down and out is overrated
5 things happy people do

9 ways to walk in your own shoes

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
in any direction you choose.

You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
You're the one who will
decide where you go.

Dr. Seuss


Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to the path of my own personal development. I spend a lot of time walking down my own newly paved roads. This has meant leaving some people behind. This has meant moving closer to other people, people who are on the same path I am on or who support me in whatever path I choose. While I have to say that my search for happiness has been one of the best, most enlightening experiences I've had, it's not always challenge-free. One of the biggest challenges I've faced is dealing with people who don't get it, who want to criticize it, and who think, for whatever reason, that what I'm doing isn't the right thing to be doing. Though I have many, many more supporters than I do haters, I still find it challenging to deal with people who don't understand why I'm striving to improve my life through positivity and living in the present moment.

I'll be honest. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it really hurts when I try to explain something to someone and s/he just doesn't get it. It's worse when s/he pretends to get it, as if to pacify me. (You know what this is like. It truly is painful.) The thing about me is that once I get an idea in my head, I run with it. There's no half-way for me. It's all or nothing when it comes to me and my passions. I dive headfirst into the pool of my latest endeavor and then, a few months later, I resurface, gasping for air, claiming breathlessly, "I'm bored." I change (a lot) so it's no surprise that some people in my life would think, "Oh, that Dani! She's just in another one of her phases!" When I look back at my past and see all of the things I've become obsessed with and then abandoned after I'd grown bored with them, I don't blame people for thinking this way.

But it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. It hurts, as we all know, to be misunderstood. Whether it's a rumor or a blatant "I don't understand you at all" statement, it feels isolating and frustrating when other people don't get where you're coming from. We might want to walk in other's shoes, to understand them, but it's not always that simple. Life, relationships, and people are always a little bit more complex than sliding your feet in a pair of shoes. While I'm a big believer of the idea that we should walk a mile in someone else's shoes in order to understand where they're coming from (or where they're going), I also think it's important to realize that not everyone will do this for us. You might be the kind of person who wants to understand others, but that doesn't mean other people want to understand you. Or, people might want to understand you but they just don't know how to slip into your shoes and go for a walk. Or, you might want to understand someone else, but you just can't get there when they're explaining their feelings/thoughts/ideas to you. It's, as we all know too well, complicated and often difficult to relate to other people -- especially those who are different from you (which is probably why most of us seek out people who are like us on some important level).

We can (and should) do the best we can to understand other people. Put their shoes on. Walk around the block. Try to get it. But we should also be aware of and accept the fact that there are no guarantees when it comes to the walk-in-someone-else's-shoes concept. You don't know if you can really walk in someone else's shoes (can we really ever understand others as they understand themselves?) and you don't know if others can really walk in our shoes (how well do you think other people really understand you?). We should always keep trying to understand others, but I also think we should make it a point to make sure we are walking every day in our own shoes.

You might be wondering, "What does this mean? Of course I'm walking in my shoes! I put them on every day and I walk around in them!" Yes, literally, you're walking in your own shoes. But when you think about the phrase "to walk in someone else's shoes" it means to understand them, to relate to them on a personal and intimate level. How often do we relate to ourselves this way? How often to we really connect with ourselves and understand who we are, where we're coming from, and where we're going?

I don't know about you, but I don't do this as often as I should. I spend a lot of time trying to get other people to understand me, to relate, to connect. Even now, as I'm working hard to develop myself personally, I don't know how much time I really spend walking in my own shoes, trying to understand myself. After all, why did I seemingly suddenly launch down this path to happiness? What reason are there, really, for this need to discover myself and the world around me?

I believe that in order to be in the best position to understand others, you have to understand yourself. While we may never fully be able to understand everything about ourselves (because, seriously, how much do you remember from your childhood? how much do memories and recollections get twisted and turned in our minds), we can make an effort to get to know ourselves better, to understand why we do things and how we can do them better. If we do this, really, truly walk around in our own shoes, I think we'll be in much better positions to understand others.

So, here you have 'em! My brilliant and fabulous tips for walking a mile in your own shoes...

How To Walk in Your Own Shoes

Try to understand your past in the present.

Okay, so we're not going to be able to understand everything about our pasts. As I mentioned above, we don't remember everything and, unfortunately, we tend to distort things too. But you can work with what you do remember and do your best to see it an objective light. What has happened to make you who you are today? How have events/people/things changed you? Understanding the past is one of the most important first steps to knowing where you are right now.

Accept who you are (and who you're not).

