To those that don’t know what Tzniut is, it sounds exotic, like some beautiful place or maybe even a silky piece of clothing. But when defined, or summed up, the first word that comes to mind would be “modesty”, which makes Tznius go from being an exotic, beautiful sounding word to a dirty one that some Jewish people spit out when speaking.
Tznius is a part of Halacha (Jewish Law) that incorporates how one (whether male or female) should dress and act. Though it can be defined as “modesty”, I prefer to refer to it as “being respectable”, because to me this sounds more enticing.
I’ve heard some people talk about it in the way that HaShem is King, and we are all his children, and we would not want to be presented in front of the King in anything less then the best, and we would not want to act in a way that is disgraceful to him. I’ve also heard that, “all of the best things come covered, such as diamonds in dirt or pearls in seashells”. I love both of those analogies, because they are both very true and put Tzniut and why we honor it in a realistic and understandable view.
But try telling any of that to my fellow peers. No, I’m not talking down about them and their attitudes or clothes (and lack thereof), because I find myself in the same boat. From Goyim to Jewish teen, we all have our problems with how we are viewed, and dressing “modestly” doesn’t boost our popularity status up to the level we would all like it to be at.
In today’s society, we value ideals, and the ideal woman does not go around hiding all of her assets, and the ideal man is free to look at women as sexually as he wants. But is this always right? Should we value external beauty more than internal beauty? Unfortunately, that is exactly what we’re doing by showing “just a little more skin”, without looking at how it makes others perceive us (including Hashem).
I’ve recently had my own struggles with being Tznius. At first, I loved the idea, and I was very excited to start dressing more conservatively. I ran to the store and bought a few shells (shirts that are either long sleeve or sleeveless but have a high neckline and are used under everyday shirts to cover up more than regular clothes might) as well as a few knee-length skirts. I explained to my closest friends that my more “modest” style of dress was due to my beliefs, and for a while, I felt content. But then, I started to feel resentment. I hated the high necklines and hot long sleeves. I hated that I could no longer wear my “cute clothes” and that I could no longer look “fashionable” (my clothing is something I pride myself on). I felt self-conscious, like everyone was constantly examining and judging me and thinking that I was, oh, dare I say it, lame. It was horrible, so I stopped. I pushed my shells to the back of the closet, and my long skirts only saw the light of day occasionally. Well, until yesterday…
Yesterday, I put on my long black skirt (I’ve never worn it before due to my brain telling me I’ll die of embarrassment as soon as I walked outside) and a nice shirt, and I felt beautiful. I felt more beautiful than I had in a very long time, and apparently it showed, as I got a few compliments. So I did the same thing today, dressing conservatively, hoping the experiment would get the same results, and it did. It felt amazing and empowering and, for once, people were paying attention to the things about me that really were beautiful instead of the parts of me that society deemed “beautiful”.
I know that no where in there did I talk about how I started acting more conservatively, but that’s just because that part was simple. I no longer cuss (at least, I’ve brought it down to an absolute bare minimum, and I only will do it if no one’s around and I get hurt really bad), I don’t talk about topics that some of my fellow peers would deem acceptable (such as talking about one’s…er…assets) and I try to act more mature. I won’t go to the parties that “everyone” is going to (you know, the typical high school “cheap alcohol/unsafe sex-fest”), and I also don’t act in a way that would be deemed as degrading or disgusting.
But I digress. Tzniut has changed my perception about things a little bit. I feel closer to Hashem, I feel more spiritually connected to the world around me, and I feel, well, I feel more beautiful. I feel like I no longer need to go out of my way to impress anyone besides myself and Hashem, and that sometimes, fashion isn’t everything (even though you can find a TON of cute clothes that are perfectly modest).
To me,Tzniut is about self-worth. Our bodies are G-d’s gift to us, and by dressing and acting more modestly, we are in turn doing our best to take care of that present. You wouldn’t smash a gift someone gave you just because everyone else is doing it, right? So why would you degrade the one that the greatest person (for lack of better term) of all gave to you?
Appreciate and love yourself like Hashem does, and in turn, others will learn to do the same for you.
With so much love and respect,
Kristin the Jewbie
(P.S. I just want to touch on something real quick, only because I know many girls feel like there is a “double standard”: men have to follow Tzniut just as much as woman do, we just don’t notice it as much because there’s is more internal, then external.)