“How do I get over the shyness?”
An SBL member asked the group:
I’ve been a half-on half-off barefooter since I was 12. It’s always been a thing I’ve enjoyed, however I am very shy about it. …It’s one of those things I feel I have to sneak around about because I don’t want it mentioned…and I don’t want to be asked questions from random people. Please help. I don’t want to be living in the fear of this anymore.
Five helpful member responses (A-E) below . . .
A) From: TK
If you are doing something different from everyone else in whatever group you are, it seems to take courage but it is also what makes you unique, interesting, not just one of the same.
a) You aren’t doing anything forbidden.
b) You aren’t doing anything overly risky or unhealthy.
c) You are doing what’s most enjoyable, most healthy and best for you.
To others, you are still the same guy, no matter what (if at all) you wear on your feet. Don’t make too much of an issue of it, it’s not. Walking barefoot might not be what most people do in public but if you are at ease with yourself, showing confidence, people might not even notice or give attention that you aren’t wearing shoes like everyone else. Your feet are down there, your face is up here! People who talk to you aren’t likely to look at your feet anyway. And in many situations, such as when you’re sitting at a table, your feet can’t be seen.
Just be yourself, you’re even more of yourself when you’re barefoot.
B) From: NN
I had many of the same concerns some two-something years ago as I was a beginning barefooter as well. Although I was 31 at the time, I pretty much felt the same way about being around my parents barefoot, or god forbid should some of my old school teachers see me walking barefoot in the street.
I remember how I walked through the town park barefoot only to sit on the last bench in the park and put on shoes before I entered the town center. As time went by I slowly introduced people I knew to my barefoot lifestyle and they were all perfectly fine with it. This was gradual, but at some point I simply stopped caring about what others thought. In fact, I was surprised at how many were supportive and/or indifferent.
I think you’ll find yourself in similar situations, just let yourself be you, regardless of who is with you. I find the following quote has inspired me to do so a number of times. I read it so many times I simply memorized it and it’s like a mantra to me when I feel this kind of anxiety that creeps up when I know I’m doing nothing wrong, but whatever it is that I’m doing is just so much outside of all social norms that I think I would be judged negatively:
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
C) From: BD
The only way to become confident is to begin by pretending you are. After a short amount of time you’ll have learnt enough to be able to reassure yourself that there’s nothing to fear. Make yourself go out and be seen by someone you might not want to have to talk to about barefooting.
It will be a lot less difficult than you imagine. They’ll ask questions and you’ll know the answers because you already figured them out for yourself when you decided that you want to go barefoot. You don’t have to say anything too clever. Just be honest about your own personal preferences.
The conversation will become routine eventually and you’ll be quite happy to have it with anyone who is reasonably civil towards you. Anyone who isn’t, you can simply ignore.
It’s difficult to make yourself do something for the first time, whether it’s asking a girl out or playing a jazz solo, because you’re always worried about what the other people involved might think, and whether they’ll continue to talk about it afterwards. But you don’t have to worry about what they think. They can’t actually hurt you, and when it comes to barefooting, compared to everyone else, you’re the expert because you actually have some experience of doing it.
What I’ve found is that people who understand it respect me more for being genuine and honest about myself and for having the courage to be different. It makes a statement that I have my own style and take ownership of it. Those who don’t get it and don’t want anything to do with me are also doing me a favor. We’re the lucky ones because we have an automatic filter to block our shallow judgmental people. They keep their distance and that is to our benefit. For friends, family, work and dating it is really good for people you don’t want to waste time on literally wasting none of your time.
Best of luck!
D) From: H
It’s tough, because so many people still feel like it’s a “taboo” thing. I’ve been mostly-barefoot for pushing 40 years now, and only recently have started feeling more strongly about it and pushing back against the confronters with more solid reasoning and placing them in the wrong instead of me. I used to just carry the “china flats” and throw them on at the first hint of adversity, but I’m so done with that now.
I’m not *quite* to the point where I don’t even think about the fact that I’m barefoot going into some commercial establishment — like I wouldn’t think “ooh, I’m not wearing a hat” — some of the folks on this list might be close to that point, but even they know there’s always the possibility of getting accosted. Because some people think they have a right to just harass someone they don’t even know out of the blue over petty nonsense.
It’s just about the one form of outward discrimination that’s still tacitly allowed in our society, so people looking for their little power trip will seize on the opportunity. It’s just a dumb dominance game, and there are plenty of bullies running around. It might help to think of it as equivalent to some random guy walking up to you in the store and saying “you’re ugly, get out”
and then trying to justify it with fluff excuses. It’s just his opinion, with no basis in fact. Parlayed right, response to such an incident might get him fired.
E) From: JM
Well… I was much like you when I was younger. I started out with little things that probably sound silly to most people here, but at the time, were intense and exciting and emotional for me. I -did- go barefoot outside in the summer, but that was just normal then.
I’d do things like hang around after school and put my shoes and socks in my locker and walk around. Lots of girls took off their shoes after school, occasionally their socks, but I was usually the only boy. I never did gather the courage to actually go barefoot in high school. That didn’t happen until college.
If you do want to push yourself to get over this fear and trepidation, I’m afraid there’s only one way to do it: that is… to just do it.
Start with easy stuff. If you don’t normally go barefoot in your house, do that. If that goes okay, go outside barefoot to play. If that goes okay, try an easy-ish store, like Subway maybe, where they usually can’t see over the counter anyway and few people have issues. Though I recommend avoiding a Subway in a convenience store, as in my experience those are more persnickety.
At school, start by not wearing socks. Wear clogs if you can, like Crocs, and start slipping them off in class. If nobody seems to care, try putting your feet up on the chair in front of you… then maybe leave your shoes in your locker for a couple of periods.
The hard part will come the first time you have a confrontation. If that happens, I don’t know what to tell you. It’ll be scary. Your heart will pound, and you’ll shake like a leaf. But if you can find some inner reason to stick to your guns, some conviction, you can make it through it.
If they just won’t budge, then you’ll have to play it by ear, but if you wind up having to retreat and put on shoes, don’t be ashamed. You’re young; there’s plenty of time to figure it out and express yourself, and in a year or two when you go to college, suddenly you’ll find yourself in an environment where you can truly start to express who you really are.
Though I went barefoot all over the neighborhood and the woods as a kid when it was warm, and I tried braving a couple of places like Subway, or taking my shoes and socks off after school, or after work, I didn’t -really- start barefooting full-time until college. Even then I had times when I lost my nerve. I still do. What matters is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again in a few hours, days, or weeks, however long it takes.
It would also help to get a friend or two on your side. Even one, who you can openly talk to about it, and who supports your barefoot exploration, could make worlds of difference. But if you can’t, then we’re here for you.