendency to dress provocatively, but because I fear that society misunderstands the concept. Many individuals today view modesty as simplicity and plainness. They may describe flowing skirts, loose tops, and non-restricting dresses as modest attire. They, perhaps, view modesty as board shorts and a baggy t-shirt over swimwear. Is this wrong? Well, not exactly.
But if this is modest, what’s immodest? Pants? Tight pants? Low shirts? How low? Excessive jewelry? A bikini? And why do people dress immodestly? Because it looks nicer? Feels better? Maybe it’s just hot outside.
As I considered these concepts, I came to the conclusion that clothing has very little to do with modesty. Modesty isn’t in fact a jean jumper—it is instead a mentality of self-respect, confidence, humility, and self-assurance. Immodesty isn’t a bikini—its low self-esteem, insecurity, and fear.
I was once told (by a man) that a woman only dresses provocatively to seek attention (note: I realize up to this point that our modesty discussion has singled out women. While the societal definition of modesty does unfortunately tend to “pick on” the female gender, my definition encompasses both men and women). If this is the case—that women only dress immodestly and provocatively to seek attention—then the core issue lies within the need to feel noticed, appreciated, and accepted. Immodesty stems from a core of insecurity. When an individual—man or woman—feels the need to be noticed, they will dress and act in a way that welcomes attention.
It has been my observation that people who are the most insecure tend to dress and act in ways that attract the most attention. Notice that modesty is as much an action as it is a form of dress.
Modesty is self-respect. If I respect myself, I will dress accordingly. I will wear clothes that compliment my body and look attractive. I will dress appropriately for an occasion. I will look sharp for a meeting, classy for a night on the town, and respectable every day. I will dress neatly. I will take time to look nice. I will take care of myself both physically and mentally. I will exercise, eat healthy foods, drink water, and get enough sleep. I will also read books, engage in meaningful discussions, and contemplate life, the universe, and everything.
True modesty is revealed in all aspects of life, not simply in the way one chooses to dress.
Below are 4 practical characteristics of modest people:
- Physical Care
Someone who is modest will take care of themselves. They recognize the importance of confidence, self-respect, and self-assurance. They treat their bodies well. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re slender supermodels. It means they exercise, eat healthy, drink water, and sleep well. They don’t embrace fad diets or starve themselves or binge eat. They are moderate in all things. They stand up straight. They dress attractively with clothes that flatter their body. They care about the way they look, but they aren’t controlled by the latest fashions or others’ opinions. (For a more in-depth conversation on holistic health and self-respect, check out this post.)
- Weighted Words
Modest individuals aren’t flirtatious. They don’t talk just because they like the sound of their voice. They think before they speak and their words only add depth to a conversation. They never criticize, but constantly build others up. They do not gossip.
Modest people do what’s right. They have a level of personal integrity. When they make a mistake, they admit to it, and take responsibility for their actions. They understand they are responsible for their destiny. They are rarely influenced by circumstances. They learn and grow. They treat others with respect. They’re humble, gracious, and self-assured.
- True to Themselves
Modest people have a personal code of ethics—a non-negotiable moral compass. They refuse to compromise. They act, not to receive commendation from others or to be noticed, but because of their integrity. They are not influenced by the pressures of the world, but remain true to principles.
To wrap up…
While the societal definition of modesty relates to purely external factors, I propose that true modesty surpasses the superficial. Modesty is an internal choice. It’s the choice to care for your body, weigh your words, act responsibly, and be true to yourself. Inevitably, real modesty is much more difficult to achieve than putting on a loose skirt or an oversized t-shirt. Real modesty requires effort—but the rewards are infinite. The world needs more men and women who live with integrity, watch what they say, take care of their bodies, and are true to themselves.
So ponder these things and remember—today will be AMAZING!