• Pamela Nikodem, M.S.

Does It Matter? The Shoes You're Wearing?

Maybe not, however, your shoes lead you to places where life contradicts your choices.

Shoes. The items we put on our feet, sometimes uncomfortable, yet the style is in so we bear the pain. The colors, the shapes, the sizes, and the styles are chosen, mostly for the need in hand: sports teams, dressy occasions, winter boots, suits, business, business casual, flip flops…the list goes on. Our closets become a hotbed of shoe hideouts. Back in the corner of the closet, rejected, older, worn shoes lay in wait for the trash bin or the Goodwill run: dependent on the owner’s feet, or their state of mind.


The shoes we wear or the roles we take on, say much about us, without self-awareness.

Joe South wrote a song, Walk a Mile in My Shoes, and the chorus rings out:


Walk a mile in my shoes

Just walk a mile in my shoes Before you abuse, criticize and accuse Then walk a mile in my shoes"


Every person in a group wears the shoes fit for their specific work. At check-in, each group member shares the experiences they encountered for the week: the struggles and the behaviors used or denied based on accountability measures. Members provide feedback to others who may experience an issue with a partner the week prior.


One individual shared, ‘I look around the room at everyone’s shoes and I think of their stories. I think about ‘walking’ in their shoes, experiencing their stories.’ consider a question dear readers, What benefit do you believe you might gain from consideration of walking in another man’s (woman’s) shoes?

Humanity and their shoes

The masses walk among us, in the United States, mostly clad in shoes, some barefoot. In ghettos and areas within inner cities, the shoes may shift and children play in streets without anyother minority groups or extremely worn shoes.


Let’s consider the word ‘ghetto’ as stated above.


  1. The dictionary online shared the following definition:“ A section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of ethnic or other minority groups and others, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships.(formerly, in most European countries) a section of a city in which all Jews were required to live. Slang: Often Disparaging and Offensive. noting something that is considered to be unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior” (Dictionary.com). The ideas behind the word ghetto are discouraging!


As a biased, derogatory term, it is used to describe impoverished, minority individuals. Now, consider the shoes the individuals in those areas wear. What stirs in your mind as you consider their shoes?


  • They chose behaviors. 

  • No one held a gun to their head and made them behave in the way they did.

Consider others

The impoverished among us are found, easily, when one drives on the designated wrong side of town. Asking people to describe where they believe is the better side of town, most will start with the negative places. Don’t go here or there, they suggest, and before you know it, you are discussing the areas in great detail.


In group work, we have members from all areas of life. Businessmen, chefs, blue-collar workers, restaurant owners, snow removers, security guards, and stay at home dads. The variety of group members expand beyond the simple list. However, the few mentioned here represent a variety of shoes!


Stay at home dads might wear flip flops or tennis shoes. Work boots and non-slip shoes grace the feet of the men who attend the group. Some have concrete dust, thick mud, or snow. Group members sit around the room. They face personal issues. Some members tap shoe-clad feet on the floor. Others, rather than make any movement, seek to blend in to reduce notice. Each one follows the check-in list, shares thoughts from the week prior, rather briefly, and then try to blend in again.


The ones who dominate the group and seek to direct others to join with them in vindication of negative behaviors are quickly led back to the main point: The shoes become the roles we play out.

Shoes may take members from point A to point B; The choices, which created the legal problems in the first place, make the requirements for group education. Whether a member has kicked someone or pushed them, hit them or stabbed them, the steps they took to get there were laid out by choices. Some individuals kick in doorways.


Most of the time, they wear shoes. Rarely does a partner kick someone or an inanimate object with bare feet. Why? They want to protect their toes or feet.


The irony here cannot be expressed loudly enough.


Keeping old shoes (roles in life)

Shoes collect spiders and dust. Who wants to reach into a shoe and find a nasty little creature? Not me! However, we usually face shoe piles when faced with a decision to move, change jobs, or a need to clear out forgotten corners in the basement.


We hold onto shoes, which no longer serve a purpose. Much like negative behaviors, we hold onto them because they helped us at one point in our lives. They no longer serve a protective purpose. Sometimes, our comfortable shoes begin to wear out. We bought these shoes five or so years ago. They are formed to our feet, they fit so well. They are the go-to shoes. And then, the soles wear out, the laces tear, and a hole develops in the side. The small pinky toe peeks out through the cracks.


