“He walked by instinct along one white road, on which early birds hopped and sang, and found himself outside a fenced garden. There he saw the sister of Gregory, the girl with the gold-red hair, cutting lilac before breakfast, with the great unconscious gravity of a girl. “
– G.K Chesterton
That last phrase of this quote struck me because its something I’ve often observed—that the moments in which girls are most beautiful are usually those in which they have no thought for their looks or anyone observing them, which is somewhat of a paradox given how much time girls often put into their appearance. That other great source of British wisdom, One Direction, points out in his song, What Makes You Beautiful, “You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful.” So why is “the great unconscious gravity of a girl” so attractive? I think because in those rare moments, some external action—cutting lilacs, smiling, etc., suddenly makes some internal truth about the person visible on the outside. It’s more or less what I talked about in my last post, about people’s appearance changing as you get to know them, except it all happens in sudden brief flash. Once again, it’s disconnected from the objective attractiveness (if there is such a thing) of the person. In fact, I suspect that had the girls been thinking of their looks at all, they would have thought they looked terrible at the moment. One guy I talked to mentioned how lovely a girl looked walking by carrying a trash bag. Not exactly the moment when you’d expect to be your most glamorous.
So what does any of this have to do with modesty? I’ve been saying modesty is a state of mind, or a disposition; what I would like to add here is that it isn’t necessarily a conscious one. The same way that an immodest girl isn’t actively thinking that she needs affirmation at any cost when she decides to wear something too revealing, so too do modest women not actively need to consider how valuable they are all the time—I imagine they’d become insufferable if they did. I think modesty ties greatly into humility, and humility isn’t about thinking lowly of yourself as much as it’s about not thinking of yourself at all. So the key is to know how valuable you are, act accordingly, and not think too much about it after that.