I LOVE my red rain boots. I wear them often on walks in the woods of my small Kentucky farm. I especially love tromping in the creek in them. Creek tromping takes me back to my childhood when summers meant being barefoot from morning til night playing in small streams, catching salamanders and playing tricks on my annoying younger brother. I don't tromp around barefoot in creeks much anymore since that unfortunate parasite incident. (And, no, that story won't be coming soon to a blog near you. Trust me, you wouldn't want to read it anyway.)
CHOOSING WHAT FITS YOU
I could choose any other kind of footwear for my woodland mini-adventures. I have sneakers, walking shoes, hiking boots, paddock boots and there's even an old pair of Army boots lying around somewhere from my college ROTC days that I am sure are dry rotted by now. Any of these would provide me the support I need to walk a watery creek stone path. But they're no fun, in fact, they’re boring. I feel kind of dull in them. The sneakers and walking shoes remind me I should be exercising more. Yuk. Who needs that guilt? The hiking boots remind me of my best friend's voice explaining that hiking boots are for HIKING as in steep inclines and not what I like to refer to as "wal-hiking".
Or, as she says, “just plain walking”. Whatever. The paddock boots remind me of being thrown during an English saddle lesson. And my Army boots, well, as I said, dry-rotted. But my red rain boots? Perfection. I feel like ME when I'm in them. I take risks, jump gullies, and test the strength of deadfall branches. I am more confident in testing out my footing on an uncertain rock in the creek bed.
EMBRACING YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT
I can have that red rain boot feeling all the time if just place myself in the right frame of mind, intentionally embracing who I am from the inside out.
The color red has always brought me joy when I look at it. To me, it is bright, cheerful, and confident. I found a document a few years ago from my time as an infant in foster care where a social worker wrote, "Her favorite toy is a red ball. In fact, she really loves any toy with the color red." How cool is that?! The color red and me go back a long way. No doubt that is why it feels so "right", so authentic to the energy, strength and determination I seek in my life.
The small stream in my woods goes on for miles and meets up with a much larger creek which travels even further. I can follow it as far as I want to go. Our lives are similar. How far we go in life, how large and meaningful that life becomes is determined in part by each of us putting on our red rain boots and having the confidence to take a risk.
MOVING FORWARD BY RETURNING TO YOUR AUTHENTICITY
Close your eyes and remember back to a time when you felt the most like yourself. How old were you? What were you doing? Who were you with? Remember? Yes. There you are. You were being authentic you from the inside out. You could soar. You may have to reach back to early childhood. Research shows that up to age six is, generally, when we are still expressing ourselves freely and unashamedly. Later in life, we tend to let our own voice be drowned out by the noise of the world around us. We begin to doubt the power of our own authenticity. We trade in our red rain boots for what others choose for us.
It doesn't have to stay that way. You can make a different choice now. Spend some time during the next week remembering when you felt the most authentic version of you. It was pretty awesome, wasn't it? You can go there again, and this time you have the wisdom of your experience and knowledge. It is as simple as looking in the mirror. Look closely. Lean in. Look into those one of a kind eyes looking back at you and say out loud, "Hey, I know you. I've missed you." Make space to spend some time with YOU. Get to know you again. I bet you have a great time reconnecting. I'd love to hear about your favorite memories and any surprises from your journey of discovery. Listen to what your red rain boots are telling you. Go farther. It's what you were meant to do.
MaryAnn Gramig is the CEO of AuthenticA Coaching & Consulting and is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach; Leadership Development Consultant, and public speaker. You can learn more about living strong with authenticity at www.authenticacoaching.com.