Shoes. Ever wonder how old the concept of shoes is? Was the first pair of shoes created out of necessity for warmth or protection…or both? Did weaving together leaves and twigs create a harmonious partnership that not only protected the human foot from rudely intruding Earthly elements but also inadvertently cradled the foot in a cozy welcoming capsule of warmth? And an even bigger question – like the size of Shaquille O’Neal’s right foot (guessing his right is bigger than his left), is when did shoes quit being a human wardrobe essential and start to signify the highlight of a fashion ensemble or hierarchy of social status?
What IS with a shoe anyway? Have you ever looked under the bathroom stall in a public bathroom and wondered WHO is wearing that pair of shoes…and making a mental judgment about the person on the other side? If you are denying ever doing so, then you should stop reading this article right now because nothing I say from this point on will resonate with you…and the analogy of taking your red stilettos to work will slip right off your foot like Cinderella’s glass slipper. Loomfootware.com quotes a study from 2012…it says that participants were shown close-up images of strangers wearing shoes. Just by looking at the strangers’ shoes alone – participants “were able to accurately guess 90% of the strangers’ personality traits, including gender, age, social status, income, and so on.”
Shoes equal personality? So does that mean that even though I’m 91% introverted, with all the stereotypical connotations that go along with that scratch and sniff sticker, that my shoes act as a 100% gregarious unreserved, little, not-so-little – spokesperson for my personality? Should it bother me that my shoes speak for me even though I don’t ask them to? Or should I be forever grateful that a long ago invented inanimate object leads the way and helps me put my “best foot forward” on all occasions…including at work?
At Silicon Mountain Technologies, we’ve been spending the last few months identifying our individual Myers-Briggs personality types and exploring how those “comfortable as an old shoe” persona styles interact with each other on both a personal and professional level. It never ceases to entertain me taking little quizzes that put a label on me…labels only scare those who allow themselves to be scared by them…so I put the label on and walk a mile in it to see how I can relate – reflect – and respond to my new findings.
We all know that each of us possess as many personality traits as Imelda Marcos possessed shoes…for those too young to know who Imelda Marco is – go Google it – that TOO is entertaining. But Myers-Briggs boils everyone down to fit into 16 different combinations based on four “pairs of shoes,” so to speak, each pair with an obvious left and right shoe in which one socially leads with; these pairs include: where you focus your attention=Extraversion/Introversion, the way you take in information=Sensing/Intuition, how you make decisions=Thinking/Feeling, and how you deal with the world=Judging/Perceiving. As an example – 91% of the time I will lead my attention Introvertedly and 9% Extrovertedly…and 78% of the time I will lead with Feeling qualities over Thinking when making a decision. For the most part, we all live in harmony with ourselves…when no one else is around to trip us up with their two left feet…which is a natural hazard when interacting with anyone, anywhere…especially at work.
Now stay with me through this as I transition, because my only frame of reference is from the female perspective of the female shoe selection, so at work – or life in general – for someone to “trip me up with their two left feet” would look like a pair of red stilettos “Extraverted/Thinker” working on a project with me and my “Introverted/Feeling” well-worn Converse, with the Stilettos roaring down the solution path, parading around in their “high-energy, outgoing, public-speaking, logic-based criteria” self, wondering all the while what’s the hold up with my “reflective, write-rather-than-talk, take-time-making-decisions, harmonious, compassionate lollygagger” self. Do you see where the friction will be and where the project could lose traction? The flashy (now only the Converse sees the Stiletto as “flashy”) Stilettos are going to think the Converse are dead weight to the project and want them dropped off at the nearest Goodwill…alternately, Converse is going to think Stilettos are a bit over the top and want to pack them away at the bottom of their stinky gym bag, neither seeing each other’s value nor seeing their own ability to flex their foot into the other shoe.
But maybe flexing into each other’s shoe strengths is really the key to our own professional and personal growth. We can all agree that unless we have our own fairy godmother waving her magic wand that our pumpkin of personality traits is not going to magically turn into a magnificent coach…but we don’t NEED a fairy godmother and that is a glorious thing. We all have the capability to unlace or kickoff one pair of shoes in exchange for another when situations require us to step up or step back. There are times when I look down at my Converse and wonder – “WHY can’t I be a red Stiletto?!?!” But then I reflect and realize I can be that red Stiletto…I can put myself in an uncomfortable and growing situation and walk around a bit in the high-heeled, attention-grabbing shoe. I may twist an ankle or two at first – and that’s okay – the point is – I shouldn’t be afraid to pack the shoes needed for any occasion – whether they are broken in or not. I can’t be afraid to try them on…who knows…it may be the least expected pair of shoes that launches me down my next big journey.