Kicking it to the curb

by Kristin on October 14, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

I went boot shopping in Chicago yesterday, and bought the first ones I tried on—a wonderful pair made of supple green leather (I have a long-standing thing for green).

While that might sound like a quick-and-easy shopping process, it took over an hour. First I saw, and fell immediately in love with, the green boots. This took about two minutes. Then I spent 15 minutes trying to decide which size was right, followed by 10 minutes building a case in my mind for the practicality and cost of said green boots.

After telling the salesperson I wanted to buy them, I took a sharp detour and spent the next 30 minutes wandering around the store, ultimately trying on eight other pairs of boots (mostly the style that are more in line with what all the “cool girls” are currently traipsing around Chicago in). Then I bought the first pair of boots I tried on—the ones I loved on-sight.

Probably about 30 minutes of that process was entirely valid (if a bit drawn-out). I’m not an impulse shopper and Jason and I are very careful with our money, so it’s good that I thought through issues of comfort, practicality and cost.

But the other 30 minutes? Gah. Those are the moments when I forget who I am so I try on different personae. They’re the moments when I forget that I’m 40, not 14, and I see myself through the eyes of everyone who doesn’t know or care about me, instead of just closing my eyes for a while so I can really see me.

What crowds out your inner voice?

Last week, when I wrote a post about how I need to do better at following my inner voice (um, you think?), my real-life friend Jen responded with this:

I’m surprised that you struggle with following your inner voice, but I get that, 100%. We want to fit in everywhere, and will alter ourselves to make it happen. The more I trust my inner voice, the more I find I do fit in everywhere, and the more comfortable I am.

In that particular post I was writing about principles and beliefs, not style and fashion, but this whole shopping experience brought home the complexity involved in truly knowing yourself and heeding your inner voice. (And guess what? When I wrote that line I experienced a moment of concern about the people who will think I’m shallow for writing about shopping!)

On Fridays, that same wise Jen who left the comment above does what she calls a “Friday Flush” post on her blog. The idea, she writes, is to figure out what junk in your life needs to get flushed so you can more freely “run your race” (well, she might be running hers, but I’m walking mine—in green boots).

Jen’s take on Fridays got me thinking about what I need to “flush” in this particular realm of mine. It’s one thing to say “I need to trust my inner voice,” but it’s another challenge—an important one, I suspect—to figure out what, exactly, is getting in the way. What’s the source of that din I sometimes can’t hear through?

Here’s what I think, or at least the beginning of what I think: It isn’t that I don’t know who I am (although that was probably the case 20 years ago). My identity feels more intact than it ever has, but sometimes I still tune in the stations that tell me I should be someone else. I need to flush the siren call of those signals—the ones that suggest “your blog would be more popular if you wrote about this” or “you would be more hipster if you looked like that.”

It’s easier said than done, of course. But who knows—maybe these boots will serve as a symbol. Every time I wear them I will remember that my inner voice speaks truth, loud and clear, and listening to it will save me a lot of time and trouble. (How’s that for a good investment? Footwear that does double-duty as a talisman, protecting me from the voices of confusion.)

When have (or haven’t) you trusted your inner voice? What gets in the way?

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  • Roxanne

    Love the boots. There is more than just one voice squawking inside my head. The trick is honing in on the right one, the true voice, strewn among the many impostors. Yeah, it’s crazy inside my head.

  • Alissa @ Episcotheque

    Hooray for having a thing for green. Those are lovely boots (which would by no means bring down a hipster ethos ;) ).

    I think it’s so important to figure out that inner voice, because I really think sometimes God likes to speak through our intuitions.

    I don’t try to flush the voices, though. I try to befriend them (do I sound totally unhinged yet?). A lot of the time, when one — or a half dozen — of my inner critics yell about what I should or should not do or how I should or should not act, etc., it’s an attempt to keep me from situations where I could conceivably be hurt. The voices are wrong, but they’re trying to keep me safe, and the best way I’ve found to calm them down is to hear them out, say a prayer, tell them it’s all going to be okay, and let them be. I didn’t come up with this insanity on my own — it’s loosely based on a (kind of fascinating) psychotherapy model called Internal Family Systems. It’s just a little bit out there, which is probably why I like it. :)

  • Sarah Louise

    Funny, I just wrote a post kind of like this. I played solitaire with REAL cards tonight because I wanted to see if there was a different mindset besides the addiction of maybe I’ll win THIS game. And it was. And it made me think of how I never want a food processor, b/c I like the process of actually chopping onions. The voices, that say, it’s too much trouble to make food at home, or winning is the reason you play cards, are WRONG.

