Ask HaviNote: it is almost impossible to get on the Ask Havi list. This person got in by a. being one of my clients or students, b. flattering the hell out of my duck, and c. making life easy on me by being clear about what the question was and what details I could use.

So I taught this class last week about what to do when shoes are being thrown (when people say hurtful things).

It was a great class. And since there were way more questions than we ever could have gotten to, I want to touch on one that was asked by several people:

“My big shoe-related stuckness is being so afraid of the potential pain of them that it’s very, very hard to move forward on certain necessary projects … which is causing different kinds of stress & strain.

“What can I do when I feel stuck and freaked out in anticipation of shoes — of entering a shoe-heavy space?”

Let’s see if we can help.

Can we just start with how much it sucks to be in a situation where we know there are going to be shoes?

Ugh. Horrible.

It’s hard enough dealing with unexpected shoes, but anticipation and paralyzing fear is just not fun. I’m sorry.

I do have a few suggestions that — depending on your very specific situation — could possibly help come up with plans to deal with some of that fear.

Okay. Creating safety.

Because that’s the most important thing here.

There are all sorts of ways we can try and do this, but this has to be the focus.

Obviously there are always going to be unknown quantities. Things you can’t possibly be prepared for.

Not to mention the known quantities that you can’t do much about — like your hypercritical boss or your snippy in-laws.

While you won’t always be able to ensure a shoe-free environment, there are still things you can do to create a greater sense of safety for yourself.

Examples! Looking at a couple of different situations…

Fear of criticism — shoes from total strangers.

Say you’re starting a blog and you’re worried about people not getting it. Saying mean things.

There are a couple of practical, “in the hard” things you could do to create more of a sense of safety there.

  • You can set up comments so they have to be approved.
  • You could get a friend to approve them for you once a day so you don’t have to see them. Maybe you trade.

    Then after six months or so you can find out how many shoes your friend has deleted for you. My guess is going to be not that many. But hey at least you didn’t have to encounter any of them yourself.

    Safety? Now there’s more of it.

  • You might also create a comment policy. Or a disclaimer-ey page. Or both. So that it’s very, very clear to potential shoe-throwers what’s cool and what’s not.

Fear of criticism — shoes from people who love you.

You want to write a book or teach a class or sell stuff on Etsy. You want to start doing your thing.

And you’re feeling anxious, anticipating the avalanche of what-ifs and “here are all the ways you might fail” from the people you want to be on your side.

Your friends. Your partner. Your family. Those people.

That’s when it becomes really important to remember that your baby idea is a tiny, sweet thing, and it’s vulnerable.

Which means two things:

  1. You want to be extremely careful when you choose who gets to know about it and how much they get to know.
  2. You are going to have to be very clear when you ask for support. Specifically this means saying something like this:

    “Honey, I’m guessing that you might have some really helpful suggestions about why this might not work, because you want to protect me. And I really appreciate that you love me and want me to be safe.

    And, at the same time, I need to ask you to not give me any constructive criticism on this at the moment, because right now I am feeling very vulnerable.

    I need to stay motivated, and what’s going to motivate me — at the moment — is reminders of how smart and tough I am.

    At a later date we can talk strategy — right now I’m really needing support and encouragement.”

Fear of criticism — shoes from people who don’t really love you.

People you work with.

People you have to interact with because of stupid, annoying circumstances — not people you would ever willingly invite to your house for dinner.

This is where things can really suck — if you’re in a situation where you just can’t avoid these people and the endless shoe-throwing drama of being around them.

This is where it helps to have a band of allies.

It might be people who carry some sort of symbolic meaning for you — like in Barbara Sher’s trippy ideal family exercise.

  • It can be people you know. Yow can count me in on yours.
  • Some of your allies will help you come up with smart things to say.
  • Some of your allies will serve as reminders that you are loved and adored.
  • Some of your allies will be there for moral support and maybe some will be kicking ass for you too.

The point is, you are not alone.

You are not alone.

Even when it really, really feels like you are. We’re all going through this. And we’re all working on our own stuff. We’re in it together.

And then?

You march in there, packing emotional protection — and then you go into scientist mode.

You remind yourself that anything they say is their stuff. That the fact that it bothers you is your stuff. And that you are just there taking notes on this situation for your own personal destuckification process.

You’re learning about your patterns. Where you get hooked. Where you get triggered. Which things you perceive as shoes, which things you don’t, and why.

And then you patch yourself up and drink tea and look at your notes. And make preparations for next time.

And maybe the time after that. For the time — eventually — when none of this will touch you because you will be in sovereignty, which is the state (and spiritual quality) of not giving a damn about stupid shit that other people might say.


I could have ended this post right there, but I have another magic trick thingy that’s so useful that I just have to share.

The invisible mentor.

Everyone needs an invisible mentor. They’re like aikido for shoe-blocking.

It goes like this.

Concerned Annoyed Pushy Person In Your Life: “Oh is that what you’re interested in now? It’s so hard to know what with you changing your mind every two minutes. When are you going to settle down and do something sensible?”
You: “Actually, my artistic mentor is extremely excited about this new direction. We’re not discussing it with outside people while it’s in planning mode, though. I’ll update you on it when it’s something I can talk about.”

Concerned Annoyed Pushy Person In Your Life: “Oh come on, you’re never going to make any money coaching people. How much did you make last year? What are the numbers?”
You: “Well, you know, my business mentor is very firm about me not discussing the numbers with anyone until we hit the target we’re working towards.”

See how that works?

The important thing.

The concerned, annoyed, pushy people in your life are related to your monsters — they mean well, they’re looking out for you, and, at the same time, you’re still hurting from it.

And your invisible mentor is like your Negotiator — the one who can be calm and collected and knows what to say, even when you’re all torn apart.

If you don’t have one, you can go ahead and pretend that I’m yours. Or Selma, if you prefer. I’m sure she’d be great at it.

Comment zen.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process. We’re in it together, so we don’t give advice but we do empathize and pass the snacks around. Mmmmm. Snacks.


This is weird and cool! After this post, we got a note from Avil Beckford who actually has a website CALLED The Invisible Mentor.

She writes: “Washington State University professor Karen L. Peterson defines (link goes to PDF) an invisible mentor as a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from a distance.” Super useful. Thanks, Avil.

The Fluent Self