Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NEW BAREFOOTERS: DON’T BE A JERK

HOW TO HANDLE CONFRONTATION

I’ve been living barefoot for a long time now. In fact, I’ve been going barefoot long enough to “mature” somewhat as a “barefooter.” Lately, lots (and I mean LOTS) of new barefooters have been coming to me for advice and here’s something I’ve noticed: all of them are frustrated and many of them are acting like jerks. Looking back it’s painfully obvious to me that I also acted like jerk when I first started barefooting. Let me explain...

Going barefoot is natural and healthy; wearing shoes is unnatural and unhealthy. When a person first makes that discovery and begins taking his or her first bare steps into a new way of living, they often feel liberation, exhilaration and sometimes evangelistic. They have had an “ah ha” moment after all, a life-changing epiphany. They realize that they have discovered something wonderful and transforming while everyone else around them is still in the dark. Those unenlightened, shoe-touting people that surround them constantly warn of the hazards of going barefoot, of the necessity of good support, of the diseases just waiting to get picked up, of the laws and health codes that prohibit free feet… all the things the new barefooter has just discovered is absolutely untrue and indeed completely opposite from reality. This, this is the source of their frustration.

Then their frustration is magnified by intolerance. For all the self-praise we heap on ourselves for being a tolerant nation, we are shockingly intolerant of bare feet. No one enjoys being confronted, especially by a complete stranger in front of other people, but when you first start going barefoot in public in the USA confrontations are almost guaranteed to happen. As a culture we seem to celebrate the unnatural (such as tattoos, body piercings, industrial diets and walking on 6-inch high heel stilts)* while reproving the natural and healthy (like going barefoot). Unfortunately, for many of us, confrontation brings out the jerk in us. We are confronted and we retaliate, feeling wrongfully mistreated because we know, after all, that we are right. We are angered because that idiot restaurant manager should know the health codes that govern his business, right?

Confrontations led by emotions like these are bound to backfire. What started as a relatively minor incident (in the mind of the manager, not the barefooter who was already terrified in the parking lot) has now exploded into a major ordeal that Mr. Manager will not soon forget. Bare feet are now officially banned and on the radar. You, the barefooter, have blown it and you and your feet are not welcome here.

There’s a better way to handle these confrontations.

Going barefoot is a joy, or at least it should be. Don’t let the ignorance of those brainwashed into believing all the wrong things about feet and shoes steal that joy away from you. It’s so easy for both parties in a confrontation to become defensive and argumentative. Resist this urge. Instead, always try to educate with joy bubbling from your feet and a huge smile on your face. It’s not about proving you are right, it’s about liberating another person, planting a seed of revelation in them that can grow. You will often have to retreat before the other person will hear you, but in this case retreat is not defeat. Leave them with some information to chew on. If you care this much about going barefoot, then take the time to make a business card or brochure (or use the ones already available on the internet). Most of all, leave them impressed with how happy and polite you are, not with the feeling of ‘what a jerk’ that barefoot person was. Remember that you were once a brainwashed, shoe-wearing person, too.

Go barefoot. Go happy. 

PS. Here’s another little secret about public barefooting: You can go into a store one day and be kicked out, then go back the next day and be accepted. Whether you are accepted or rejected depends largely on who is working that day and what kind of mood they’re in… unless you put up a fight. Then, you will always be rejected… banned and on the radar. Don’t fight!

*For the record, I have nothing against tattoos or piercings, I’m merely pointing out that they are unnatural.

10 comments:

  1. Some well-timed wisdom sir, not only for those of us just dipping our toes into the waters of barefootedness (so to speak), but for all manner of daily interactions in which we find ourselves involved.

    "Stay cool, and don't be a jerk." It takes even more practice and discipline to gain proficiency in this skill than it does to strengthen one's feet and toughen one's soles for handling a variety of surfaces and temperatures. But like barefooting, the rewards of non-jerkitude are profound and far-reaching for one's mental, physical, and spiritual health.

    When NOT pre-armed with documentation or informative cards or brochures, it might help to remember that one's challenger is similarly non-equipped. Perhaps a polite inquiry to see a written copy of the "policy" they are quoting may lead them on a trail of discovery themselves?

