Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was go shopping. Like many other little girls, one of the things I looked forward to the most was spending Saturday afternoons with my mother perusing the racks of department stores looking for cute outfits. However, my shopping trip wouldn't be complete without me picking out something that had spaghetti straps or was "too short" and my mom telling me to put it back.
At eight years old, I knew that my parents had certain rules about what I could and could not wear. While I knew it had something to do with our South Asian culture and Christianity, I wasn't exactly sure why I couldn't wear whatever I wanted or how what I wore affected anyone else.
As I grew older, I began receiving religious books that emphasized the importance of preserving my purity and how dressing modestly was supposed to help avert the dreaded unwanted male gaze.
All I could think about, though, was how my friends were able to wear whatever they wanted and look amazing, while I had to dress according to my parents' expectations and, in my opinion, look like a grandma. I started folding up my shorts and hiking up my skirts when I left the house in order to fit in with other girls my age. I would wear a tank top under my sweater and then take the sweater off when I was sure my mom wouldn't see me.
I could feel myself getting more and more frustrated every time I went to the mall, because every time I found an outfit I thought I liked, it didn't fall into the realm of what my parents deemed "acceptable". Everything I wanted was either too short, too fitted, or had too low of a neckline. It was a constant struggle and point of contention in my house throughout all of high school.
But things started changing when I started college. Suddenly I was allowed to wear shorts that were slightly shorter and tank tops that had wide straps. For the entirety of my freshman year, I took full advantage of my newfound freedom. I was wearing shorts and tank tops and for the first time in my life, I felt like I looked like every other girl my age.
It was during this past summer that I started questioning my own clothing choices. While I certainly felt like I fit in better, I began to realize that I didn't want to wear more revealing clothes because of comfort, but rather, because of my lack of self-esteem. I was under the assumption that what I wore would determine whether or not people would like me. I also realized that I wasn't even entirely comfortable wearing revealing clothes.
I've since come to the conclusion that I prefer being more covered up, not because I'm worried about unwanted attention or distracting others, but rather because I simply feel more at ease wearing clothes that aren't as revealing. In this way, I hope that I can show that I have more to offer than just my physical appearance. My modesty isn't something that is restricting or oppressive, but instead, I feel more confident about myself and, in a way, freer.