But…What if I Don’t Want to be a Badass?


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It seems to be one of the aspirational labels of the moment. Podcast guests are introduced as total badasses. Courses promise to help us unleash our own inner badass. Memes abound that celebrate badassery.

While part of me thinks being a badass would help me feel powerful and confident—and who doesn’t want that—there’s also a voice inside that questions whether I really want to be a badass and what it means about me if I don’t. (Of course, there are many descriptors we could talk about here. Badass just happens to be one I’ve seen a lot lately).

To be clear, this is not a criticism or condemnation of anyone using this term or claiming it as a piece of their identity. I’ve learned a lot from and admire a number of people who self-describe as badasses. When it comes down to it, we want many of the same qualities.

We want to have healthy, firm boundaries. We want to make decisions based on our own values instead of out of fear or attempts to placate other people. We want to express ourselves honestly and clearly instead of hiding and hedging. We want to face challenges and do things that add satisfaction and meaning to our lives rather than play it safe lest we fail.

We want many of the same things, but have different ways of describing them. All that is fine. Where things can get muddy is when we start chasing the label instead of the qualities.

For example, I get tired of trying to always be whoever I think the people around me want me to be in hopes that they’ll like me. Then, I see someone online who is confident and self-expressed while also being kind and generous and having lots of friends. Maybe she refers to herself as a badass and talks about helping others uncover their inner badass too.

I can learn a lot from someone who demonstrates the qualities I want, but a problem can arise if I focus more on becoming a badass than on the specific qualities I want to cultivate. For me, the word badass carries a slightly different meaning.

If I try to take on the attitude of a badass, I do change, but not necessarily in the ways I want. For me, trying to be a badass leads to a hardening and aloofness. I may express my opinions more confidently, but at the cost of being willing to listen to others. I may trade my feelings of inferiority for superiority, but still miss the connection I really long to find.

If I’m not paying attention, being a badass can become another way I pretend to be someone better than I believe myself to be. While this can sometimes help me feel brave enough to start acting differently, it can also become another persona I hide behind instead of doing the hard work of making real changes in my life.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word to see if there was any basis in the definition for my feeling of unease about using it to describe myself. (Does looking up the word badass automatically discount me from being one…probably). According to dictionary.com , badass does mean tough and powerful, which is the part I think many are drawn to. But it also means a mean-tempered troublemaker. Eek…that’s not who I want to be.

Dictionary definitions aside, maybe for you badass is a fun word that works wonderfully as shorthand for who you want to be. Great! Use it.

Maybe there’s a different word or label that seems like it should be getting you closer to where you want to be, but doesn’t sit quite right. Pay attention to that. What qualities and characteristics come to mind when you think about that word? How do they match up with the qualities and characteristics you want to cultivate in your own life?

Catchy descriptors can be a fun way to remind ourselves of who we are and how we want to show up in the world. I’ve tried to think of an alternative word for myself, but nothing quite fits. That’s ok too. I can find other ways to remember and express the values and qualities I want in my life.

I’d love to know…is there a word that you love to use to describe yourself? Have you ever tried to live into a label that didn’t quite fit? How do you like to remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be?