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 and pants past my knees.
This is the Mormon version of modesty, at least 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 the mormons 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 (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, it 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, Mormon 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 outside my fancy Mormon underwear, so I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable sporting these trends. I have been guilty of putting clean mormon undies on my dirty sweaty body immediately after a workout because I wasn’t comfortable walking around without them.. A handful of times, I DID leave my house without them, and I felt like I was asking for trouble.
So then WHY is this temptation even a thing?! Well, when you see other Mormon ladies walking around without their Mormon underwear, 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 that if we wear them we will be protected from the adversary.” 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.
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 Non-Mormons – actually, I never catch myself questioning their choices.. this is awful… It really is only my Mormon friends that take a moment of my thoughts… Ugh. I feel like it makes me worse than them.. 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, 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 Mormon Underwear?? 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 Mormon underwear 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, you workout, and 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… (Garments or Temple Garments- the REAL term for Mormon Underwear).
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. You 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 Mormons (practicing anyway) were not, and watching things that definitely weren’t appropriate to watch in front of my parents, let alone my Savior.
So once 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.
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 Mormon standard was not to 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! I posted PART 2 HERE