The language of names

We often choose a name that seems accurate for us, but that isn’t big enough to contain our entire life.

Margaret J. Wheatley

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity these days, as I talk with women clients.

I’ve been thinking about the names we use to identify ourselves. About the ways in which those names can perform so many functions. How they can limit, expand, invite, establish social status, even set a boundary.

Think about it. When we introduce ourselves we offer our proper name and then, usually, we wrap some kind of contextual name around that so the person receiving our name information can more easily relate to us.

“Hello. I’m Tracie Nichols, Zack’s Mom.” I might say at a school function. Or “Lovely to meet you!. I’m Tracie Nichols, a Holistic Business Coach.” at a networking event.

Instantly, people can put me into an easily managed identity box. They know how to respond to me and what kind of relationship to expect. I’ve made them comfortable by relieving them of the unknown.

But, these contextualizing names we offer are also a way to control what people know of us or to conceal messy, outside-the-box bits of ourselves. (Sometimes the names we choose are meant to conceal as much from ourselves as from others, though that’s a big topic of it’s own and probably a conversation for another letter.)

Our names become smoke and mirrors diverting attention away from less socially acceptable identities. Identities like angry woman, disturbingly accurate intuitive woman, won’t put up with the patriarchy anymore woman, determined to change the world woman. And from hiding-from-ourselves-and-the-world names like “just a mom” or “only an admin.” or “too old for …….. woman.”

Often such names describe who or where we’ve been, but not where we’re going.

Margaret J. Wheatley

A recent story from my wise woman friend Andrea Mathieson reminded me that a few years ago I guided a class of mine through a visualization experience where we asked our inner wise selves, “What is a name that calls you into your future life?”***

The results were … astonishing. Each woman stood and declared her new name – aloud – to the circle. With every declaration I witnessed women being born to the wholeness of themselves, to depths they hadn’t realized where there before.

That night the name that surfaced for me – and one that still rings a deep chord of truth in my bones – is “she who speaks Life.” “Life” being the deep, ancient, wild wisdom found in the tides and currents of the living systems all around us. (deep breath) I’m still awed each time I think about the name and the terrain it invites me to travel.

Awed and a little daunted, honestly. I live into the fullness of my name inconsistently because Impostor Complex and my oh-so-hyper critical voices jump up and down on the bed of my confidence and bounce me out of it regularly. (Insert resounding “thump!” And now you know why I read and reread a book titled “Perseverance.”)

So, loves, how does your heart feel about diving into the question “What is a name that calls you into your future life?” Intrigued?

***(This question is from Wheatley’s book Perseverance. A book I highly recommend checking out!)

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