Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | September 18, 2014

Grateful for the Pain

I recently spent a couple days at a conference for the National Association for Women Business Owners. They are an awesome group of people…and really fabulous dressers. I have gotten a little spoiled by my work-from-home gig…but it’s also fun to dress up and go out in my big-girl, professional outfits.

I wore my favorite of those big-girl professional outfits on Monday, along with very pretty shoes that work really well for me when I’m on my feet for hours at a time. Single-digit numbers of hours at a time. As it turns out, my feet turn rather decisively into pumpkins at around 8 hours in big-girl professional shoes. That day, my schedule called for closer to 12 hours in my chosen footwear.

The blessing and the curse of going to a fabulous national conference in your very own home town is that you don’t need a hotel room. Which means you don’t have a hotel room one elevator ride away to go to and change halfway through the day. Around 5:30 that first day, about half an hour after my feet started calling me names that would make a sailor blush, the shoes came off (It didn’t hurt that in saw another woman with her heels in her hands as she stood around the fabulous reception.) My initial plan was to put the shoes back on when we left the venue to go across the street for the evening activity…but as the time to do that drew closer, the prospect of stepping back into the shoes seemed less and less appealing. When the time actually came, I decided that bare feet would have to be sufficiently fashionable.

Within 5 minutes of showing up at the next venue, I saw another woman in bare feet, who quickly told me that she’d figured it was okay once she saw mine.

After a couple of hours of bare feet on concrete, I made it home, wondering what in the world I was going to do the next day. It was clear to me that even after some quality time with an ice pack that evening, my feet weren’t going to willingly step into anything but my most comfortable walking shoes the next day. They’re very comfortable, those walking shoes. Selected for comfort over fashion, they’re electric blue. Not the sort of subtle shoes that work well with anything but jeans.

My feet were very firm with me. It had to be the walking shoes. Which meant jeans. I paired them with a blazer, and worried that I was noticeably under-dressed for the conference. All the way to the hotel, I worried. And, indeed, when I first walked into the conference space, the first woman I encountered (who was wearing fashionable heels and a beautiful red dress) immediately commented on my outfit.

“You are so smart. I wish I’d brought jeans and gym shoes. My feet are killing me!” She said. I laughed, and confessed how worried I was that I would be under-dressed for the day. As I went through the day, I didn’t see very many women in jeans – and all the ones I saw were from sponsoring organizations or staffing the conference in some capacity. But everyone who commented on my outfit for the day – and several people did – expressed their jealousy that I looked so comfortable.

I love it when the universe sends me these sorts of messages. As I go out into the world, I always want to be brave and to bring my authentic self with me. But I find that I also want to wrap that self in some socially–acceptable packaging that will ensure that people will like and approve of me. (And yes, I am aware of the problematic nature of the torturous fashion that feels socially acceptable in the western world. Heels? Ties? Really? And as much as I know and believe that these things are sub-optimal, clearly I’m still prone to cling to them because they feel “safe” in some way.)

It’s scary to go out into the world just simply being comfortable in my own skin. If people don’t like me, or if they judge me, or if they flat out reject me, it’s really me they’re rejecting and not just my ability to live up to some ridiculous artificial standard. That’s a lot scarier than just putting my feet into the heels and marching on. I don’t necessarily like it when my feet absolutely refuse to play along with this strategy.

I do, however, really like that went in to the conference comfortable, able to enjoy the interactions I had with the women there, and to learn things that will help me and my business. I like that I listened to my body and didn’t ultimately give in to my fear. And I am grateful for the pain that pushed me into doing what ended up being the right thing.

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