The Identity Challenge!


When I was a child, my mother’s best friend changed her name from Ginny to Gina. Born as Virginia, she had outgrown the innocent nickname, which then felt too small, too girlish for this feminist fully grown woman.

It took me a long time to adjust, and I secretly resented the change. Where was the lady I had known in my ten years of life?! Who was GEE-NAH anyway? I corrected myself with misgivings for a good year. Yet, today, I barely recall “Ginny” at all. Gina is stronger, and more sophisticated, which she had always been in my memory. Changing her name to Gina was brave, and she must have known her worth. She understood that our discomfort was not her problem.

Then I changed my last name, due to four marriages and divorces, exactly eight times, back and forth, back and forth, until many people would ask, “What is it now? I can’t keep up!” Sometimes, when an old last name is still on old business accounts, I cringe a bit. Sometimes an old student will call out an old name, and my internal response is a direct read on how much peace I have gained. I have learned to graciously correct them, and keep my humor about it. What can I say? I am willing to change; there is no shame in it.

At the end of my teaching career, I began to correct kids on the use of MRS. when I had been Ms. all along. I guess Gina wore off on me. My marital status is no big secret, but if men can hold their autonomy, so can I.

The LGBTQQIP2SAA Community seems to have sprung a leak on the dams of gender identity, but more power to them. This is quite the learning curve for me. Yet, I work to understand and respect that these people are serious about the image they promote. It is important that what may seem simple to me, is simply not. Apparently, my ignorance is once again challenged.

Additionally, I sat in court a few years ago as a witness to the name change of my old friend Nate, who became En. When a mutual acquaintance made a public joke of En’s new name, I could see that the man had little regard for the depth of En’s new identity. It made me sad and also angry.

I noticed in the last year that my choice to change my name to Isa Glade, from the blandness of Kim Pauline Thompson, has brought a new wave of discomfort. I hope to keep my legal name, but promote the affection I feel when people say, EYE-SAH! It has never been easy to share Kim with 50 million others, both first and last and gender neutral as well. Nothing unique is happening. I treasure Pauline after my great-grandmother who was a writer like me, a woman I loved and admired. Thompson bears a link to a father I barely knew, so the link was something of a reminder that he did in fact matter.

Nonetheless, Isa Glade came from the origins of my spiritual path, one that transformed me into the Celtic Witch, artist and woman I am today. Spirituality is indeed the most important part of my life. Even the word “witch” is powerfully misunderstood, as it was a perceived threat to certain domains, and it took me a while to come out of the broom closet and truly own it. I am the 11th child of my father’s 14 offspring, and Isa is the 11th of the ancient runes. It has the icy quality of stillness, and the capacity to melt into springs of renewal. Glade is a middle name given to many of my family members, and the forest opening seems fitting for the warm solitude I have grown to enjoy. Isa tells the world that my identity has changed, and I really like the way it feels when a new friend has no idea that any other name exists. They see me more as who I am now than what others maintain, some version of how they once knew me.

A lot of people still call me Kim, mostly because I have not demanded they recognize my new identity. Sometimes I think they feel affection for how they already knew me. I love that younger person, Kim, and all she had endured. I love her because she is a part of me. Yet, it is entirely true, I prefer Isa. Isa is how I see myself. And who wouldn’t want to be seen as such? I suppose I will have to find a way to declare to the world how I wish to be addressed. People tend to rise to the expectations set before them.

5 Ways to Build Self-esteem

People tell me I am confident. Brave. Self-assured.

I often wonder how they would see me if they knew what sorts of things I think about, how I worry about being rejected, especially when I am being my authentic self. Or how often I have felt misunderstood. Or that I largely believe I will be betrayed. I wonder if they thought I was brave when I was terrified to simply go get an oil change, and how I wish my bird legs were more athletic. I wonder what I do to create an image of self-worth when so much of the time I have to work at a fair estimation of Isa.

