The Shoes You Wear
You carry a pack through life, “good” or “bad”, it’s a map of you. That pack is made up of many things including people you encounter; experiences that alter the course of your life; belief systems about love, relationships, work; and pain, physical and emotional. But sometimes you have the choice to drop something in that pack that isn't serving you. I’ve found when we do, we add more kindness to not only our life but the world around us.
One way to do this is to walk in someone else's shoes for a moment. An interesting by-product of that experiment is the natural dropping of one of our own limiting beliefs, something that just doesn’t serve us, like ideas around worthiness, judgment, hard work or perfectionism for example. Try this: give someone you meet today the gift of walking in her shoes for a moment. Perhaps for example, it’s the cashier at the grocery store. Imagine you are her instead of you, as she rings up your groceries. What would it be like to clock in and out for your lunch? To work for a hourly rate below a living wage? To stand near a door that blows cold air on you every time it opens?
It’s a fascinating truth that you can’t hold onto one of your limiting beliefs and stand in someone else’s shoes at the same time. When you stand in someone else’s shoes, curiosity kicks in. Curiosity opens the door for forgiveness and generosity. When all three of those positive feelings are present, it’s impossible to hold onto one of our own beliefs that don't serve us.
You can try the stepping game at your place of work too. Walk in the shoes of someone who comes into your place of business for a moment: anyone from a desperate woman looking for relief to a wealthy client with plenty of cash. Survivors of abuse, for example, (especially women and especially at certain vulnerable points in their life) sometimes appear as "high needs" when in reality, they are trauma sufferers.
The stepping game can be made even easier. Instead of stepping and getting curious, create a simple sentence that you can use when feeling challenged by someone (the difficult patient, the slow post office worker, the constantly late boss). Try this one: “everyone I meet is a possible survivor whom I can treat with dignity and respect.” Of course, you can change the language of any piece of it as long as you keep the core message: "everyone's got something in that pack and even if it irritates me, I can choose kindness toward them."
Choosing kindness goes a long way because some things in our pack cannot be left behind. A mother, for example, who didn't believe her daughter when told about the abuse, often lingers on the periphery of the daughter's life. That bad mom cannot be left behind not only because of her physical presence but also by feelings of betrayal, grief and the perpetual disappointment both for what was lost and what can never be.
Since there are things in your own pack (like past trauma perhaps) that cannot be left, more kindness is essential in our world. So let's start with the low-hanging fruit to wear someone else's shoes for a few minutes. When we do so, we are more willing to put down what we carry that's not serving us and develop great capability to looking deeply at our own self: whether that is our "dark emotions" like grief, anger, shame or our own pain or difficult experiences.
What have you noticed about yourself as you read this? Leave me a comment below. Thank you for reading.