"Perhaps we have an obsession with naming ourselves because for most of our lives we have been named by other people."
~ Angela Davis on Identity
There is power in naming something. Naming something acknowledges its existence. Naming is creation. So when others name us, they create us, our identity, the reality of us. Reclaiming that power is critical.
People may wonder and think I am being difficult in reclaiming my first name. But seventeen years ago, I took on the nickname Beni (misspelled at that) because I felt people could not say my name. I didn't want to be mocked. I wanted to fit in as best I could. I wanted to make things easier on everybody. So I became Beni.
I don't hate this person I became, nor do I cringe or wish it had been different. At the time, it is who I needed to be. I love that person. I am mentally kind to that person because it was a young, frail, scared child who did not want to suffer and found strategies to avoid pain. That was my way of doing it and there's nothing innately wrong with that. Self-preservation is human.
But I am happy that, thanks to Front Line Leaders Academy and Joel Silberman in 2008, I realized that I am beautiful. The person I am is beautiful. And unique. And I have a unique contribution to the world. And nothing represents that better than my name--my real name. Especially because in the US, Bernardita is painfully unique name.
Yes, it is the name my parents gave me… and upon moving here I made the choice--forced by circumstance--to become Beni. But there is something quite powerful in reclaiming my name… and all that it speaks with its ten long letters. Reclaiming my name is me taking ownership of myself, my life, my person. Reclaiming me is to reframe me… I am creating myself anew. And I am the one who defines me, not others, not those who can't say my name or a world that finds me strange.
Reclaiming Bernardita shows the world "here is this long-named, curious person," and I am imparting upon others great respect because I no longer think my name is too strange for them to say it. Instead, I give people credit for their ability to learn it.
I am not making things difficult--sharing who I am should not be a difficulty for anybody. I am sharing myself. I am being truthful to who I am. I am telling you, "this is me--no alterations."
Naming is critical. It creates realities. In 2008, I acknowledged I have power over the reality of myself that I present to others. Obviously, I knew I had it back in 1996, but what I didn't know is that I could expect the world to understand me as I am without making changes to fit the world's mold. Instead, I could value the world's ability to value … me.
And so I introduce myself to you. I am Bernardita. And we can now begin the business of sharing.
"The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing."
~ Pierre Bonnard