Sensitive and Strong: A Barefoot Way to Be
Our image of strength tends to be a stereotypical "masculine" image. There is the "strong, silent type." In other words, distancing oneself from apparent weakness is one way we think of strength. Strength can also be typified by large men with huge muscles. Strength in our minds looks like The Hulk, The Juggernaut, or Bane. Our views of sensitivity may bring up images of being emotional or flaky. Sensitive types are our counselors or the people who see them. But is that really true?
If not, what exactly does sensitivity have to do with strength?
The human foot is a great example.
The human foot and the whole human organism is a beautiful blend of sensitivity and strength. Why should the human soul or human cultures be any different?
Feet are one of the most sensitive parts of your body. It is estimated that there are well over 100,000 nerve endings on the bottom of your feet, meaning it one of the most rich places for biofeedback in the whole body. In milliseconds, the information that nerve endings in the feet send to the brain lead to changes in how you stand or move, even helping you instantly lift your foot off that jagged piece of rock.
With all this potential for gathering information about the place we are walking and how our bodies should adapt available to us, what do we do? Put them in shoes. We hide this sensitive part of our bodies because it is not seen as strong, reiterating the dichotomy we've created.
For most of us, the idea of walking barefoot much of anywhere is seen as unsafe. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was impressed that I walked across gravel barefoot. It wasn't until his comment that I thought back to when I wouldn't dare venture much of anywhere barefoot. While the human foot is sensitive, it is also adaptable. Just as in working out your muscles adapt and grow stronger, so in being barefoot will your feet grow stronger. As you condition yourself to living barefoot, your body will automatically begin to rebuild padding on the bottom of your feet. What at first was shocking because of sensitivity and atrophy will be made stronger by consistent use.
Hiding your sensitivity isn't strength. Putting up walls to be numb to pain does not show courage. Locking your feet in shoes with ever increasing "arch support" and "cushioning" may help you run faster and farther for a while, but you will miss out on key development from below and within. Only in being truly present to what we truly feel and in building resilience to the challenges in life can we be both strong and sensitive.
From your sole to your soul, embrace your sensitivity and strength. True courage requires the acknowledgement of frailty and the harnessing of power.