The time arrives to buy a new pair of shoes: Panic sets in.


Wandering around a shoe store, looking at the variety feels overwhelming. Shoes change every few months, and each season drives marketing to develop a new style and older styles, like the ones you wore out, are no longer available. Now comes the trying on shoes. We know our size, so we put on pair after pair, stressing, sweating, and exhausted. Clearance isles are fun to explore since sometimes, our favorite shoes made it to the rack and are still available.


  • Change is not easy.

  • Changing the shoes we wear is just as hard.

The way we grow

When an infant, our mother or father put on little socks and covered our feet to keep them warm. As we began to walk, they found sturdy shoes to help us keep balance on fragile little legs. As we moved and started jumping and running, our shoes changed. Time brought us to a new place: sports, running, playing, and life outside of our homes where carpets and soft flooring kept our feet warm.


Thich Nhat Hanh shares, “When we walk, arrive with every step” and with the shoes we put on our feet, we can arrive easily and safely. The idea, granted by Thich, was to be present and to walk with mindfulness; a sort of meditation where each step moves us at the moment and embracing those moments to change as we go.

We forget often when we put shoes upon our feet, the chance to be present leaves our mind and we rush around “doing rather than being.”What about your feet? Do they take you to places where trouble shows up? Do you add trouble to your day by choices in location? The questions we ask the men in our group help to explore choice. Many times, individuals blame everyone except a choice they made. They put the shoes on, they make a choice to embrace or reject people in their lives and they make the choice to hurt another person.


  • Change is challenging. 

  • Life is challenging.


Making the choice to walk presently and buy a new pair of shoes means we embrace the ability to make healthier, wiser choices.

We cannot tap dance through life. However, we can dance the way back into our hearts to a mindful and positive way to think. Our future selves and our legacy we leave behind us will thank us when we walk uprightly, both mentally and physically.


Thich continues, “Everything we think, feel, and do” affects all of those in our lives, now and later."

The struggle

We fight internally with ownership of the negative choices we make. Who wants to be considered a bad person? How does one define themselves as good? As a personal choice, people are given the tools to redefine themselves one step at a time. The shoes we wear say much about us, without our awareness.

People lack understanding until they are faced with consequences. Locked into a legal system, at first, they might fight the ideas of change. Some look hard a the places they walked. They look at their life and choices, all while setting aside any lingering blame. The challenge to own behaviors attributed to themselves increases their self-growth.


  • Change happens over time. 


Much like new leather shoes; they struggle to stretch and become pliable. The process takes time. We catch the ah-ha moments, begin to settle our thinking, and start to listen to those around us, or even God’s soft whisper to our cries we drowned out with stress and anger in a more focused and positive way.


Ask yourself if the time is now, to change the shoes, stretch the leather, and become a willing, pliable vessel ready to grow. Walking across the bridges we build in life, we carry ourselves, shoes included to the other side. We hope to find peace along the path. Maybe even hope for a brighter future. We are in charge of our choices, whether we want to blame others or not. The shoes we walk in, carry us the direction our mind dictates.


What a better way to change your future than decide the direction you’ll walk. You get to decide the style of your gait. You decide by the shoes you wear, what your future looks like in a year from the moment of choice. Whatever ‘shoes’ (roles in life) you have been wearing; the ones you didn’t realize you were controlling with negative choices, can be changed out at any time.

  • Your choice.Your changes.

  • Your future.

  • What shoe will you put on today?~

Just a thought by Pamela




About Me: Pamela J. Nikodem, MS immersed herself in studies surrounding relationships, domestic violence, and trauma. Her focus is to guide men into a place of peaceful assertiveness. She holds three jobs: An Intern at Roger’s Behavioral Health focused on Addiction and Mental Health; Catholic Charities as a D.V. Educator, and teaches violin at Jim’s Music Center in Green Bay, WI. In her spare time, she writes poetry and self-help articles. ©2020Note: Previously published on Writer’s Guild, without a paywall. Changed on 3/21/2020, removed and then put into owner’s publication.

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