For many, like myself, barefoot is a lifestyle choice, it is not just a hobby, or a pastime, nor is it just something to do on a warm summer’s day. Its part of the way we live or lives, it is part of who we are at this point in time.
This weekend has taught me some important lessons about my barefoot lifestyle, and fitting in with those around me.
At the moment in the majority of the Western world barefooters are in the minority, in fact we are a very small minority. If we’re not prepared to fit in from time to time then life could become very lonely and we will become more and more alienated.
The reason behind this lifestyle choice, for some shoefooters we meet and know, is for the most part unimportant. I know that many people just have an objection to bare feet in public, that is their choice and they have their reasons. Reasons which to us may seem just as alien or illogical as the reasons for us being barefoot are to them, we are all unique and all have different opinions, it’s a fact of life on planet Earth.
For the most part these people have formed an opinion or belief about being barefoot and barefoot in public and unfortunately we just have to accept that fact, plain and simple. If we accept that their opinion differs greatly to ours, then we have taken the first step towards getting them to accept our opinions about barefooting. (Please note that there is a difference between acceptance and agreement, we can accept their opinions without having to agree with them).
No matter how much ranting and raving or shouting and screaming you do at these people, face the fact, you are NOT going to change their opinion. In fact, all you’ll end up doing is getting angry and frustrated, and even worse than that you’ll be labelled as a barefoot trouble maker, and another person or group of people will start alienating barefooters.
There are times to stand up and be counted and there times to walk away silently, choose wisely because how you act could determine how this person approaches other barefooters (or yourself) in the future.
Educated Don’t Segregate
Now not every shoefooter falls into this opinionated camp, in fact I would say that most don’t, but we do have to be aware of those who have very strong or ingrained opinions. Many shoefooters will simply be curious want to know more, want to know the reasons why, and so on.
These people may have an opinion but are more open-minded or they may not have an opinion or may not care one way or the other, but these people are the ones that we can educate. They most often will ask questions, they even make a flippant comment like “Where’s your shoes Mister?”
Personally I receive these sorts of flippant comments quite regularly and sometimes they even seem quite aggressive. But I’ve come to the opinion that most of the time these comments, no matter how they are delivered, are actually genuine enquires.
Many people, especially teenagers, don’t have the confidence to approach a stranger and say “Excuse me but I couldn’t help noticing that you’re wearing no shoes….” instead they’ll shout across the street “Where’s your shoes Mister?”
It also worth remembering that some of the shoefooters who fall into this group, could be the restaurant worker who turns you away for not having shoes on, or the supermarket security guard who stops you at the doors because of your bare feet. These people are doing the job that they are paid to do, if the opportunity to educate is there then educate and walk away, you won’t win a battle with someone who is just doing their job.
Don’t Flaunt It
It’s obvious to the normally observant person that you have bare feet! There is no need to show them! Some people will make certain lifestyle choices and then flaunt it to all and sundry in order to get a reaction. Unfortunately the majority of these reactions will just reinforce those opposing opinions that people have about being barefoot.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Just because people see us barefoot doesn’t mean that they know or understand that being barefoot is a lifestyle choice! They don’t know that the only footwear you own is an old pair of scandals somewhere at the back of the wardrobe. They won’t understand that you are reluctant to put on a pair of shoes, let alone the reasons why. Not unless you tell them.
Consider that most people (in our society) wear shoes, consider also that these people assume that everyone has at least one pair of shoes; they assume this because that is the case for them, that is what they consider normal. Unless you tell them otherwise that is what they’ll assume about you.
We often assume that because we’re barefoot all the time that people will instantly know that it’s a lifestyle choice, they don’t.
Believe me when I say that this just doesn’t apply to strangers we meet in the street, this applies to family and friends, especially if you’re relatively new to barefooting.
Comprise is best
If we want people to make comprises for our lifestyle choices then we have to make comprises for their lifestyle choices, and this could include putting on some footwear, I’m sorry to have to say this but if we want others to comprise then we may have to make the first step.
If barefooting is to be accepted as a ‘normal’ part of society then on occasions we’ll have to meet society halfway, it’s foolish of us to think that others will always comprise for us, it’s a two way street and comprise comes from both directions.
There are times, for example formal functions like a Wedding or a Funeral, where society is under the general belief that shoes should be worn, whether you agree or not, if you want to attend then you’ll have to make the sacrifice required (at least for part of the time), and that is putting on some footwear. Of cause you could just decline such invitations, but that will bring up the question why and if mentioned that you’re not prepared to comprise then all you’re doing is flaunting the fact you’re a barefooter and reinforcing those opposing opinions, you’ll also miss out on the function.
It’s a Fine Line
There is a fine line that we must walk barefoot along, on one side is acceptance and the other alienation, how we act determines the future for all barefooters.