I have always hated the idea of wearing shoes when I drive. Ever since I first learned how to navigate the quiet back streets close to my family home with my parents by my side, I have felt uncomfortable with the idea that my foot is separated from the accelerator by a rubber sole. I often try to rationalise my behaviour by telling myself that because I grew up near the ocean and spent much of my youth commuting around town with my feet covered in sand, I have become accustomed to travelling barefoot. But the truth is that I don’t know exactly what compels me to kick off my shoes when I get behind the wheel.
Regardless of why I prefer to drive the way that I do; I always try to arrive at my destination a few minutes early so that I have time to pull on my socks and lace up my shoes.
Weird right? And totally pointless. I haven’t blogged in almost a month and now here I am writing about feet. I know that it seems like a weird topic, but there is a point to this story…
Had it not have been for this strange habit, I never would have recently found myself inadvertently eavesdropping on a conversation between a young girl and her grandmother. The girl must have been six years old, and presumably in her first few years of education. She was dressed in her school uniform and held her grandmother’s hand tightly as they walked down the footpath near where I was pulling on my shoes in the front seat of my car.
“I don’t really have many friends at school,” I heard the little girl say. “I think that it’s because I’m not a very fast runner.”
The girl’s comment made me stop what I was doing and glance up at the duo just in time to watch her grandmother pause and turn towards her. She explained that the little girl had lots of friends, and that even though she may not be the fastest runner in her class, she excelled at plenty of other things. Hearing that she was special in her own unique way brought a huge smile to the little girl’s lips. With the conversation seemingly settled, they continued their journey down the footpath to wherever they were heading hand-in-hand.
Although a part of me felt guilty for having overheard such an intimate moment shared between a grandmother and her granddaughter, the conversation struck a chord with me. Over the past few years I have come to understand that I am a deeply empathetic person, so to hear a small child voice their insecurities and self-doubt caused a chasm to open within my chest. In the three weeks since the conversation took place, I have replayed it over and over inside of my head, and it’s only just now that I have begun to understand why I was so affected by what I heard.
Initially I told myself that I was moved by the conversation because it caused me to consider my own future. I imagined a time when it was my child who doubted themselves, or felt as though they didn’t quite fit in with their peers. I told myself that I didn’t ever want them to feel like the little girl did; I wanted them to always know that they were loved. And I made a promise to myself that neither my children, nor the woman that I grow old with, would ever feel as though they weren’t good enough, or question my love for them.
But then I realised that I was being foolish. Moments of self-doubt are inevitable; eventually my loved ones are going to have moments where they struggle, or where they must acknowledge that they’re not be the fastest runner in their class. It took some time to figure it out, but eventually I understood that the reason the conversation had such a profound impact on me is because at some point in our lives we have all felt, or a destined to feel, what that little girl walking down the footpath felt when she told her grandmother that she felt alone.
I don’t really have many friends… I think that it’s because I’m not a very fast runner.
Every single person in this world has had times where they have told themselves that they don’t quite fit in, that they’re not good enough, or have convinced themselves that they are alone. Sometimes it can feel as though we as a species are hardwired to see the positives in everyone else, whilst only ever finding failures within ourselves. We have all been guilty of judging ourselves too harshly for what we perceive to be our flaws, instead of celebrating the idiosyncrasies and strengths that make us who we are. And we have all manufactured faults within our heads that don’t exist, or told ourselves that we must be broken, rather than simply accepting that sometimes it’s alright to not be OK.
The classmates of the little girl in my story don’t dislike her because she’s not the fastest runner at their school. They love her for all the reasons that her grandmother listed, and probably many more. But because she is so fixated on what she perceives to be her one fault, instead of acknowledging her many strengths, she can’t see the positives in who she is that so many others do.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that life is about perspectives.
Although we may live underneath the same sky, we don’t share the same realities, the same hopes and dreams, or even the same horizons. We are the sum of our past experiences. Because we have all lived through separate journeys, and seen the world through different eyes, no two people will ever experience the world in the same way. It’s just not possible. What that means is that it is highly likely that what you perceive to be a flaw in who you are, could be the very thing that causes someone else to fall hopelessly in love with you.
So next time you stare at your reflection the mirror and see something wrong with your physical appearance, just remember that someone else is looking at you and wondering how it’s possible for another human being to be so beautiful. When you’re convinced that you don’t fit in, remind yourself that others are in awe of the magnetism in your actions and the way that your words make those around you feel safe. And when you feel like you don’t have many friends because you’re not the fastest runner in your class, remember that the people who matter most will celebrate who you are regardless of whether you ever win a damn race or not.
But perhaps most importantly, remember to talk to someone close to you if you’re ever having one of those days where your insecurities are causing you to feel vulnerable or afraid.
When those moments arrive, take a page out of the book of the little girl ambling down the footpath with her grandmother, and find the courage to acknowledge that you’re experiencing self doubt. I guarantee that when you do, the people who love you will take the time to remind you that despite your one perceived flaw, you have countless strengths and positive attributes that make you the person that you are. We are all perfectly imperfect. And we are beautiful in our own idiosyncratic ways.