    And I love trying on things I know I’ll never buy too, just to see what they look like.

    Also, a really important decision, like going to library school, or going back for a PhD? Those decisions usually take me about 3 years to make. Three years of doing something completely different. And then I back track to my original idea. It’s my way of trying on different things, to see what REALLY fits.

    Thanks for this post. I almost never put my blog link, but I’d really like to hear what you think about my theories about solitaire and REAL things.


  • suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    hot boots. true words. xo

  • Carmen

    I can relate. I have a similarly complicated relationship with shopping. There are so many voices in ye olde head. Nice post! Great boots!

  • Ray Hollenbach

    Nice Boots. Good voice.

    I think people who trust and follow that inner voice are pretty intimidating to others. I’ve met a few who unnerved me because their clarity revealed how much I still crave being in with the cool kids. Oh, and I’ve never met anyone under 40 who confidently followed their inner voice.

  • Kandace

    I absolutely LOVE this post (and the boots)!

    Over the last year (since turning 40 actually) I finally feel like I’m “coming into my own.” I understand and embrace my purpose and I’m doing my best to live it. I also work full-time and go to school full-time. Interestingly, I’ve found that for me, those voices of doubt, insecurity, etc are an issue in relationships, work, and sometimes school. But NEVER when it comes to fulfilling my purpose. I am passionate about my purpose and I’m guessing that’s why I can only hear my true inner voice in that area of my life. In those other area where I’m not living passionately or with purpose I don’t have that same level of confidence and those voices inevitably sneak in. After reading this post, I think I may need to consider why I don’t listen to my true inner voice in those other areas of my life. I think it’s time for some “flushing.”

  • Kristin T.

    Roxanne, it’s funny—I somehow like to think the distracting, false messages are external, but they’re almost always the construct of my mind and imagination. Thanks for pointing that out! Now to identify and banish the impostors…

    Alissa, thanks! I’ve always loved green, but when I got married in a green dress four years ago that sort of cemented it for me. Your perspective on all of this is VERY intriguing! I think we often try to ignore or shut out forces in our lives that instead need to be heard out before they can be truly set aside. Now I’m definitely curious to read more about the Family Systems approach…

    Sarah Louise, I’m so glad you linked to your blog—I will have to check out the post you’re referencing. This is a great way to think about it (even if it is time-consuming): “It’s my way of trying on different things, to see what REALLY fits.”

    suzannah, thank you for the encouragement in the midst of my madness!

    Carmen, it’s so nice to know I’m not alone! I’d be curious to know if you think the internal debate that goes on when you shop is indicative of something larger—if it manifests yourself in other areas of your life, or if it’s mostly a matter of style. (But we all realize, of course, that style is never just style, but a matter of all kinds of ideas about identity and expression…so complex!)

    Ray, you’re right—it’s rare and unnerving to meet someone who’s so sure of who they are, and so comfortable in their own skin. Also, I’m finding 40 to be beneficial in all sorts of ways. :) Age gets such a bad rap!

    Kandace, aww, thanks! I love how you described coming into your own: “I understand and embrace my purpose and I’m doing my best to live it.” I always think of it as finally *being* the person I was created to be from the start. It can sure take a while to get there (and involve some pain, too)! And this is super insightful, too: “In those other area where I’m not living passionately or with purpose I don’t have that same level of confidence and those voices inevitably sneak in.” I’m going to be pondering that in my own life, too…

  • Jennifer

    Sounds like part of it, for you and the commenters, is about age/maturity. I know that’s true in my case. Few 20 somethings really know what they want. I love how this speaks to something very basic: smokin’ hot boots. But translates to the deeper thread of who you are. Of course what we wear and when tells a story about us, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t tell the story of you wrestling with the inner voices, or the story of how you came to be comfortable in the skin that loves to wear green boots. We all have that story. Would be great to remember that as we interact with others. Well done.