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I recently read this little book called The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. It’s about a chicken named Sprout and in the first few pages you learn that she named herself. When I read that she’d given herself her name I had to pause and think about it.

It is so rare in our culture to find people who are comfortable with naming themselves. I don’t mean literally naming themselves, of course. But figuratively, people have a hard time saying, “I am _______” without having some sort of outside justification or verification or authentication.

If someone says they are a teacher, we assume they have an education degree. When someone says they are an artist, we expect they have training in art. When someone says they are a mother, we expect they have a child that makes them so.

This outside naming serves a purpose for us as a community of people. Nobody wants to go to a doctor who is not licensed by a medical board. Nobody wants a lawyer who hasn’t passed the bar exam. Although if we stop and think we have to acknowledge that there are people with the skills to heal who did not go to medical school. And it’s possible to get good legal advice from non-lawyers.

Expecting outside verification of our inner selves has its downsides. It can limit us from owning the truth about ourselves and even from discovering who we really are.

I tell people that I am a writer. Now I do have some training, an English minor, and a couple degrees that sort of rely on me being a decent writer, but I did not go to school for writing. People have said I’m a good writer, and that’s nice. But the reason I self-identify as a writer is because I know that in my heart of hearts that is who God made me to be. I love to write. I need to write. I’m a writer. I don’t need a degree, an exam, or really anyone else to agree with me.

I wish that more people owned their right to self-examine and then self-proclaim who they are. How many more artists, writers, healers, and pastors would we have if we didn’t have such hang ups about needing proof? How many more people would be excelling at their work because they are doing something they know they are good at that they chose for themselves? How amazing would it be to raise up children who feel free to decide what they like and pursue it instead of feeling compelled to take the outlined classes so they can get a piece of paper that allows them to be something that will hopefully help them earn a living. Ugh. Doesn’t it sound terrible when you think of it that way? I’ve been a historian since I was in 4th grade. I didn’t need a History degree to make me one.

Think about it, who are you? What are you? What are your strengths? What are you naturally good at? How could naming yourself help free you?