I had a funny moment yesterday that got me thinking about our need for names.
About half-way through my usual 4-mile run in the neighborhood, I saw a dad playing in the yard with his son. Just as I thought to myself, “Awww, how sweet,” I heard the dad say to his boy, “Hey look, here comes a jogger.”
My delight at catching a glimpse of quality father-son time suddenly turned to shock. All I could think was, “I am not a jogger. I am a runner. Not just a runner, a long-distance runner.” (It went on, but you get the gist.) Fortunately, my filter worked (a rare thing these days), and I stopped myself from launching into a diatribe about (what I perceive to be) the differences between a runner and a jogger.
When I told this story to my running group this morning, they knew exactly where it was going before I even finished and immediately empathized with my dismay at being called a “jogger.” But, then, I began to wonder: What’s in a name?
Do we think that we need a certain name to convey the ‘right’ image? Does having the ‘right’ name really serve our best interest? Or does it make us lazy and get in the way of us simply being ourselves?
Case in point: When I started my career, I decided to go by my full name, Elizabeth. As a practical matter, there were already several Beths in the office so it seemed easier. But, on some level, I also thought Elizabeth sounded more professional, more experienced, more mature than Beth. (And, there was the added benefit of not constantly telling people to call me something other than the formal name that’s printed on my business cards and signature line.)
Looking back, I’m convinced that this caused more harm than good. You see, I now have a different name depending on who you ask, which has become quite confusing the more my professional life and my personal life overlap. “Elizabeth” morphed into a separate personality that my closest friends and family didn’t know, which is never good. And, as I’ve grown more and more stubborn comfortable in my own skin, I’m having the darndest time getting everyone to just call me Beth.
Why I am sharing this personal tale? Because hindsight is 20/20 and I thought it would be nice if someone benefited from this lesson: It doesn’t matter what people call you. It only matters that you are yourself.
Let people call you a jogger. Who cares? You were out there, weren’t you? Just like I didn’t need a fancy, multi-syllable, professional-sounding name to be a lawyer, you don’t need people to call you a “runner” to know that you are, in fact, running.
So, the next time I run into someone who calls me a jogger, I will simply relax and smile. Maybe I’ll ask if they are a jogger, too. I might even make a new jogging friend.
P.S. If you actually whether people call you a runner or a jogger, you’re a runner. 🙂