Generating a solid sense of self-worth takes work. It doesn’t just happen. I was not born with it. Self-esteem is not built because one decides he wants it. We must build it with action. Esteemable acts. It is true, I have a solid sense of my worth today, but it isn’t a permanent experience. I have to work at it daily, sometimes hourly. We are not marble statues after all. We are fluid and evolving and impacted by current variables.

How we see ourselves will influence every single iota of our time, our perception of others, and every choice we make – from the brands we purchase to our general attitudes to the people we love and how well we love them.

Therefore, I have been vigilant in the practices that have helped me along the way. There are a few crucial acts of esteem that prove effective in building self-esteem.

  1. Choose your friends and time with family carefully. Spend time with those who lift you up and especially those who respect you. For many years I chose poorly. Not always, for I have had some great friends, but often enough to keep me down in the dirt. Each time I shared something for which I was proud, my old friends would take it upon themselves to knock me down. If I used big words, they would roll their eyes. They felt that I would benefit from knowing I was not important. They did not honor my need to be important. These sorts of friends are not your friends. They are competitive and measure themselves by remaining just a little bit better than you. They make jokes at your expense. They tell you in subtle ways that you think too much of yourself whenever you begin to feel like maybe you are worth something. They lecture you, or dismiss you, and they expect you to behave in ways that serve them. Get rid of them. Cast them off. It is actually better to be alone than to be with them. Pay attention to those who listen and validate and guide you with compassion. With whom do you feel safe? With whom do you trust to remind you of your worth? Do they support your choices, or do they control your choices? Regarding family, be sure you are not seeking love from those who want to keep you in a box, or expect you to make choices that do not serve you. Stick with those who recognize your growth and respect your autonomy. Sometimes family revolts when we change and no longer play familiar roles. Family can make your life about them. Well, you are in fact that one who has to live it. So be sure it is what you really want. This “push back” is not yours to fix. Demand that people honor your choices when you know the choice is your true calling.
  2. Practice saying no. Be selfish enough to care for yourself. One of the greatest leaps in my esteem has come with my willingness to tell people that I will not do something just because they want it. I have determined that my needs are just as important as theirs. Additionally, I feel less compelled to justify it. People don’t actually want a huge explanation as to why you will not appease them. Keep it simple and show up for them when you can do so without harm to you.
  3. Make a list of the internal things you like about yourself and read it aloud daily. When I first tried this, it was difficult. I was afraid there was nothing. I was afraid of being too big. Today, I can list and recite openly those things that are simply true. I am reliable. I have a keen sense of humor. I take risks. I give honest feedback. I take care of my body. I am smart. I am caring. I am curious about others. I am fun! External things are great, like being popular or pretty, yes. But the internal stuff is not dependent on anything outside of our true nature.
  4. Find a spiritual path that constantly encourages your divine nature. As you struggle, and we all do, your higher power will be all around you and even inside of you to balance your challenges with comfort and power. When I am feeling worried or insecure, even inferior, I imagine my goddesses whispering in my ear, holding my hand, sitting next to me. Sometimes I imagine a giant span of wings attached to my back, or a crown of sparkling light over my head. I tap into the notion that I am a magical being with a soulful depth of power. I am divine in and of myself because I was created by a divine source. That source runs in my blood and sits in my bones. It emanates off my skin. I decide that I am going to move about in this way because it helps me feel I am worth knowing.
  5. Lift up those around you. The fast track to self-esteem is to celebrate the strengths and wins of those around you. Show them you are not threatened by their power. Recognize them. Compliment them. Soothe them. Help them feel loved. Choosing to actively inspire and appreciate another’s gifts and success is setting the stage for mutually supportive relationships. If those around you meet this behavior with distrust or dismissal, pay attention to whether or not they really have the self-worth to match you. They will either slowly get on board, or they are not someone you can count on with regularity.

Loving yourself will bring a beauty and an energy to your life and to others. As spiritual leader Marianne Williamson suggests, “Your playing small does not serve the world.” We are born to shine, so let’s get to it.