As women, we are bombarded with impossible expectations about our bodies through social media, movies, television, the internet, and almost everywhere else you can imagine. It seems everywhere we turn we are told that our worth comes from our appearance and we will never be enough.
Of course, these are all lies—falsehoods that the gospel contradicts entirely. At church, we learn truths that combat the negative stereotypes and messages found in the world. We learn that we are daughters of Heavenly Parents, that we are powerful beyond imagining, and that our worth and potential encompass so much more than outer beauty.
However, despite the valuable doctrine and spiritual lifelines we’ve been taught, occasionally some of our experiences in the world can, unfortunately, still seep into our culture. Here are just a few myths Mormon women sometimes hear at church about their bodies.
Modest is hottest.
While I love the catchy rhyme and I understand the sentiment behind it, something about this phrase misses the entire point.
When young women hear someone talk about their deeper worth, their divine talents, and their spiritual, mental, and emotional beauty, the entire message can quickly become derailed when someone adds, “Besides, modest is hottest after all.” That message snaps everyone’s attention right back into obsessing over physical appearance and worldly standards.
Let’s be real. The word hot is never used to express something beyond skin-deep attraction. No one ever calls someone’s ideas or their capabilities or their expressions hot. "Hot" is a word the world has reserved only for physical appearance—an appearance that is supposed to capture someone's attention or admiration, not their respect. So in that sense, I’m sorry ladies, but modest will never be hottest.
And that’s okay. In fact, that’s wonderful. If we free ourselves up from worrying about being flawless and "hot," maybe that will give us a little more time to focus on developing true beauty—the kind of beauty that emanates from every part of who we are.
As Lynn G. Robbins says, “The gospel teaches us that true beauty is more than skin-deep. A young woman whose countenance is aglow with both happiness and virtue radiates inner beauty.” Instead of focusing on eradicating our outward blemishes and flaws, we should focus a little more time on those things that truly make us happy and beautiful.
Men just can’t help themselves.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one and its many variants. “You know how men are.” “Boys will be boys.” “They are just wired that way.” "Men just can't help themselves."
Yes, they can. And they do on a regular basis.
I know at first glance this appears to be a myth we tell ourselves about men—and it is. But on the flip side, it also sends a harmful message to women. It tells women we should always be self-conscious about our bodies because that’s really the only—or at least the most powerful—thing that men respond to.
That’s simply not true. Sure, some men might struggle with addictions or impulses, but then so do women. And yes, there are a lot of things women can do to help men live up to their priesthood and eternal potential, but most of that has nothing to do with what we wear. Women help men the most by believing in them, by recognizing and appreciating the good they do, by setting examples, by caring, loving, guiding, and encouraging.
So please, stop demoralizing men, and stop objectifying yourself. Men are already frequently demoralized in the media today, where they are portrayed as dim, bumbling oafs who can hardly get anything right. They don't need to be told on top of that that they should give up and give in to their impulses because that’s just the way they are. If women can begin to see and encourage the divine potential in themselves and the men they interact with, it will help all of us find a valuable place building the kingdom of God.
Because here’s a secret: men are just as moral and virtuous as women. Over the decades, we have heard both extremes, but the fact of the matter is, we both are spiritually strong. Anything that tells us otherwise is a ploy by Satan to degrade us into thinking we are less than we are and to keep us from becoming what he knows we can become.