Oh man...this is a hard one. It's definitely not easy to come to terms with who we are (and who we're not), but let's face it -- we are who we are. Try to be objective about this. Don't judge yourself. It's okay if you're not perfect because absolutely no one is. We all have good and bad within us. If you can figure out what you are and what you're not, you will most certainly have a better understanding of yourself and why you see life the way you do. Acceptance is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Listen to those who know you best.

While this isn't always the easiest thing to do, it's important. The people who know you best can see things about you that you can't (or maybe don't want to). They know you and they love you anyway. It's important to listen to these people, to absorb what they know about you, and to incorporate it into your understanding of yourself. However, don't forget that these people have their own mental filters that may distort things. Value your opinion of yourself over the opinions of others, but take some time to learn what you can about yourself from someone who is outside of you.

Identify your flaws and love them anyway.

This one ties in with accepting yourself. Once you've identified what you are and what you're not, you have to just go ahead and love yourself. You may have to change some things about yourself to make your life better (for example, I had to work on that negative attitude of mine), but there are some things that just may never change. Be okay with that. Love yourself for who you are and you will find that you are in a much better position to relate to those around you. When you love yourself, you can be more empathetic. You can be more understanding.

Think about why lies beyond your thoughts.

So you have a thought. There it is. A thought. But what's behind it? Where did it come from? There is usually more to our thoughts that we realize. Let's say someone is annoying you. S/he is doing something you find so obnoxious and you just want to scream. "S/he is annoying me" is the thought. But why? Why is it so annoying? Why are you reacting with tension and irritation and frustration? There is always more underneath our thoughts. We need to take time to figure out what lies beneath in order to better relate not only to others but to ourselves.

Look at the path you are walking on.

It's important to understand where you're going and why. You're on a road. You've chosen this road. Why? Why are you going in this direction? Are you speeding down a dirt path? Are you cruising slowly down a paved road? What does the path of your life look like? What's behind you? What's in front of you? You have made a choice to be on this path and every day you make a choice to stay on it. You could turn down another street or veer wildly into the grassy field beside the road. But you don't. Why? Understanding the path is very important to knowing who you are (and who you want to be).

Don't ignore the painful parts of your journey.

Walking in your shoes isn't always easy. There are times when you're heels are blistered and your soles are aching. There are times when your toes feel cramped and feel like your feet might be breaking. Don't ignore the pain and keep trudging along. Address it. Get a band aid or a new set of shoes if you can. Walk on your tip-toes or rock back on your heels. Everyone's journey has some painful parts. You can't avoid them, but you can do your best to understand them, to learn from them, and to avoid them in the future.

Allow yourself time to take a break.

You've been walking for awhile. You're tired. The road seems too long. It's alright to take a break. Sit down and relax for a bit. It's your life and there's no need to rush through it. The finish line is the end of the race, and I'm not sure you want to get there just yet. We often forget to take a break from our lives, to just rest and to just be. It's not easy when there is so much going on -- things to do, people to see, places to go -- but it's important to do this for you. You have walked and walked and walked and you deserve a rest (even if it's just a little one).

Give yourself credit for coming this far.

To me, one of the most important things you can do when you're walking in your own shoes is to give yourself credit for doing so. We all have struggles. We all have days when we just want to give up, kick off our shoes, and say, "Forget this!" But we don't. We might have mini-meltdowns or days when we decide it's better to stay in bed than face the world. But, eventually, we get up, we put our shoes on, and we start walking down our path again. Give yourself a big pat on the back for this. It's not easy to keep going, but every day you do it.


Just as it's not always easy to walk in someone else's shoes, it's not always easy to walk in our own. Sometimes we don't want to deal with understand ourselves. But if we don't want to understand ourselves, why would anyone else want to? Every day I'm trying to understand myself and why I'm living the way I am. I'm trying to find happiness in everything, struggling to transform myself from the person I used to be. My path is not an easy one. But it's the path I'm choosing. As Dr. Seuss said, "You're the one who'll decide where you go." It's up to me to choose my path, to walk in my own shoes. If others can't understand the path I've chosen, that's okay. It might hurt sometimes. It might make me feel alone sometimes. But it's okay. I have brains in my head. I have feet on my shoes. And I am choosing to go in the direction I choose.


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As always, your post is filled with all kinds of wisdom. I agree --it's hurtful and disheartening when those around don't support you or (worse!) are amused with your "new little thing." They think, "How long is this going to last?"

I've only "known" you for a few short months, but I believe your quest is real and life-long. Keep it up.

Kirwin - As always, thank you so much for the support and encouragement. It means a lot to me to know that there are people who really believe in my commitment to what I'm doing. :)

What other people say or think about us is none of our business. Opinions (ours or others) are arbitrary. Learn to live beyond the good opinions of others. Live from your heart and you'll always be on the "right path." You're getting there... these are just the necessary pricker bushes growing along the way. Honor them, and keep walking.

