Aside from a few uncomfortable Before/After photos, photos taken at water parks, and maybe a handful taken in a tank top during a workout, virtually every picture you see of me on the internet I have capped sleeves, high necklines, and pants, skirts or dresses past my knees.
This is the description of modesty in our ‘For the Strength of Youth’ pamphlet put out by my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the one I was brought up with: it is covering your stomach and cleavage when in a swimsuit, covering your cleavage and shoulders and stomach and thighs when in regular clothes, not wearing things skin tight or revealing (although, with all of the church’s members prancing around in yoga pants and leggings – myself included- you wouldn’t know that was a standard practice), not wearing things that express vulgarity or anything inappropriate (sorry, Italy, we can’t wear your ‘Sculpture of David’ shirts). Basically, this is modest (pants are allowed, this is just an example of the coverage expected):
You can have some style and be trendy, but it is generally accepted to be as covered as possible, and leaving some of your physical features to the imagination.
Ok, you get it. So what are my issues?? Well, like the next person I would LOVE to just sport my good shape (when I am in good shape) in revealing workout clothes or swimsuits. But now that Mormons are doing that too, I find it really difficult to justify why I choose to remain modest even though I don’t really have as strong of a desire to. Maybe that came out wrong. I WANT to please God, I WANT to cover my body, but I get caught up in the hype of looking trendy and fashionable, and well, everyone else is doing it, so…. I mean, c’mon, I go to the gym or watch workout videos, I follow fitness motivation posts, bikini competitors and the like, on a daily basis. I am CONSTANTLY exposed to this, and I catch myself WANTING to follow suit at the same time that I DON’T.
Lately, I have just been playing my workouts on a super small screen and setting it up with bluetooth headphones so I can just listen while I watch something on Netflix or watch my form in the mirror.
To make matters worse, moms everywhere are spending their days in skanky workout clothes because they just ‘came from’ or are ‘getting to’ the gym, at some point during their crazy hectic day. So here I am, looking like I am about to remodel my house in my grubby t-shirt and cropped yoga pants (not much better I know), jealous that others are sporting the latest trends in workout fashion.
It is RIDICULOUS that I am even jealous of this. I don’t feel comfortable showing so much skin, so I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable sporting these trends. I have been guilty of putting clean Temple Garments (the sacred underclothing endowed members of my church wear) on my dirty sweaty body immediately after a workout because I wasn’t comfortable walking around or leaving my house without them.. weird I know. A handful of times, I DID leave my house without them, and I felt extremely uncomfortable, like in 6th grade when everyone was swearing the first day of school because we rode the bus and our parents weren’t there to stop us. Yes, us, because young, rebel, Ashley was trying to be cool. Moving on.
If I am so uncomfortable without them, WHY is this temptation even a thing?! Well, when you see other church ladies, that had the same teaching and upbringing I did, walking around in these cute fashionable Lululemons, Athleticas, Fabletics, or whatever, two thoughts cross my mind, “Well, she’s a good person, and she’s not wearing them, if I got caught before or after a workout at the gym, people shouldn’t judge me, so I shouldn’t judge her…” or, if I don’t know them very well, “I wonder if she’s left the church, or doesn’t have a testimony, or forgot about the promise of protection from the adversary when we wear them?”
Yes, I am guilty of judging. I actually have to convince myself to stop thinking about it. It’s not my business, nor is how I live my life anyone else’s, but I would be lying if I pretended to be perfect and never curious about another person’s lifestyle choices. In a society where thinking the wrong thing is cliche’ I know I am going out on a limb just talking about this.
