To The Beautiful Shoes: Chronic Pain and Identity

I recently saw a facebook post asking the question…

Do women identify with their high heel shoes? The answer for me was a resounding yes. I wrote this blog about my shoes, identity and chronic pain a while ago, but never published it for fear of it being seen as trivial. However the Facebook post got me thinking about my experience with chronic pain. I have lived with Chronic Pain for the last 15 years. In my experience, pain is a complicated thing, as it affects not only your physical body, it also challenges you emotionally as well. It is very easy to feel as though you become your pain, you begin to feel, although the pain is who you are. You start to identify with the pain, you start to feel as though the pain is robbing  you of your identity. I would like to share one such experience.

My Identity and my High Heel Shoes  

About three years I admitted defeat and threw away the last pair of beautiful high heel shoes from my wardrobe. I could no longer ignore the fact that my back pain was being made worse by wearing high heel shoes.  At the time it felt like a sad moment and made me feel incredibly emotional. I felt as though I had experienced a great loss I sat and cried,  not really understanding why I felt so emotional about shoes. At the same time I felt extremely guilty for being this upset over a pair of shoes.

So why was I so upset? I thought those high heel shoes represented my femininity. I suddenly felt unattractive and frumpy, other than summer sandals I never bought flat shoes. What was I going to wear?! All my clothes looked wrong with flat shoes. I was also shocked to realize that those high heeled shoes I wore to work did more for me than make me feel taller and more feminine. I was under the illusion that those shoes made me feel in control, those shoes gave me authority, and helped me to perform at work. Who would have thought a pair of shoes could have so much influence on my life? It felt as though my femininity was being  taken away from me. My body and the pain I was in was yet again robbing me of my who I was. It was a huge shock to realise how much of my identity I thought I had invested in a pair of shoes.

“As long as you make an identity for yourself out of pain, you cannot be free of it.” ~Eckhart Tolle

This experience was a huge wake up call for me.

It may seem such a trivial thing to write about shoes, but it was the wake up call I needed to realise that the pain was definitely not who I was. Yes, it was restricting my life in many different ways, but the pain did not give me my beautiful family, it did not create my business or help me form my friendships. How easy it is to fall into the trap of feeling betrayed and blaming the PAIN! for how we feel for every big and little experience that we have and every choice that we make. Choosing a different way of thinking is not easy and there are times when it all just seems too much. A good place to start is gratitude, I have many wonderful things in my life that I am grateful for it helps me to list them to myself. Learning to be kind to yourself can be so important, silence that inner critic that says telling you to just keep going, even when you know your body has had enough. Dealing with chronic pain of any description is hugely challenging, we all need support around us whether in the form of friendship or a professional. To help support us through the difficult times, to help us remember we are loved and not because of the pain we are experiencing.

Edited: Carla Moore

Helen Pinnock

I’m Helen, a wellpreneur and founder of the wellbeing business school with a lifelong passion for learning. I am here to help you create the business you want.

I’m proud to have created three businesses dedicated to counselling, coaching and alternative health. By holding our clients at the heart of everything we do we have worked with thousands of clients to help them on their path to health and happiness.