I remember that day at the Social Security office when I went from Brandenburg to Kerry. I wrote my name in the blanks so carefully, the name that I chose to be my legal name for the REST OF MY LIFE. So permanent. To go from 11 letters to 5 was a relief, but to lose the name that connected me to my mom and dad and all my “German” people? It’s a famous gate in the fatherland! It’s a concerto! Not to mention, it’s how I identified myself for 28 years.
I played with the idea of making Brandenburg my middle name, but that’s a mouthful as a middle name even more so than it was as a last name. As hippy-ish as I am in some aspects, I’m traditional when it comes to names. And I chose to go all in and take on the name of Kerry.
My life didn’t change drastically with the name switch. It was easier for my ESL students to pronounce, and faster to spell out when I was picking up a prescription or calling to make appointments (being Kerry with a K was way more complicated than I thought. So many people write it with a C). All together, it was business as usual. Life went on.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? My last name doesn’t define me or make me who I am. But I possess many other names that do. Names I gave myself early on, names others gave me. Names like “ugly,” “loud,” “gross,” “beast,” “fat,” “lazy,” “crazy.” THOSE are the names that threaten to take my identity. Those are the names that sneak in when I’m discouraged, when I’m lonely, when I’m hurting. Those are the names that wield special power over me, much more powerful than my married name.
When I’m feeling unloved or left out, I see the word “crazy” or “loud” in my mind. When I know I’ve made a mistake or I’ve missed a detail or forgotten something, I hear “lazy.” When I see a tagged picture of myself that I didn’t approve and it has me posing at the most awkward angle where you can see I am very much a real person, I hear “gross” and “ugly” and “fat.”
Actually, I used to hear those things. Maybe it’s taken me a bit too long, but I’m learning to rename myself. I don’t want to waste the time I have fighting off the wrong name tag and allowing the lies I believe to guide my actions. I refuse to give those words power over my life.
When I feel the old words creep in, instead of permitting them entry I use the intruder as a signal to stop and assess. I ask myself questions:
- What am I feeling right now? I take a HEART check. Am I hurt, exhausted, angry, resentful or tense?
- If any of those are true, who can I reach out to? What is a healthy coping mechanism I can turn to? Reading, praying, sleeping, exercising, yoga…what should I make time for to clear my brain?
- I fill up on truth. I read my Bible, I listen to worship music on the treadmill. I renew my mind as much as possible,. In a pinch, when I don’t have time to find a healthy coping mechanism, this is the best I can do. I tell myself, “you’re doing the best you can with what you have.” That isn’t a glamorous statement. It isn’t earth-shattering. It’s not even in the Bible. But for some reason, it works for me. It’s a reminder to give grace to myself. To keep moving forward, to loosen up.
We all have name tags that threaten to shift the way we view ourselves in a way that can have extremely negative consequences. These name tags can even seep us in shame so deep that there’s no way we can see the way out. I was held captive by mine for far too long, and it stole my joy, time and time again. It threw my thoughts into past or future thinking, not present. It made it difficult to enjoy what I have while I have it. So I stopped.
Little by little, I began renaming myself… doing the best I can with what I have. I am likeable. I am caring. I am loyal. I am FUN. Deliberately changing my name is changing my perspective.
What are your names? Do you need to make a change?