I am not perfect, I do try really hard not to judge others that choose differently. It is easier to ignore the clothing choices of those that don’t go to my church – actually, I never catch myself questioning their choices.. this is awful… It really is only my church friends that take a moment of my thoughts… Ugh. I feel like it makes me worse than pond scum.. To have such an obvious struggle judging another… I already know I am no better than the next sinner. I sin all the time, I disrespect my spouse in the heat of the moment/argument, I make poor choices, I yell at my kids.. what does it matter if someone else chooses to wear a tank top all day and live outside their Temple Garment?? It really SHOULDN’T matter to me, I should always be more concerned about my own standards and focused on how to better live my life to follow Christ, than caught up judging anyone else.
When I DO stop and think about why I am uncomfortable with sporting the latest fashion trends, I realize I don’t really want people to question where my faith resides. Unfortunately, I DO care what people think of me Some of the time anyway… I ESPECIALLY don’t want to put today’s trends and fashion above my Lord and Savior, even though a part of me still kind of does… Maybe that’s why I wonder about others… Ugh, get it together already!! I’ve digressed…
Anyway, I have adapted to wearing my Temple Garment under my workout clothes, I don’t run in the heat, and I don’t do workouts often that are so intense that having the extra layer would literally make me vomit, and when I do, I may not have them on, but I have to shower immediately after those workouts and they go right back on, so I don’t find myself in the ‘errand’ trap anyway… You know the one I am talking about, you workout, yet you don’t have time to shower or change before an ‘important’ errand or two needs to be run…. and then you go an entire day without having jumped back into your G’s.
After a while of this, I am sure other things begin to creep in that are questionable as far as standards go… I know, because I have been there. Years ago I learned that you slowly let a few things slide, and then a few more and then a few more, and finally you are so far outside of the safe zone you forget what you were doing in the safe zone in the first place. It is how I ended up dating a guy who eventually raped me and took advantage of me. Not saying that letting some standards fall into a gray area will always lead to such a horrible outcome, but it certainly allowed for me to be in a position that compromised the next ten years of my life, and will continue to affect me through the years. All the while, I wasn’t doing horrible things, I was still using appropriate language, I wasn’t drinking or smoking… I was just riding the line, staying out a little too late, wearing things a little too revealing, going to places that other active members of my church were not, and watching things that definitely weren’t appropriate to watch in front of my parents, let alone my Savior.
Once upon a time I had that moment of clarity, the one where I decided to follow the Savior, allow His Atonement to work in me, repent, stay temple worthy, I KNEW that this temptation to skirt the line of modesty would creep up at me from time to time. It was easy for a while, I had no desire to play with that line, having an extra 30-40 pounds makes it EASY to cover up. But then I got my health together. I started to look good, I started to see abs again… I started wanting to skirt the line again. I had already made that promise to myself and God that I wouldn’t though.
My self-worth should be better than that, my desire to be modest should be stronger. I wish it was. This is something that I need to be conscious of ALL. THE. TIME. I committed to living my life for God, and this is part of the commitment I made. To HONOR my covenants and promises, one of which is to hold my Temple Garments sacred and wear them during every possible moment. I made a CONSCIOUS decision to do this. I am glad I did when I was all fluffy and it was easy, because I would have made a million justifications when I was fit and skinny!
I am still working on the yoga pants part… I don’t see yoga pants as modest to be out and about in, especially if they are too tight and your nether regions are totally outlined for the world to see… That’s when you have the wrong size by the way… But I am sure with all my baby growing, I have been guilty of wearing a size too tight… I am not perfect, I am still working on this… And I will probably have to for a long time. But like I said, this is my OWN personal struggle with Modesty. I have an idea in my head of what it is supposed to look like. And back in the day, the the modesty standard was to not go out in curlers and to be fully dressed for the day. Once upon a time, pajamas in public were considered immodest… Maybe they still are… I mean, imagine if we all got ‘ready’ for the day again, we always feel better when we do anyway… How would that change things?? Again, I digress…
Modesty has always been a struggle for me, I always WANT to be modest, but I still get tempted and pulled in by the latest trends and fashions and sometimes WISH I could pull them off. So I applied the same principles to my wardrobe that I did to my food when trying to get healthy… I have thrown out all of my workout tank tops, I won’t be taking any more pictures in just a workout bra and shorts, and even though I may still go to the water park in my swimsuit instead of changing there, I will try my hardest to stay as modest as possible. The struggle is real.
