I have been contemplating my life a lot lately and I have come to the conclusion love and relationships are a lot like buying shoes. There are so many styles, so many considerations when deciding which shoe will be the best fit not just for your feet, but also for your lifestyle and personality. More often than not, we are seduced by the sexy red stilettos of Hollywood image makers. Sleek and flashy, they turn heads promising a fantasy life of glamor and glitz and excitement, intrigue and romance. Unfortunately, fantasy is what they usually are, in the end, the reality being more like sore feet, twisted ankles and life –long back problems. More often than not, such shoes are mostly image without substance. Sold as the feminine ideal, they often limit a woman’s ability to express her full potential by locking her into a patriarchal definition of is feminine. They limit her ability to run.
And yet, I still envied those that made it look so effortless and graceful.
I wanted so much to be like them, but alas, awkward and clumsy, I understood how Cinderella’s step sisters must have felt trying to stuff their feet into a shoe that just didn’t fit. I spent a good portion of my life trying to force my feet into something they were not meant to be, to fit a relationship that was not meant to be. I know all too well the disappointment, feelings of failure and inadequacy eroding self-esteem because I could not master the ‘image’. Drowning in disapproval; never enough… not good enough… not woman enough… never enough…so much to live up to, all the time thinking there was something wrong with me. I never considered maybe the problem was always the shoe itself.
Still… I thought perhaps if I tried a lower heel, something a little closer to the ground, a little more professional, a little closer to reality, a little closer to me, maybe I could make it work. Maybe I could still live up to expectations. I’ve worked with women that glided through the work day, the essence of power an authority and grace, a feminine mystique. “It’s not that hard. Just take them off when you get home. You have to have other shoes to wear.” I do have my girlie side after all, and I am a product of pervasive social expectations of what is properly feminine. With that, I would try the next pair. Yes, perhaps if I tried really hard, a lower heal would work… then again, maybe not. Though less painful, my toes still pinched. I still couldn’t run or even walk thru soft grass without my heel getting stuck. God forbid, I had to walk thru some rocks. Such shoes are only made for smooth surfaces, not for the uneven surfaces life often provides. Desperate, I even tried those cute little sandals everyone wears in the summer time. Not well made, they don’t last long, more often not, paying for looks not quality. They blistered my feet and my heels were always dry, cracked and dirty.
I tried and tried to make it work. I must have bought a lifetime of shoes trying to fit another’s expectations. My closet was full of shoes taking up space, many barely even worn, and yet I couldn’t quite let them go. It would mean admitting defeat, admitting I was a failure. I kept thinking one day, I will be able to wear them, make it work. Instead, they simply became a constant reminder, a testament to the ill fitted expectations I would never meet. In the end, the only thing I knew for sure was that my feet hurt, aching from the neglect that comes from being unappreciated, under-valued, unrecognized.
I now know, the key to buying a pair of shoes is knowing something about yourself. I began to realize each pair taught me something, my likes and dislikes, what made me happiest and most content. Each experience taught me something about myself and the type of relationship I really wanted. The ill-fitted shoes of the world and the discomfort they caused me were invaluable. They taught me to appreciate quality and a proper fit, and for that I am grateful.
Relationships are a lot like shoes. The pain some relationships inflict, like shoes, demand a person to be true to themselves and not the artificially created expectations of others or even one’s own self. Once you realize what type of relationship is best for you, it’s easier to let go, self-actualize and begin enjoying and truly living life. It is easier to find the partner that is right for you.
It took a long time, but in the end, I found the best fit for me. I am a boots, hiking boots kind of girl. They are sturdy and keep me grounded on the rockiest of paths. I don’t need heels to reach great heights because I now am able to climb mountains. I can wiggle my toes at will and my feet are never cold. I can explore beyond the confines of smooth surfaces and artificially constructed non-realities that so often denied my own truth and left me broken hearted and shattered. I now have a shoe that loves, accepts and nurtures me as I am.
And thus is the Art of Shoe Shopping… always listen to your feet. When you do, you will find the right shoe.