The names we call ourselves

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The artist formerly known as Kim 🙂

When my husband wants to make me crazy, he calls me “Kim”. I have repeatedly told him this name is to be used only in the event of an emergency, such as finding himself in a hostage situation or some other unlikely scenario. “Kim” is our distress code, not to be confused with my full name by throwing it around willy-nilly with everyday use.

The problem with him calling me by my childhood nickname is two-fold.

First, my sister-in-law and I share the same exact name–Kimberly Ann Coyle. I know, it’s weird. And so to distinguish ourselves, I’m called Kimberly and she’s called Kim. Sharing the same first, middle, and last name with someone I know in real life is bizarre on every level. Kim is fun-loving and business-savvy and adventurous.  I am not, and will never be confused for someone with this type of personality. Kimberly Ann Coyle is a bookworm, a writer, and a little bit crazy.  (Side note: I might consider exploring this side of my crazy–an extreme desire for individuality and a possessive nature–in counseling.)

Second, and more importantly, I went by the name Kim all throughout my childhood and early adult years. Kim is the name I associate with the girl I used to be, the one who never knew what she wanted, who never understood the world at large or her place in it. Wrapped up in the name Kim are all of my childhood fears–fear of rejection, of risk, of failure. Kim is me at my worst, me when I remain in hiding. She lives with her nose pressed up against a glass box of rules and expectations, longing for freedom.

“Kim” is not who I am today.

When my husband calls me Kim, I’m reminded of who I was before, and I have longed for that girl to disappear, to be buried and then to rise again as this evolved, new creation. I want to forget her, to leave the younger me and her common name behind without another glance over my shoulder. But, the more I attempt to distance myself from her, the more I realize, I can’t rip her name off like a label.

How do we learn to love our former selves when they don’t resonate with who we are today? I think first, I must accept that Kim is not someone different than me, she is Kimberly in the becoming. I want to look on her with kindness, accepting her story as the cornerstone upon which God built the foundation of my grown-up life. She is the story on which every other story depends, the once upon a time to my mostly happily ever after.

I have felt anger at my younger self for her choices, her cluelessness, her indecision. And yet, she lives on.  As much as I try to hide her, she keeps coming back. I want to look at the youthful me with kindness, with so much grace for her sad, rule-bound, indecisive self. I want to welcome her back into my life like an old friend. Welcome, come, sit, see who you are when you live into the fullness of your name. Kim became Kimberly–the woman she never knew she wanted to be.

If you find yourself in a similar place today, looking back at the 1.0 version of you, would you give her grace? She is imperfect, she is becoming, she is an important part of the story of you.

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What do you call yourself today?

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  • Liz Smith

    Very interesting, Kimberly! As a young woman starting out in the working world, I had people call me “Elizabeth,” I think to make myself sound more grown up and professional when, in retrospect, I think I should’ve been more focused on creating a more authentic me and having some fun! Today I introduce myself as “Liz” and somehow it feels more freeing. Now that I am an actual “grown up” there’s no need to pretend I’m someone I’m not or prove myself to anyone if I don’t want to. I am who I am, faults and all, take me or leave me!

    • I’ll take you either way:) I love that “Liz” feels more freeing to you. It’s funny how much of ourselves is tied to our name.

  • Sharon O

    this is so cute because my name is Sharon but my husband calls me Shary since we have three Sharons in the family with the same last name. When he calls me Sharon it sounds parental and formal. I go by Sharon in the professional world and friends and close ‘people’ know me as Shary. So I do understand this ‘situation’.

    • Three Sharons with the same last name?! Now that is confusing!

  • KimberlyAmici

    I love this. When I got my first job out of college the woman I worked for suggested I go by Kimberly. She said that it sounded more professional and sophisticated. I write Kimberly, introduce myself as Kimberly, but no one ever calls me Kimberly. Now when people ask, I say it doesn’t really matter… and honestly I am not sure if it does. However… you can call me Kim all you want but I don’t pair it with my last name. I hate they way it sounds. Please, use Kimberly instead. 🙂

    • I’ve always called you Kimberly! Probably because of my own complicated relationship with my name;) Ha!

  • First of all, that picture of you is FANTASTIC! Second, you are totally a Kimberly. Third, this is the story of my life. {But then you already knew that since we have twin brains.} I recently uncovered some old letters I’d written to myself {or God or the universe or something} back when I was in college. That poor, stressed-out girl. She hadn’t met Grace yet.

    Wonderful post. : )