A name represents a lot. It represents the generations of people that have come before as well as the legacy that will carry on for generations to come.
How do you feel about your name?
Some studies suggest that liking your own name is predictive of well-being and happiness, and it may also positively affect your self-esteem. But sometimes your name affects how other people treat you. While we can understand the harm of assumptions, for the human mind it is a fast way to categorize a lot of information in a short amount of time because unfortunately a name is also a descriptor that allows people to make quick judgments and assumptions about us.
Reputation is what your name will mean to those who don’t know you, who spend almost no time thinking of you. It’s what you will get reduced to when you aren’t illuminated by love.
Reputation will rise and fall according to how closely we track or depart from the ideals of our society – and these tend to be pegged to financial success, sexual propriety, decorum, marriage, sobriety, the sanctity of family and the purity of children.
And how do I know this? On October 26th, 2010 – I made the front page of the Guelph Mercury Newspaper – that was the day I started to hate my name – that was the day the paper reported that I had been accused of sexually assaulting a co-worker.
In speaking our truth it is easy to be drowned out and not heard in a sea of voices but as author Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, joy, trust, intimacy, courage” – everything that brings meaning to our lives.”
Being accused of sexual assault is the least interesting thing about me and while I was never convicted the story almost crushed me. Not only did the story appear on the front page of the paper twice it is the number one thing that appears when you Google my name.
The story represents my own individual pain, hurt and anger especially when individuals who didn’t know me googled me before they met me and in judgement hung their opinions of me based on what they read online.
That story is a constant reminder that no one will ever see me as I am – that they will always qualify it with the way in which that story is written and the story then becomes more important than who I am.
The worst case scenario was a likely one. I spent years nervous to apply for a job or even go on a date. I was never sure how to address it. I was conflicted on whether to disclose it because I knew it was just a mouse click away. The question haunted me. Should I tell them? It never felt right. People who get to know me know that I am not that article and I wanted to give others the opportunity to know me before I said to them ‘This is what you will get if you Google me.’
The thing that made me feel the most helpless, was the lack of control. The Google results are just there, eternal, always reminding me of the cost, what lies behind me, what will always feel a little sad and bruised inside.
But the worst thing – the part of this story that I feared for 8 years – was my son – googling our name and reading the story before I had the courage to tell him myself.
When you are faced with adversity – instead of asking why am I going through this? Ask yourself what is this trying to teach me. Nothing that ever happens to us is wasted. Although I am familiar with pain and didn’t make it out unscathed I eventually choose not to be a victim to the story.
A few weeks before my sons 10th birthday he and I were walking home from the park when all of a sudden the Google Car drove past us – the universe clearly decided it wasn’t waiting for me any longer as without hesitation, my son said “You know Daddy, when you Google your name a lot of things come up.”
The gift for me was sharing the story that I feared telling. Because, like all great stories, when you focus on what is the lesson you will quickly move beyond the adversity. And what did I learn?
I learned that our identity is self-chosen. Other people may give us names and labels but our identity can only come from us. Our identity represents how we perceive ourselves and how we want others to perceive us.
Identity is a personal process that is complex and full and fluid where depending on the situation and circumstance what we call ourselves can change over time especially when what once resonated with us no longer does.
So I took the time to review my identity. I can’t change the past or what shows up in Google but I can ensure that the future will be nothing like it.
But today after 10 years of feeling like the underdog and hating my last name – it now represents the power of the journey that I have been on and everything that I have learned along the way:
Or C.A.H.I.L.L. – my last name…
Kevin T. Cahill is an award winning sales professional and consultant specializing in the art of managing change and achieving great results. As the founder of The Change Revolution, this international best selling author and speaker inspires men and women alike. As someone who has mastered the art of resilience and hope, Kevin’s philosophy as a clarity builder is strategic and results driven. Kevin’s passion is to equip individuals and organizations with a renewed sense of clarity and excitement, knowing that positive change will bring about positive gains. His exciting creation The Change Revolution offers a winning blueprint for navigating through change and achieving success.
Speaking inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-836-7989.