    Let them look for the documentation with which to enlighten YOU (the potentially paying customer who will happily admit to being misinformed and if it isn't too much trouble, would like a copy of . . . oh, you mean, there isn't one after all?) . . . if you've successfully kept your mood light and free of malicious sarcasm, a door MAY be opened for some genuine curiosity on their part.

    If you're lucky. This has only worked twice for me, and in establishments where they do NOT already have any "No Shoes . . ." notice posted on the door. When they didn't feel they were really being challenged, but were instead given an opportunity to prove their statement, the lack of ability to was not because I argued with them, or threw Facts in their face! They just had nothing to back them up, and it helped that I was NOT the one to point this out to them. "OK cool, Thanks for looking that up for me, I feel better now :)"

    And in dining establishments especially, leave a nice tip after being treated civilly while barefoot. Since you don't waste your money on shoes, you can afford to cultivate a positive reputation for yourself and others like you.

    Safe treading,
    DIR

    ReplyDelete
  2. I admire you! I have yet to walk into stores barefoot. I think the walking on Walmart's floors barefoot...well I'm not ready for that!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for sharing your insight on this topic. I was recently accosted at the Chicago Public Library for walking barefoot in there. The security guard told me that I needed to wear shoes. I was very polite and asked, "Oh, is there a rule about that here?" She assured me there was - "Just look at the sign." I looked all over the library for the sign against bare feet...still never found it.

    To avoid future confrontation at that branch, I simply put on a pair of flip-flops.

    ReplyDelete
  4. M.E. please don't give in so easily! There is likely no rule at the library (certainly not one posted), yet you have so easily conceded defeat - being forced to do something you don't want to do and find unhealthy for you - because of the ignorance of one security guard. Of course, if they have a rule or continue to hassle you, you have to do what you have to do.(This is only meant to be an encouragement to you!)

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I had a run-in this past weekend at a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I entered and headed straight for the book racks. As I went I noticed a girl at the help desk out in the middle of the store look straight in my direction. Maybe she didn't notice. Not 2 minutes after I started looking at stuff on one aisle, a guy came over (not sure of his position) and said I needed to have shoes on since they have a cafe, despite said cafe being on the opposite side of the store. Obviously he was thinking "health codes" so I tried to explain that there are no health codes against being barefoot. He just repeated what he said and walked off.

    So I grudgingly walked out to get my flip flops since I had a gift card I wanted to spend in there. I REALLY wanted to present him with the state health dept. letters from SBL and other research and facts, but of course didn't have that stuff with me. And I suppose that would also be pretty jerky.

    So what do you do with people like that? I have contacted B&N asking if they have any such rules regarding "attire and footwear". Haven't heard back yet. Should I go back in there again (barefoot) and directly ask to speak to the manager about the situation? Or just wait to see if I'm confronted again?

    Note that I don't consider myself a "newbie". I've been barefooting nearly a year now and have shopped many places BF without any issues. I always try to look straight ahead, not look down, although sometimes I do avoid eye contact with others.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Actually... just take them to the Health section and pull my book of the shelf, then suggest they read it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would have, but I just checked online and both B&N stores in my area are out of stock of both your book and the Maffetone Method book (what I was actually looking for that day). I just ordered them both online. :-) Maybe I should go back there with your book and plop down in a chair to read it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. all the new things the barefoot discovered are untrue and oppossite from reality??

    what an ignorant

    the problem with shoes is that they doesnt match the human true footshape, so they deforms the toes specially the big toe, creates bunions
    nd the excessive padding weakens the tendons and muscles

    so being barefoot its a extremely wise and healthy decision because of the stupid shoes that people wear

    people went to moon, yet they fail to create shoes that matchs with human foot form (im speaking of the majority, vibram 5 fingers are very good, other minimalist shoes fail due to the narrow toe box which still deforms the toes)

    SO THE THINGS THE BAREFOOTER DISCOVERED ARE TRUE, YOU ARE THE IGNORANT OPPOSITE FROM REALITY

    sorry but that make me angry lol

    ReplyDelete
  10. o i misunderstood, i thought you were tking about barefooters not from people who warns against barefoot that they are untrue etc sorry

    ReplyDelete

Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog, intelligent talk about running, walking and living barefoot. I encourage your comments, even if you disagree with me. In this spirit I don't even moderate the comments. However, PLEASE use critical thinking skills when leaving comments, and avoid inflammatory words. Please keep your comments short and to-the-point. THANKS.