‘Stepping into someone else’s shoes’ is an idiom we use to describe one person replacing another in some sort of visible role. A new quarterback steps into the shoes of a previous superstar who retired. A new CEO steps into the shoes of their predecessor at a global corporation. The thing about it is that it is rarely easy.
There is a lot of pressure that comes with stepping into someone else’s shoes. Some of that pressure is external, some of it is internal. That says nothing of the many prying eyes paying attention to the person who has come in to take over. Those eyes leave no stone unturned in the search for potential flaws.
Stepping Into or Filling
We have another idiom that means essentially the same thing as stepping into someone else’s shoes. We might say ‘filling another’s shoes’ instead. There is very little difference between the two idioms, if any at all. The point is that someone is stepping in to replace someone else.
If we were to use either idiom literally, we would envision a new person coming along and literally putting on someone else’s shoes. But what would happen next? That new person would get up and walk around. That is what makes the idiom so effective in describing one person replacing another in terms of function.
If you spent a day walking in my shoes, you might go places you have never gone before. You might meet new kinds of people that change your perspective of humanity. You might find yourself running when you would otherwise walk and walking when you would otherwise skip. And through it all, you would probably be wondering what you got yourself into.
A High-Pressure Situation
So why is stepping into someone else’s shoes rarely easy? Because doing so almost always represents a high-pressure situation. The funny thing is that it doesn’t really matter who it is you are replacing.
If you step into the shoes of someone who was the best at what they did, there will be an expectation that you perform at a similar level. You will feel the pressure of having to match your predecessor’s accomplishments. You might even feel as though your new role is at risk if you do not measure up.
On the other hand, maybe you are tapped to replace a total loser. The pressure is still there. Why? Because now you are expected to do what your predecessor could not do. You are expected to right a capsized ship; to get a derailed train back on the tracks; to get a disorganized house back in order.
The last thing you want is to be judged as much a failure as the person you are replacing. So you put a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself to perform.
Overshoes Are a Better Illustration
Avoiding the pressure of stepping into someone else’s shoes is possible just by changing the way you think. Instead of thinking about filling another’s shoes, think about it in terms of overshoes.
GC Tech is a Utah company that makes waterproof overshoes for men. Their products are not designed to replace your shoes. They are intended to protect your shoes. So instead of thinking about your new role as stepping into someone else’s shoes, think about it as keeping your shoes on but covering them with that overshoe.
Filling someone else’s shoes is rarely easy. If you ever find yourself in that position, just be yourself. Do the best you can based on who you are as a person. That is all anyone can ask anyway.