Resisting Social Pressure


One of the troubles many barefooters have is the reaction of society. There are all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways that people let us know that we are not living up to expectations. Also, as social beings, it is built into our genes (to some extent) to respond to that pressure. That pressure is important to all of us getting along. It is part of being social animals. In some sense, it helps develop and maintain our sense of what is right and wrong.

However, that social pressure works indiscriminately, hitting the useful as well as the mere conventional. We are all aware of teens obsessing about the latest fad of the day. And we are aware that those who resist it are labeled “nerds” or “Goths”, or whatever, and put under intense pressure to be just like everybody else. Yet, it is so often the unconventional that leads to everyday progress.

Barefooting is actually a way to resist some of that unreasonable social pressure. It’s a good way to train ourselves to analytically look at what we do and why, and to help ensure that there are actually good reasons for our behaviors.

This is not a new concept. Back in Roman times, Cato the Younger was well known for going barefoot along the streets of Rome. Here is how it was put by Plutarch in his “Lives”:

Καθόλου δὲ τοῖς βίοις καὶ τοῖς ἐπιτηδεύμασιν ὁ Κάτων τὴν ἐναντίαν ὁδὸν οἰόμενος δεῖν βαδίζειν ὡς οὖσι φαύλοις καὶ μεγάλης δεομένοις μεταβολῆς, ἐπεὶ πορφύραν ἑώρα τὴν κατακόρως ἐρυθρὰν καὶ ὀξεῖαν ἀγαπωμένην, αὐτὸς ἐφόρει τὴν μέλαιναν. πολλάκις δ’ ἀνυπόδητος καὶ ἀχίτων εἰς τὸ δημόσιον προῄει μετ’ ἄριστον, οὐ δόξαν ἐκ ταύτης τῆς καινότητος θηρώμενος, ἀλλὰ ἐθίζων ἑαυτὸν ἐπὶ τοῖς αἰσχροῖς αἰσχύνεσθαι μόνοις, τῶν δὲ ἄλλων ἀδόξων καταφρονεῖν.


Being dissatisfied with them, Cato would deliberately go against the grain of the attitudes of his times. For instance, when a particularly bright hue of purple became all the rage, he would instead wear the darkest shade possible. Also, he would often go out about the streets barefoot and without his tunic. He was not looking for notoriety by doing so, but was teaching himself to be ashamed of only that which is truly shameful, and to ignore popular opinion otherwise.

So, if you would like to go barefoot more, but are really concerned about what others might think, you can take some advice from Cato.


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