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Get your ‘swagger’ on

Swaggering is associated with confidence and strength.  Check out Suranne Jones currently swaggering across our small screens as the confident Anne Lister in BBC One’s adaptation of Gentleman Jack. This has reminded me about some of the things I really miss about my younger self, one of which is that I now have to work at maintaining my ‘swagger’ in a way that befits my age.

‘Swagger’ is my name for that feeling you get when you walk into a room or along a street as if you own it without caring what people think about you. Check out Anne Lister! Most of us fake it and very few of us experience unadulterated ‘swagger’ without a few latent misgivings!

I can still rock the ‘swagger’ but there’s a little chink in my armour that sometimes lets me down and catches me unawares. Like when I catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window and realise that I look older than I actually feel! Reality bites, and in that moment, I feel foolish, clumsy and self-conscious as if I’ve forgotten who I am meant to be.

The woman with all her history and usual confidence leaves me momentarily to reveal the scared older woman inside, fearful of losing her identity and exposed in a way that I didn’t experience in quite the same way when I was younger. I’ve always believed in the value of ‘charm’ (as learned from my still very charming 86-year-old mother) and relied upon it to cut through the age-barrier, but there are occasions when I realise that the spell of youth has worn off.

In a recent heat of the Funny Women Awards an older woman talked about a game she plays which involves challenging men to guess a woman’s age based on how she looks from behind.  It’s a great gag and veiled in truth so I won’t spoil it.  The punchline is about the men in question realising that the woman they wolf whistled is old enough to be their mother, or even their grandmother!  This is where the ‘swagger’ really counts. Having the confidence to rock your younger self is the key.

There are other ways to take you out of yourself and build confidence. I recently attended a workshop at the Soho Theatre run by Groundlings Alumni and founder of New York-based Improvolution, Holly Mandel, based on her theme of Good Girls Aren’t Funny.  It was a mix of talk and exercises designed to challenge the way our ‘good girls’ hold back the women we really want to be.

One exercise involved us channelling a man we would aspire to be in respect of how they’d walk, talk and interact. This was an excellent way to get outside of myself however, as by far the oldest woman in the room, I felt surprisingly self-conscious about ‘swaggering’ around as my male alter ego. Where was my inner Gentleman Jack when I needed her?!

What causes the rift in my usually active mindful state of ‘swagger’?  It feels like hours when it only takes seconds to feel ‘naked’ in the face of what our brain perceives as a threat. I will be perfectly honest and admit that being in a room full of women when I am not in control and taking instructions from somebody else, particularly about a topic that is familiar to me, is tricky.  As (possibly?) befits my age I feel more confident and comfortable in my older skin when running the workshop myself. That’s when I get my ‘swagger’ on!

Put me to the test!  Let me help you find your ‘swagger’!

My next Stand Up to Stand Out comedy workshop takes place at The Groucho Club, on Saturday 13th July from 11.00am to 1.00pm.  Two hours of exploring your funny bones in a safe, creative space. All details here.

Free for newly signed up Funny Friends, half-price for existing Funny Friends and members of the Groucho Club.