Megan - You are completely right about this. Opinions are arbitray and we should all strive to live beyond the opinions of others (good OR bad). Thanks for the words of support!

I can definitely relate to not wanting to understand ourselves. Sometimes if we're different we don't want to be, or there just might be a part of ourselves that we don't want to believe really is a part of us. But at the end of the day, those things are what make up a person. It takes a lot of time to be able to walk in your own shoes, maybe we'll always be learning how to do it. But I think doing it is eventually a lot less tiring than avoiding what we didn't want to think about ourselves.

Once I finally realized that I have to stop judging myself and others as well as not take the comments (criticisms) of others personally, I've found my path much easier to travel. Of course, I've not completely mastered either of these, but that's part of the process of the path and one day, I'll get where I'm going.

Thanks for the thoughtful post; always a pleasure to read.

Really wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your beautiful insights.

Hi Dani,

I can see soooo much of myself in this post. That's one of the worst emotional feelings...not being understood. I go through that a lot. It especially hurts when it's someone who I *think* should know me by now, but they still just aren't "getting" me.

And as someone who is also "getting to know myself", I really appreciate your tips for doing so! That's one of the things that people don't understand about me...that I'm getting to know myself slowly. You're's definitely not as easy as people make it out to be.

Dani, I also change a lot! I'm very set in my ways about certain things, but when it comes to my overall tastes in things it changes - not that I stop liking the old things, I just pick and add new things to my like list (my stepmom loves this - it makes it so easy to shop for me because I like a variety of things but am very specific about those things). I feel this post ties in very well to my current focus, seperating my ego from my identity. It's very difficult, because we all think that voice in our head or that emotional reaction is a definition of who we are, when in fact it is simply our egos. I tend to take things incredibly personally, solely because I've got the biggest, whiniest ego ever, of course, now that I know this is the problem, I've been consciously seperating my true feelings from those induced by my ego and letting it go. Now I feel I'm a step closer to really walking in my own shoes. :)

This is a great post. Really great insights on self reflection.

I agree with you about "Don't ignore the painful parts of your journey." and I think that's one of the most important things for personal development, and that's to learn from your mistakes.

Penny - I think you're right. We'll probably always be learning about ourselves and trying to understand who we are, but I think it's absolutely essential to do this if we ever truly want to understand others.

Laurie - I feel as if I'm in the place you are. When I let go of worrying about what others think, I am much happier. I try to do this and I think I've certainly gotten a LOT better at it over the years, but it's a constant struggle to really listen to myself and ignore the critical comments from others.

Molly - You're welcome. Thank YOU for your comment!

Jay - That's great! I'm so happy you could relate to the post. Yes, I agree -- it's the hardest when someone you've known for awhile, who should get it, just doesn't. That really hurts. Getting to know ourselves can be a slow process, but I think it's a great one. I'm glad you're working on it too!

Ia - Ah, great point about the ego! You're so right about this! It's nice to know that someone else changes a lot too. I actually think I'm a lot like you in the way that I don't necessary stop liking the things, but they become less of a focus for me at a specific point in time. I'm also VERY easy to shop for because I have a love for so many different things!

Srinivas - Thank you! I really appreciate that positive feedback. :)

Dr. Seuss has such a way with words and so do you.

I like the way you elaborated and illustrated.

Shifting tense is a powerful way to shape your journey ... I think of it as temporal skills ... you can use the past or be in the moment or dream up the future. You can leverage your past as wisdom for the moment, but the key is to also be able to drop your baggage and travel light ... and pave new paths.

John - It's so tempting to ignore the parts of life that hurt and to just scurry past them, but it's essential to learn from them, to attempt gain something from the hurt. It really is the best way to understand yourself.

J.D. - Thank you! I love the idea of dropping your baggage and traveling light. This really is important in life. It's hard enough to walk down our paths sometimes. The extra weight of baggage from the past only makes it harder for us! Thanks for the insights.

You have so many beautiful ideas here! I love the parts about identifying your flaws and thinking about what's beyond your thoughts. It's so important to be compassionate not only toward other people but also to yourself. I'm not always great at the latter, but I continue to work at it. Thanks for a fantastic post :)

How does one go about accepting what she is and what she isn't? My initial reaction was to recoil. Your suggestion seemed to embrace a scarcity mentality (if I'm this, then I can't be that) versus one of abundance. But after getting over myself, I realized that it's probably possible to accept without deny. Isn't it?

Worthy post. Nicely done.

Lori - Thanks so much! I'm really glad you liked it! It's definitely so important to be compassionate to yourself. It sounds selfish, but the nicer you are to you, the nicer you are to others. The same goes for understanding. The more you understand about you, the more you'll be able to relate to others.

