A Step in the Right Direction
About 15 years ago, a friend invited me to join her for a cycle class at our local gym. Because I firmly believe that looking the part is 99% of the battle when you don’t know what the hell you are doing, I bought a pair of cycle shoes for the occasion. If you had told me then that one pair of shoes would change my life in a way I hadn’t experienced since I laced up my first pair of figure skates and started competing at the age of 10, I would’ve laughed. Yet, here we are, nearly two decades later—and those cycle shoes and I have been through it all. I was wearing them when I learned to ride an outdoor bike just a couple of years ago. I wore them when I completed my first century ride. They took me through three cycle instructor auditions, and hundreds of classes. They were on my feet when I took a nasty fall and shattered my collarbone. Most recently, they saw me through my first half-Ironman. They are worn out, beaten up, and have had the cleats replaced a few times, but those dings, scratches, and scuffs represent a lot of miles and defining moments for me. The reality though is that the overuse and break down of the shoe is now causing me a little pain, and I am long overdue for a new pair. After hearing great things about Nike’s latest offering, (and because it came in a fun pink/coral combo), I bit the bullet and gave them a shot. The verdict? They have taken a little getting used to but so far, so good! So why was I so reluctant to make the change?
I have a really bad habit of hanging onto things that no longer serve me, based simply on the sentimental value I place on them. Much like Cinderella’s sisters, I will try my best to squeeze, push, and force the shoe to fit (so to speak) simply because I want it to--or because it once did. I will blatantly ignore the pain that accompanies this effort in the name of trying to save something that once made me feel fabulous, relevant, strong, or special—even if it doesn’t anymore.
That’s not to say that sentimentality is bad. I have a box full of notes my friends and I passed in high school. I also still have my wedding dress, and a trunk full of my children’s baby clothes and artwork. And there is a pair of skinny jeans in the depths of my closet that I seriously hope will zip again after the past few months of lockdown—(c’mon, we ALLLLL have that one pair). But keeping those things doesn’t impede my growth. The problem comes when we hold on to things that keep us from moving forward or that keep us idling in neutral because we are no longer sure of ourselves or which way to go. Think about it—how many people stay in dead end jobs, abusive relationships, or fair weather friendships out of confusion, fear, or the hope that the situation can be repaired? But what if it can’t, and what if that’s okay? What if we were brave enough to imagine something different? What if there was something else that not only fit better, but also felt better?
In the case of the shoes, I admit I balked a little at first because they didn’t feel exactly like my old ones. I was convinced that they were not supporting me well enough, and that my performance would suffer. But after a couple of weeks, I realized that not only were they supporting me, they were actually putting me in a BETTER position, which began alleviating some of the pain I was experiencing. I firmly believe that any growth requires a little discomfort, but there’s a difference in the discomfort that results in positive change, and the discomfort that comes from trying to force yourself into a place that doesn't fit. How do you know the difference? Like a too small or worn out shoe, the latter actually hurts—your feelings, your self-esteem, your confidence—you name it.
I still have my old shoes—and I still wear them every now and then because let’s face it---my new ones are LOUD and don’t go with everything in my wardrobe. I still appreciate the originals for what they represent—a time in my life where I learned new skills, pushed limits, fell hard, got up, and tried again. They are worn down—but not broken—and I think that is the key when it comes to our own well-being. Don’t wait until you’ve been broken to recognize that you are feeling worn down. Have the hard conversations. Take long, honest looks at yourself and the role you play in your own life and in your relationships. Ask yourself difficult questions and listen for the answers—even the ones you don’t want to hear. Believe that you deserve to feel good, and understand that just because one shoe no longer fits, that doesn’t mean that all shoes will be painful—there’s a glass slipper in the form of a great job, a true friend, a healthy romance, an achievable goal, a strong accomplishment, etc. just waiting for you! Go put that gorgeous thing on!
There is a quote I love that reads, “when a plant doesn’t thrive you don’t change the plant, you change the environment in which it is growing.”
If you aren’t thriving, look at the environment in which you are trying to grow and see if it needs adjusting. Maybe you need to break old habits and beliefs before they break you---or maybe you just need to break in a new pair of shoes and take the first step. How will you know if it’s the right direction? Because when something is meant for you it fits effortlessly and, like that glass slipper—it makes you sparkle.