What To Do When You Lose Your Swagger
My mom passed away a few months ago after a fierce battle with cancer. When she died, she created a giant black hole in my world, which completely sucked my swagger into its vortex.
I quickly realized that her passing had fundamentally changed me. Nothing felt right, comfortable or familiar. The sound of my own voice felt wrong in my ears. My creativity bailed on me, taking my confidence with it. What was left felt like a brick in the space where my heart had been.
As someone who had always relied on my strong sense of self to bail me out of tough situations, I was shocked to discover that I had lost it — my core, my center.
The very definition of swagger was gone.
Swagger: The authentic manifestation of who you really are and the ability to hold onto it in the face of all the psychological crap that will come for it.
For me, it was due to a death. But loss of swagger can result from a myriad of situations. It could be getting fired, a break-up, a harsh critique at work, learning that someone you trusted wasn’t trustworthy after all, gaining weight, losing weight, losing a friend or a beloved boss. There are SO many scenarios that will try to come for your swagger.
So what can you do when you realize that, despite best efforts, your swagger isn’t where you left it?
1. Don’t fake it. Pretending all is perfect with the world feeds directly into developing a false persona, which, ironically, is one of the top swagger blockers. If you’re feeling shitty, empty, insecure or just plain sad — say it out loud. There’s no faster way to discover who actually cares about you than when you answer honestly to the question “How are you?” Tell people what’s going on with how you feel. You don’t need to share the ‘why’ if the details are a little too gory, but you sure can express the ‘what’. After all, it’s your truth and speaking it can really help you find your way back to your swagger source. (P.S. If people can’t handle your truth, they’re not your people.)
2. Lay low. Sometimes swagger piggybacks on energy. If you’re emotionally or physically depleted, it can be tough to manifest. So protect your space and time for a little while. Say ‘no’ to anything you don’t really, really want to do. Avoid swagger suckers. Choose social engagements really carefully. Stay off social media. Now is not the time to be comparing yourself to the false image of perfection you’ll find there. Relax and be kind to yourself. If that means PJs, Netflix, wine and popcorn then so be it. It’s only temporary.
3. Revisit something you’re good at. Reminding yourself that you’re a well-rounded and complex human can do wonders for your swagger. If there was something you had a gift or talent for as some point in your life but you haven’t had or made time for it of late, try to get back into it. It doesn’t have to be hardcore. Go sing some karaoke. Take a one-off painting class. Go back to a gym class you once liked. Write a blog post. Just find one thing that used to make you feel happy and full and revisit it. Sometimes a little spark is all you need to reignite your swagger fire.
4. Help someone else. Compassion is badass, regardless of whether it’s for ourselves or others. When we feel truly shitty, discovering that we still have the capacity to help other people can do wonders to pump up our own confidence. Offer to mentor someone at work. Do a little volunteering. Or just reach out to help a friend. You’ll be amazed at how much it will remind you of what you’re still capable of.
5. Face down a demon. Is there a person or situation you’ve been avoiding dealing with? Whether it’s a colleague who keeps claiming credit for your ideas, an asshole boss who refuses to acknowledge your accomplishments, or just a friend who you feel has been taking advantage — now could be a good time to right those wrongs. Plan your attack carefully. Don’t engage until your emotions are firmly in check. Always keep your truth, intention and self-belief firmly in mind. Make sure you have contingencies in place should your initial approach turn to crap. And then go and get it done. Be direct, firm and honest and DO NOT let anyone turn the tables on you. When you’re done, you’ll feel so much better and the future will look so much brighter.
6. Embrace your superpower. Every single one of us has something special and magical to offer. It could be our empathy, creativity, strength, insight, ability to get others talking, or being able to put others at ease. Some of us are super practical, can fix anything, or are amazing problem solvers. Take some time to reflect and remember what makes you special and then dive back into it. What helped me get a swagger refill after my mom’s passing was getting back in front of people in training rooms (when I felt ready). The act of using my superpowers to fill other humans up reminded me of my purpose and power. It was like refueling my swagger source.
7. Remember it’s only temporary. Once a badass, always a badass. Although the world has knocked you around a bit, this too shall pass. Remind yourself that you are NOT your feelings. Those emotions will ebb and flow and fade and the gorgeous, amazing, badass YOU will still be standing at the end, proudly waving your freak flag. And your swagger will be even stronger for the experience.
Full disclosure, my own swagger is still shaky. But I’m following all of the advice that I just gave you and I can feel my swagger stores filling up on the daily. Being in a place of true swagger is an ongoing journey. What I remind myself every day is that no one is watching or keeping score. By definition, having swagger means being vulnerable and honest about whatever my truth is.
Today, that truth is that I’m more swagger-y than I was the day before. That’s badass enough for me.
Leslie Ehm is a speaker, author and Chief Fire Starter at Combustion Training. Her book ‘Swagger — How to Lose the Front, Find Your Power, and be the Badass You Didn’t Know You Already Were’ is coming soon.