Nelia - Yes, I believe it's possible to accept without denying. You don't have to be one thing and not the other either. You can be part something, part something else. We are all emotional mutts, mixtures of emotions and thoughts and experiences. I agree that it's not a good idea to embrace the scarcity mentality, especially when it comes to your analysis of yourself. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Love the Seuss poem! One of my favorites. I fully agree, we must walk in our own shoes and we must be comfortable in our own shoes and then we can better understand and don the shoes of another for a while. I don't get too hung up on explaining myself to others. When they are ready they will ask, when they are ready they will get it, until then I can wait for I know in the end that they will get it.

Mark - Me too! It's a great one and it was so fitting for this post. Thanks so much for commenting!

Could you be any more freakin' awesome Miss PP?!! I desperately needed this post today - thanks for the inspir-o - officially my favourite site - j'adore!

Lisa - Thanks so much for the support! Your comment made me smile. :)

Enjoyed the post. Just a small comment about those who think that this is just your new fad and will fade away. While I don't think your pursuit will fade, I do think that your journey will change. That's what personal development is all about. Change. The course itself will change. You will find new levels of development or new areas of development. And even when you think you got something mastered, you'll learn that you're just at the beginning. It's a life long journey. It's different for every single person. And it too will have its share of ups, downs, and branches.

I enjoyed the Dr Seuss quote. I certainly agree to what he said "You're the one who will decide where you go." It is empowering to know that we are the ones in charge of our own life path. No one else is more responsible than ourselves in how our lives turn out. We cannot blame our parents, family, friends or anyone around! We have the choice to make things better for ourselves! Thanks for an inspiring post!

Vi - Wow! What a good point! I'm sure you're right -- my journey will change as I learn more and grow. Thanks for your comment!

Evelyn - It's great to know that we're in control of our own life direction but it's also a bit scary at times. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this post.

You're right - we have come this far. A lot of times I forget how far I've come and how much better my life is from five years ago. The funny thing about happiness is that we all plateau. We get comfortable with what we've accomplished then we want more. As long as we understand these habits we can adjust accordingly.

Karl - Thanks for the comment! I think I'm still so into the process of learning about happiness that I haven't hit a plateau yet, but I'm sure I will at some point and that's okay. I'm so much happier now and, regardless of my happiness level, I think I will always be seeking for a greater understanding of myself, which I think everyone can benefit from.

Hi Dani - A great post. I think we most struggle with approval of those whose opinions matter to us when we're making a change, and there's nothing worse than when we don't get the supportive reaction. I read something recently that chimed as clear as the proverbial bell - one of those "doh!" moments:

Sometimes you're going to get a negative reaction from those close to you because of THEIR resistance to change. That's right. Your growth is going to cause them to have to change the way they might feel about you currently. If they've typecast you a certain way, moving forward with your life in a positive new direction, achieving success, altering your own outlook, all will cast you in a different light. The issue, of course, lies with their perception and their adaptability to the newness you're bringing to the relationship.

I dunno, makes perfect sense and I wish I'd known a long time ago. Subscribing to your blog.

Betsy - Thanks for coming by PP and commenting! I'm so glad you liked the post and are planning to subscribe to PP. :) That makes me very happy! You're exactly right -- a lot of the time those who aren't supportive of someone moving in a new, positive direction are those who are afraid of change or, as my therapist has mentioned to me, are afraid to look at themselves and consider what they might need to change. It's difficult for people to see others doing really positive things and being happier because then they have to consider what they're doing in their own lives to cause their personal unhappiness, which, of course, they don't want to think about. Thanks so much for the comment!

I know what you mean in this post! Sometimes I am taking in so much, so fast that I wonder, too, if I am taking the time to really process everything that I am thinking and feeling and the ways in which I am growing and changing. Your tips are great. Thanks!!

Jodi - Thanks for your comment! So glad that you could relate to the post!

So smartly written - Embrace oneself - easier said than done - but so very rewarding!

Cat - Thank you! It's definitely easier said than done, but when we can truly embrace who we are, we become a lot happier.

Great post. You have the gift of words. I have used the quote "walking in someone else's shoes." many times over the years. When we walk in someone else's shoes, we may find that it is too big, tight, high or whatever. We just may not like the shoes. However, what is important is the acceptance of this person no matter what. We do not have to understand, agree but accepting is the key. Just let them be and that's so easy to do and it creates harmony and unity.

Adalia - Thank you! :) I agree that accepting both ourselves and others is one of the most important things we can do to create happpiness and peace in our lives. Acceptance certainly isn't always easy, but, as you said, it creates harmony and unity.

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