**Update: I totally forgot to add this. The BEST pieces of advice on the topic of wearing the Temple Garment came from my husband and an elderly couple and a friend’s mom I hold in HIGH Esteem. But my favorite went something like this, from the elderly couple, it was council given to them by a Temple President, “Wearing the Temple Garment respectfully is a matter of NOT finding excuses to take them off. But instead finding ways to keep them ON.”
***UPDATE 2: THANK YOU! To all those who reached out and bore testimony and love! Part 2 was originally in it’s own post, but for simplicity’s sake, it is now below:
A few days ago I posted all about my internal struggle with the PHYSICAL aspect of Modesty as I was brought up to understand it as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As a result, I had SO MANY people reach out to me personally to tell me of their own struggles, their own perspective, and their own testimonies on the subject. I didn’t realize being so vulnerable would have seriously brought me SO MUCH PEACE regarding the subject!
THANK YOU! Especially to those who really stepped out of their comfort zones to reach out and tell me about some really personal experiences they’ve had. You might wonder why this even matters to me… aren’t there a million more important things to worry about?! Well, there are definitely other things to worry about! However, having 4 girls, and already having discussions on modesty with my oldest two, my own thoughts on the subject kept rising to the surface. I don’t want to give them recited answers. I want to KNOW what I am preaching to them, what GOD is preaching to them. I want them to KNOW what God intended for them, and I don’t want them to look at people and notice their clothing like I do, I want them to FEEL God’s LOVE for others as they work closely in our community to make it a better place. I want to reach that point for myself! I want to not even have that initial millisecond of a thought or judgement in my own head. I want to SEE people as GOD intended for them to be seen. I realize that starts with me… and how I see myself.
You see, I am not totally familiar with self-respect, dignity, and virtue…. Some of these things were stripped from me by the horrendous acts of others, and I lost what little was left over years of feeling worthless and not worth respect. When you don’t respect yourself, how can you really understand what dignity is?
I had no idea, until this past week has had my thoughts wrapped up in prayer and supplication to My Lord on the subject, that I was having these negative thoughts, I was fighting myself each day, because of how I viewed (or didn’t view) MYSELF!
In an effort to respect myself and feel the best I can about my own understanding of ‘Modesty.’ I am getting myself ready each morning, like REALLY ready, not the trendy, ‘just rolled out of bed’ look I have been sporting the past few years. I am going to put myself together, I am going to ‘dignify’ myself. I hope, that as time passes, and I learn to be comfortable in my own skin, that I will understand what modesty really is and what it is meant to be. I want my girls to not worry about the ‘lines’ and letter of the law. I want them to live beyond that, I want them to live in service of their fellow man, not judge them based on appearance. So… it starts here. I have to show them how. So that means I have LEARN how!
Lastly, my scriptures studies this week have all been pointing to this as my solution for better understanding. So I am getting dressed as much as humanly possible (I AM having a baby in a few weeks, so I will have to just do my best at that point.)
I will leave you with the quote that is ringing LOUD in my mind! And helped me conclude that I needed to put forth more effort to really understand this principle.
“In our search for enduring faith, in our quest to connect with God and His purposes, let us remember the Lord’s promise: “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”11
Will we give up after knocking on a door or two? A floor or two?
Or will we keep seeking until we have reached the fourth floor, last door?
God “rewards those who earnestly seek him,”12 but that reward is not usually behind the first door. So we need to keep knocking. Sisters, don’t give up. Seek God with all your heart. Exercise faith. Walk in righteousness.
I promise that if you will do this—even until the fourth floor, last door—you will receive the answers you seek. You will find faith. And one day you will be filled with light that grows “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”13“
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