Thursday, May 28, 2009

Swagger is Being YOU


The word “swagger” is defined as walking or strutting with a defiant or insolent air, or to boast or brag noisily. This word has become somewhat of a phenomenon in the past year in hip hop culture, and can be heard all over the radio. Some popular phrases of the word consist of; “swagger of a college kid,” and “nobody has swagger like us.” I must say I have jumped on the “swagger” train and use the word on pretty much a daily basis. Whether it is on facebook, Twitter, or just talking with friends, I am constantly talking about living your life with “swagger.” You can find the word “swagger” pretty much anywhere-- Old Spice now has a Swagger Deodorant!

I do understand the meaning of the word, and that having a “swagger” can be considered a negative and rude trait. However, I see the word “swagger in a completely different light. The word “swagger” for me has become somewhat of an anthem for my recovery from anorexia nervosa. I use this word to describe pretty much how I face every day, and this so called SWAGGER I have, has driven my recovery. I am by no means an arrogant person, nor do I walk around boasting or bragging in an obnoxious manner. I do however live each day like it’s my last and this has become my own SWAGGER! The objective for recovery is to find what works for you, and to go with it. For me, this means living with a bit of vibrant confidence and facing each day with a smile on my face.

We live in a very imperfect world and at any second our lives can be flipped upside down. This is why I think living with a bit of edge or swagger can help when trying to overcome an eating disorder. I was once a very strong and fierce lacrosse player. Coaches described my performance and athletic drive using the word “swagger!” I played with a chip on my shoulder, and I never gave up. There were games where I was completely exhausted but I pushed forward carrying the team on my back. I was never an arrogant or cocky athlete; I just played with heart and will (swagger). This mentality helped me to defeat some of the toughest opponents.

So why am I writing about the word swagger? What is the point or message to this rambling nonsense about a word that could be considered street lingo? The point I am trying to make is simple. Somewhere along my journey through life I lost my “swagger” and that is when I began doubting myself-- which ultimately led to a four year life threatening battle with anorexia nervosa!

While spending over thirty days in a residential treatment program, my eating disorder was tracked back to my senior year of college. My senior year was a complete debacle. I was dating two girls, trying to balance lacrosse and school, not eating, and working out on a regular basis. I was doing anything I could to bring some sort of balance back into my life. My lacrosse coach had given up on me, and I sat the bench my senior year. I began both doubting and hating myself! In other words, my swagger was gone.

I did graduate on time, and desperately tried to move forward with my life. I won’t go into much detail but for the next four years I was in and out of relationships, drinking too much, bouncing from job to job, working out excessively and starving myself in a hopeless attempt to gain some sort of control back. I was pretty much killing myself! Lacrosse was my outlet and my way of expressing myself-- I played with swagger and never gave up. However, after an unsuccessful senior year on the playing field, I gave up on lacrosse and my swagger went flying out the window!

It wasn’t until being diagnosed with anorexia and given less than twelve months to live that I realized what I was missing. My eating disorder became my false identity, and it was just me and my ED-- I was oblivious to the world and had no desire to live. I went into treatment angry at the world, but came out thankful to be alive. I have spent the past year in recovery trying to figure out life and where I fit in. I have come to the conclusion that maybe I don’t fit in, and well I am completely okay with that. I spent the majority of my life trying to fit in and be what everyone else wanted me to be. Where did that get me? (Eating Disorder)

My Dad recently came up to me and said, “Patrick, you finally got your swagger back!” I was in shock at first because I really couldn’t believe my Dad used the word SWAGGER. After the initial shock and a bit of laughter, I began to reflect on my life and the meaning of the word “swagger.” For the greater part of my life I just followed the crowd, and did everything I could to be popular. I put all my effort into being something I wasn’t and eventually that caught up to me in the form of anorexia, substance abuse, and depression. The only time I was really myself was when I was playing lacrosse. With that said, this brings me back to the word swagger. I had a bounce in my step when I played lacrosse and I needed that in my life.

So to me, the word “swagger” simply means being ME! So when I use this word, I am not talking about conceit or EGO. I threw my ego out when I chose recovery and life. I am talking about living your life with confidence and joy. In the past year I have battled back from anorexia and have become a voice to those still suffering. During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I spoke at Lubbock Christian University to a crowd of over 500 college students. I was never a big fan of public speaking but with a bit of self-confidence, I was able to rise to the occasion and spread awareness and hope. I accomplished this because I am living my life with SWAGGER!

I will simply leave you with this. Life is an endless journey of peaks and valleys. When you are coming up on a peak, be humble, and when you find yourself in a valley, stay true to yourself and LIVE WITH SWAGGER!

Swagger is not following the crowd, its being a leader, its being YOU!
Oh, and one more thing-- I do wear Swagger Old Spice Deodorant!
Patrick Bergstrom