My High-Heeled Shoes
Claudia Cousineau (+Video)
In Chile, it was common practice for women to wear high-heeled shoes. They were part of the expected professional attire for women. For me, they were a way to appear powerful and independent in the business world even though I did not feel this way inside. Tired of trying to meet social expectations wearing shoes that did not fit me, I ventured into the search for a new life, a place where I could create my own rules and choose my own type of shoes.
When I was studying at university in Chile, it was common practice for women to wear high-heeled shoes. At that time, no one questioned this. High-heeled shoes were an expected part of professional attire for women as they entered the workplace.
When I started working as an organizational psychologist, I faced a world of giants. The industry was competitive and mainly led by men. The women who worked in the high positions of companies always wore high-heeled shoes, so that’s what I did too. I adapted myself in an attempt to reach their height.
No matter how many streets I walked in them if I had to move things or climb stairs, I was always wearing high heels. They seemed to give my voice strength, and I had the feeling that if my shoes were not high enough, nobody could see or hear me.
Who would listen to a woman in low shoes talking about teamwork and collaboration in a world where it seemed only numbers mattered?
My high-heeled shoes were a way to appear powerful and independent in this business world, even if I didn’t feel this way inside. I was convinced that if I tried to fulfill societal expectations, I would be closer to achieving happiness and success.
I kept walking in my high-heeled shoes for a few years until I realized that the list of things a woman was expected to do and be was endless.
It was not just about the shoes; it was about our physique, ideas, and role at work and home. It was the pressure to marry, and then they get pregnant while remaining productive and efficient. It was about staying young, not showing emotions, working the same or more than our male counterparts but receiving less salary.
It was the fact that men could wear low shoes while women had to wear high heeled shoes for the same work.
Just as I began questioning the fairness of this life, I was aware of the impact high heeled shoes had on my mother. She had worn high heels for her adult life, and now walking in low shoes caused pain in her spine. I knew I did not want this same life.
I decided to quit everything, every expectation and message that society told me that I was still far from becoming the perfect woman.
With this, I gave up my high-heeled shoes and gave away my office clothes.
I decided to make a big change in my life and moved to Canada, accepting a job offer in the Bow Valley.
At first, I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t understand the social rules, and I didn’t know what kind of shoes I needed to wear. It was cold. It was snowing. I had no friends. I had no family. I cried often. I was not happy here either.
It took effort and time before I understood.
CLAUDIA COUSINEAU immigrated from Chile in December 2013. She has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology and five years of experience working as a coach with different companies and industries, developing soft skills in the workplace. In Canada, Claudia works in a restaurant on top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff. Also, she works as a Transpersonal Psychologist applying processes of self-discovery and personal growth with immigrant women.