I’ve struggled with body image all my life but particularly during my teenage years.
A few months ago I started to dress modestly (much to my husband’s delight), only wearing skirts/dresses that reached at least to the top of my knee caps and clothing that revealed zero cleavage. I can’t even remember why I started doing this. What I was really surprised by was how this changed how I viewed myself and how I viewed others.
Before I started dressing modestly, I was always concerned with displaying my body as best as I could. I don’t want to admit it, but I really was quite emotionally dissatisfied if the clothes that I wore weren’t as flattering as they possibly could be. I valued myself based on my exterior appearances and therefore I valued others based on their exterior appearances rather than by the fact that every single human being was, is and will be loved into existence by God.
After I started dressing modestly, I noticed a gradual change in my perspective.
In my case, I already had a man who has unrestricted access to my whole being. So for me, when I veil my body in modesty, I am not hiding myself from myself, I am revealing my dignity to myself.
What I realised was that because I am covering up my body more, I was more free to recognise and appreciate my dignity as a human being; someone created to love God and to be loved by God in return.
Today something interesting happened to me. My husband had recently bought me many very pretty clothes. All were in keeping with our new knee-length, no cleavage or bra strap rule.
One dress in particular was really flattering and beautiful. It was pink, it was swishy, it was beautiful. So I decided to wear it to Mass today since I woke up feeling particularly girly.
What I didn’t expect was that during Mass, my thoughts kept turning to how I looked. My Mass experience today was a series of turning my thoughts to how I looked, struggling to turn my thoughts back to God, offering myself up to God to re-order my thoughts. It was a very unsettling experience for me.
Towards the end of Mass, I grasped at a phrase/concept that is present in my total power exchange relationship with my husband. When we’re walking together he’d say “eyes up”. When I do something wrong and am being chided for it I always look down and fiddle with my hands. He’d then say “eyes on me” or “look at me”. So this is what I held on to during the later part of Mass and throughout the rest of the day. I reminded myself to keep my “eyes up” on Jesus, to keep my “eyes on Jesus” and to “look at Jesus” rather than looking at how I looked exteriorly.
In my relationship with God, I view myself as a submissive and God as a loving dominant in a total power exchange dynamic (see Ephesians 5:21-33). So the phrases “eyes up”, “eyes on Me”, “look at Me” really capture my attention because I experience my husband saying them to me also in our TPE.
So when I get self conscious, I say to myself “eyes up”, “who are you? A child of God”…