Kids feet grow so fast! I feel like I’m buying new shoes for my kids every other week. At some point, our feet stop growing. And there we are, destined to be a size 8 our whole lives.
And while our physical growth reaches it’s peak, our psychological maturity keeps developing. And so, metaphorically, we get used to life in size 8 shoes. It works great for awhile as we find our way in the world, but eventually (I’ll even be bold enough to say inevitably) you start to feel the squeeze. The shoes (a.k.a. job, relationship, social circles, hobbies, etc.) aren’t as interesting, fulfilling, or meaningful as they used to be.
“Walking in shoes too small is a phrase that Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung used to describe our propensity to ignore the calling to something bigger. Unlike our literal feet, which grow to a certain size and stop, our metaphorical feet—the drives, challenges, callings, yearnings of our careers and lives—never stop growing. Each stage of life, from infancy to old age, presents new opportunities and challenges. But often we fail to respond to the call for growth and wind up walking around in shoes too small, traveling boring roads, working jobs that do not challenge and striving for goals that do not excite. Invested in illusions of security, we are afraid to leave our old ways: the good salary, the good position, the dead but familiar relationship, the old dream long fulfilled.” -John Becknell
If you’re feeling this – You’re not crazy. You didn’t make bad choices on your way to adulthood. You are simply HUMAN. And the good news is that you’re a maturing human which means you’re growing up (consciously) and want to take control of your own life, instead of living someone else’s version of it.
Some people, when they hit this point, go through the dreaded “mid-life crisis” because they suddenly freak out when they realize they are not immortal, they don’t have limitless time, and their old life isn’t working anymore. So, I’d better fulfill every pleasurable desire of my ego possible before I die. I’ll (1) blow up my marriage. (2) Change careers. (3) Become a physique athlete. (I’ve tried # 1; now I’m trying 2 and 3…you fill in the blanks for yourself.)
I was so relieved to find out (thanks Carl Jung) that everything I’m feeling and have been feeling since about 35…is normal. The stages of human existence. We are born, and like the path of the sun, we follow an arc across the sky until we die. Mid-life (35-50 ish) is “mid-day” when the sun reaches its apex point in the sky and begins its descent. In the first half of life as we are rising and we cannot see the ground—only wide open blue sky before us. Then, in middle life, our vantage point changes and we can see the ground, the finitude of life. Perspectives, literally, begin to shift. Values change. More soulful questions arise like: “What do I really want? Who am I? What am I here to offer?”
If you don’t know the answers to those questions, don’t worry. Most people, honestly, can’t answer those questions. It’s super hard to know who we are at the deepest level, what we’re doing, where we’re going, and what we’re in service to.
James Hollis, in his book What Matters Most: Living a Considered Life says: “Only rarely do we realize that somewhere along the way we lost psychological ‘permission’ to be who we really are.”
Instead, we have become what we have adapted to, what we have had to become to survive as a human on this plane.
You were born to outgrow your shoes! Don’t be afraid to take ’em off and go barefoot for awhile. Let your toes experience the grass, the sand, the water, the mud…You don’t have to give up everything and change your whole life RIGHT NOW. That could cause more pain and suffering than is necessary. Let it be gradual. Be in the flow of this natural process of “growing up” and growing out of your old ways. Give yourself permission to experiment with soulful discovery and exploration of who you want to be—on your terms!
TIPS TO SHED THE SHOES (LIFE) THAT DOESN’T FIT ANYMORE
- Honor What’s Happening. Recognizing that things aren’t working, aren’t fun and fulfilling anymore, that life is feeling kinda dull, outdated and flat is a good thing. It means your soul is breaking through, working in your favor to bring something new and better into your life. Take a deep breath, know you’re not crazy, be gentle with yourself, and don’t feel pressured “to figure it out.” Adding more mental energy to the game won’t help. This is a matter of the heart and soul.
- Simplify Your Life. Sometimes, we gotta cocoon a little. Get in our comfy pants and stay home. Say no to social commitments (unless they nourish you.) Stop subscribing to so many e-newsletters for free things. Stop reading self-help books. Stop being a busybody to avoid feeling the fear and pain underneath it. Simplify as much as you can. Life doesn’t stop – let’s get real – but the more you can calm your outer world, the more energy you’ll have for the inner work.
- Spend Time in Nature. Reconnecting to our natural selves involves quiet, restorative and reflective time. Reclaiming your connection to the wind and sun and trees and animals will support your process of unraveling and restoration. The sun, especially, is a life-giving, animating force. Feel the heat on your face and recommit to a life that is uniquely, unapologetically yours. (The moon can teach you about cycles of light and dark, letting go and rebuilding. And the stars! Oh, the stars…!)
- Lift Heavy. Literally and figuratively. Being strong in your physical body is just as important as being strong in your mental and emotional bodies. If you’ve never lifted weights before – or are intimidated, find a coach. Start with push ups in your living room. Just get in your body and make it strong. It’s the temple of your soul. Feeling strong physically will boost your confidence and creative power. Guarantee it. And it will give you the energy to lift off the “heavy shit” that you’ve been carrying around for far too long (other people’s beliefs, ancestral wounds, cultural norms, societal pressures, etc.)
- Find an Ally, a Mentor. When we’re on the quest, it’s so supportive to have someone to process things with – especially a brilliant one that can reflect your own brilliance back and help you see things you couldn’t see. Be on the lookout for that person for you–someone you resonate with, or intuitively feel a connection with. Don’t be lured into self-help traps and flashy programs though. This is a time to shed other people’s concepts and return to what is yours and yours alone. (Depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Gestalt therapy, and Human Design has been good for me, for what it’s worth…)
- Trust the Process. Your soul is connected to a Great Creative Force. There is a love that is holding you during this time … like a sweet old grandmother making soup–she’s adding ingredients, tending to the flame, stirring, tasting, adding more of this and that, letting it simmer til it’s just right. You’re the soup. You’re simmering. You’re being created.