My name is Robert. French pronunciation, with emphasis on the second syllable: Robèrt. Those of you that know me probably know me as Rob or Robert (English pronunciation). From now on please call me Robèrt. Let me explain why.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

My parents named me Robert, pronounced the French way (Robèrt). Before my fourth birthday we moved to Africa. English was the main language, and my name changed to the English pronunciation. Only my close family still called me Robèrt. I was a happy little boy, and having two names didn’t bother me.

Me in Ghana (many years ago)

Out of africa

When I was 11 years old, we moved back to The Netherlands. New classmates and teachers asked me my name. I chose to go with the English version. I don’t remember it being a deliberate choice at the time. I do know that the changes between Ghana and The Netherlands felt huge, and I badly wanted to fit it. Perhaps the French pronunciation was too unusual, made me stand out more?

In The Netherlands I soon found that I had two choices, neither of which I liked. Either use the English pronunciation and accept that people would write Robbert. Or insist on correct spelling and accept the Dutch pronunciation, which sounds more like Row-bert (with emphasis on the first syllable).

I don’t care

When I finished my study I went to live in the U.K. for a few years. There I met up with two people called Rob, and soon I was calling myself Rob as well. Was I trying to fit in again? When I moved back to The Netherlands, I wasn’t sure what to call myself. When people would ask me how to pronounce my name, I often said I didn’t care. I’d sometimes jokingly say they could call me anything except “Hey you”.

I struggled with my name, but I never thought much of it. Then, recently during one of my experiments, I had a sudden realization. Perhaps not being clear about my name affected my self-confidence in some way. A few weeks later at my first Biodanza evening, I had an idea. Could it be that by not accepting the name my parents had given me, I was also not accepting myself?

For more than 50 years I have rejected my real name. Maybe by doing so I have also rejected myself.

Perhaps accepting my real name will help me accept myself and all my quirkyness.

Je suis Robèrt

After that realization, I’ve gradually started introducing myself als Robèrt. It felt easier to do with new people. I felt uncomfortable telling people I already know that they should now stop calling me Robert. In fact, I still feel uncomfortable with that, although it is getting better. Sometimes I forget, and blurt out my old name. I immediately regret that and feel angry with myself. But more and more I am introducing myself as Robèrt.

Despite my fears, nothing bad has happened. Most people have been curious, interested, and supporting. They apologize if they forget and use my old name. It’s been a great encouragement to me. So far only 1 person that matters to me has told me she doesn’t like Robèrt. I can live with that. I just need to decide if I will insist people use my new name. Probably not just yet; that still feels like too big a step after not caring at all. I do expect to become more insistent about my name as I get used to it.

Whenever I introduce myself as Robèrt I feel good about myself. Proud that I dare to be different. Proud that I dare to be me. It fits my growing self awareness and self acceptance. Being Robèrt helps me stand my ground on other issues as well.

Robert in France

There are still times that I stumble, that I miss a chance to use my real name. And there are still times that I don’t stand my ground. That’s ok. I don’t have to be perfect. I can be just me.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

Father, learner, coach & agilist. I'm passionate about nature and helping people become their best selves.