I call bullshit on badassery.
Being a badass. It seems like such a badge of honor in our world. We are all supposed to aim for our highest levels of badassery. It’s a mark of success. It’s how we were raised. We should accomplish and acquire. We should strive to be better, faster, and stronger than the rest. It’s in our economy. It’s in our culture. Hustle. Conquer fear. Be fierce. Our songs, cultural icons, bosses, gurus, coaches, and heros all seem to encourage us to be bigger, louder, stronger warriors. Sounds like we’re all about ready to star in our own TV special.
Well, I call bullshit on all the badassery.
What do you do when you stumble? When you find your weak points? When you discover that hairline crack that runs through your entire life and is actually the beginning of some seismic breaking down and opening? When you realize a deep part of you is slow, unmoving, and dark. How do you reconcile the many moments when you need to stop and tend? What do you do if you acknowledge your own tender inner being?
The badass answer: bury it and keep going.
This hustling, bustling badass state is unsettled and unsound. I know, I’ve tried it. In my experience when I have appeared at my most badass, in reality I’ve been avoiding and covering other things in my life. Pain, insecurity, anger, fear. I cast them all aside with a capable, fierce attitude. The attitude is a veneer. It’s not real and it eventually crashes and burns. The reality of my experience bursts through and softens me up right away. What was impermeable becomes permeable again, often through a difficult, deeply personal process. Sometimes the break down is messy, pivotal, and charged with the sort of significance you encounter when you are on the precipice of a new way of being.
But, here is what really broke down any semblance of my badassery to a messy, glorious pulp. Having a kid. She ruined any chance of me ever seeming tough, slick, and impervious. I did learn how to show up. Slow down. Listen. Notice what’s needed. Tend to the parts that are vulnerable, weak, or tantruming. In doing those things for her, it taught me a little about doing those things for myself. I was softened not only to care for my daughter, but also to care for myself.
What became more and more apparent as I waded through this inner, soft terrain was that the facade felt better. It felt better to appear unaffected and unendingly capable. It felt better to seem tough, busy, and determined. Showing up fully delicate, heart-swollen, limited, tired, and lump-throated felt so difficult and risky. I worried this part of me wasn’t as likeable, as admirable, as easy for others to take. I worried I didn’t like this part of myself.
Here’s the thing. It was a risk. A huge risk. I lost parts of myself I thought I knew. I changed. Partially because of my personal transformation, I lost people I never thought I would lose. It was crushing, life-altering loss. And. It was worth it. In the end, my life is all the more meaningful and rich.
So, here is the highly unpopular, counter-cultural path I strive to follow. This isn’t always how I show up, but it is my intention. Be weak. Lean right into the soft, dark places. The places that give when I press into them. Open up and find the cracks, fragments, and shards and let them be broken. Hold my wounds and let them hurt and heal on their own time. Be fearful and brave. Be strong and tender. Be tough enough to enter a room wholly broken. Be hard enough to have a backbone and soft enough to have a heart.