Beautiful women used to drive me crazy. I would see an attractive woman and instead of being filled with joy, I would begin to strategize how I might talk to her, or whether I should talk to her. I would question whether or not I deserved to talk to such a beautiful women. I would question my own worth in the presence of such beauty. I remember feeling like I didn’t measure up. I remember feeling like she had all the power
If I got an opportunity to interact with her, I would stumble over my words and say awkward things. I would try to not stare at her boobs. I would do my best not to show how attracted I was to her. I didn't want to seem like a pervert or a womanizer.
But if I didn't talk to her, I felt like a pathetic loser. I would feel ashamed of not "stepping up" and "going for it."
The feeling of desire that she evoked in me seemed to push me into the space of either perverted womanizer or pathetic looser. There was no honorable way out. I resented women for this.
What I know now is that I'm not the only one who has experienced this. Indeed, I hear it from men in workshops, in personal coaching sessions, I read it online. Men don't want to be an aggressive pervert nor an emasculated looser, but the cultural narratives around the experience of sexual desire and masculinity tend to push men into one (or both) of those categories.
I see men struggling with what appears to be a binary choice of either being an aggressive pervert, or a pathetic looser. I see men choose.
I see men who have bought into the idea that being a man means having power over others, either women or other men. These guys tend to be more aggressive and, and they tend to mask their deep insecurity with a veneer of contrived bravado. It's tiring to maintain a power hierarchy and these guys are always on the lookout for someone who might threaten their place in the social hierarchy.
Conversely, I see men who are committed to rejecting the more toxic expressions of masculinity. These men are usually more honest about their emotions, but they often get caught spinning their wheels, thinking about what they DON'T want to be rather than what they do want to be and they get caught in analysis paralysis. They end up appearing even more insecure than they actually are.
Neither of these options are ideal.
The third option I like to call "Authentic Swagger". This is non-hierarchical confidence. Authentic Swagger is when you are comfortable in your own skin. It's when your sense of self does not depend on validation from other people. It's when you can take feedback from others without feeling attacked, and without retaliating. Authentic Swagger means you are passionately living your own life and expressing yourself in your own way, rather than trying to fit someone else's ideals.
Authentic Swagger is something that I have been cultivating in myself and helping my clients cultivate for many years. The more you have it, the more joyful life becomes. You find yourself filled with more passion and energy than ever before. For me, the experience of seeing a beautiful women is now one of joy and curiosity. Hanging out with other men, I don't feel like I need to defend my place in any hierarchy because I'm not investing in hierarchy.
Of course, there are things in life that I'm still figuring out, there are so many ways that I want to grow, but I can follow that path with a relaxed confidence that I am on the right road. With this knowledge, life has a certain amount of ease and optimism.
Most people have felt some amount of Authentic Swagger at some point in their life. But it tends to be fleeting and fickle. Some men have not felt it in a long time, sometimes so long that they forget what it feels like.
But, Authentic Swagger can be cultivated at any age, at any income level anywhere in the world. It does not require a particular amount of money nor a particular type of car, it does not require a certain type of clothing nor living in a certain part of town. It is accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime, because it only requires embracing your own TRUTH.
And it's not easy. It requires facing personal fears, shame, and shadow self. It requires taking responsibility for your own psycho-emotional conditioning. It's not easy, but it sure is fun. The more that the old stories are burned away, the more your own truth can shine.
What does your authentic swagger feel like?