Own Your Truth

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a Kimberly. In my mind, Kimberly was everything I aspired to be (Ah! The fantasies of youth!). But for years it seemed I was destined to be a Kim.

Now there’s nothing wrong with Kim. I know a lot of wonderful Kims. But I never felt like a Kim. Kim was someone else. I felt like an imposter-Kim. Yet, everyone, I knew called me Kim.

I remember in college I said to one of my professors, “I really wish people would call me Kimberly.” And he said, in his typical snarky way, “Kimberly?! Good God! You’re not a Kimberly!” And so, I tucked my Kimberly-dream away. Who was I to be a Kimberly?

So often we turn our identity over to other people. How they define us becomes more important than how we define ourselves. Their opinions of us—of who we are and who we should be—drown out our internal voices. We lose the ability to own ourselves.

But what’s the price we pay? If every day we feel as if we must pretend to be someone we’re not, how does that impact our ability to show up powerfully in this world?

I think one of the most important things we can do is honor the person we truly know ourselves to be. For how can we fully show up and bring our gifts and make an impact if we are diminishing our power by disowning our truth? We can’t.

Your biggest job in this world is to know yourself, own your truth, and take responsibility for the impact that you make.

So after college, when I moved to Seattle, I emerged from my Kim-cocoon and started to introduce myself as Kimberly. My confidence increased ten-fold. I knew I could count on myself to own my truth. That is the birthplace for personal power.

Today, many, many, many years later, I stand tall in Kimberly’s shoes. They’re really not any better than Kim’s but they’re mine, and that makes all the difference.

Your power lies in being who you truly are. Give yourself permission to own your truth.

©OnStage Leadership


Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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  1. Kimberly would be my preference for you, and you probably know well the reason why. For whatever reason, I always prefer a person’s given, proper name, though I have never seen fit to ask anyone to call me Thomas. I don’t seem like a Thomas, do I? As soon as I get to know someone a little better, I usually head to their proper name. To me, it seems more endearing… and I do get retorts of “Only my mom calls me that, and only when I am in trouble…” I also know that from personal experience, people are very protective of their names. Someone once told me that one of the most important things that you can do, when beginning a relationship, is get their name right. We named our daughter Melanie, and everyone (including her mom and I) call her Mel, except when I call her “Tootsie” – and only I get to call her that.

    This reminds me of the story about the man who had a dog, and when asked why he didn’t have a name for it… he replied “The dog’s got no legs, he wouldn’t come when I called him anyway.”

    I love all that you put out in the world for us to chew on… you know that. I especially love the part about not allowing others to define us, we often do. Our treasured friend Sarah Elkins teaches us so much, and one of her “go to’s” is about not freezing people in time, whereby we come to define them by a single interaction with them. Thus our names. Our names define us as unique individuals – there is only one of us, and our names help us establish part of who we are. You can rest assured that you will always be a reminder of my home town, but well beyond that, of all the goodness, joy, thoughtfulness and love you bring to the world with every single thing that you do. I don’t want to be a “what he said” kind of guy, but Jeff Ikler, as he so often does, nailed it.

    Great piece here, Kimberly… you done it again.

    • You and Jeff Ikler make a good team in my book, Tom. I love that insight you attributed to Sarah, Tom, about not freezing people in time based on a single interaction..I’m going to chew on that today…. And I love sharing the same name as your hometown! We will forever be connected!

  2. Oh, you send me down a rabbit hole, Kimberly.

    First, I never knew any Kimberlys or Kims back in “ye ole country” except for my neighbor was a Kim, a boy 4 years my senior. So I really have no idea about which connotations these names have – except now from your description which seem to put you squarely in the Kimberly camp.

    I was about to write that this name abbreviation in my experience is such an American thing. “Just call me Bill.” It might be a British thing, what do I know, but I just didn’t recall it being a Danish thing.

    And then it hit me like a hammer: My aunts Lis and Kis and Hanne and Janne and… whose full Elizabeth and Kirsten and Johanne and Marianne were apparently to long to say. Or was something else at play? Because I honestly don’t recall a single incident of any uncles not being given their full name. Among my school friends a few boys might have a nickname, but never a diminutive of their names. Only some girls had that. How is that for gender equality? Oops.

    How hard can it be to use the names people introduce themselves by? If a wife always refers to her husband as David or Peter or Christopher, why would you think You should call him Dave or Pete or Chris? It feels like a forced familiarity to show that “I am oh, so close a buddy (that I don’t even need to consider what you say to me.)”

    • Oh that’s interesting Charlotte! I’ve never considered how the gender thing might play a role! I’ve known one male Kim and he was a super nice, successful business guy. I suspect, having grown up in the US, where Kim isn’t often a male name, he had a lot to overcome, which likely made him stronger. It’s interesting to think about whether we’d be different people had our parents named us something else.

  3. Oh my gosh, this resonates so much, Kimberly! For the first 18 years of my life, I was Missy. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I could be Melissa. I remember writing Melissa on all my papers in school, but it never changed. I asked my family to call me Melissa. Nope. I was Missy.

    I love how Jeff Ikler put it in his comment: “You continue to inspire and teach. You always make me think. My shoes and I have been through a lot together. They are metaphorically scuffed. The laces break – often as I get older – and sometimes I need to replace the soles and heals. But I’m hanging on to them.”

    All of that… yes, yes, YES!! Rock on, Kimberly!

    • Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine calling you Missy! Who is that?!

      My family still (mostly) calls me Kim or Kimmy (my brother is the only person on the planet who gets away with that!). I think there are a lot of out there who have grown into ourselves over the years.

      I remember, when one woman introduced me to a group as “Kim,” (which really stinks, because the whole group then calls you Kim) and I politely said, “I actually go by Kimberly,” and she got mad at me! “Well SooooooooRRY, your highness!” she said! It was a yucky moment.

      We get trained by others not to speak out for ourselves.

      I can’t tell you how many Kims I’ve met who have told me that they wish they could go by Kimberly but just never felt like they could. Or Patty’s. Or Lizzie’s. The list goes on. It’s interesting that so many of us feel more comfortable sacrificing our own identities to make other comfortable.

      You are my favorite Melissa on the planet! Now and forever more!

  4. Kimberly — I don’t know if you’ll remember this, but I think the first question I ever asked you was “Do you prefer ‘Kimberly’ or ‘Kim’?” I’ve always tended to assume the diminutive form of someone’s name, I think probably because I never wanted to be called ‘Jeffrey.’ When teachers took attendance on the first day of class – ‘Jeffrey? Jeffrey ICK-lur’ – I always felt like I should be wearing a bow tie.

    Anyway, I love you, Kimberly Davis. You continue to inspire and teach. You always make me think. My shoes and I have been through a lot together. They are metaphorically scuffed. The laces break – often as I get older – and sometimes I need to replace the soles and heals. But I’m hanging on to them.

    • I love you right back, JEFF. I do believe that may have been the first question you asked me, which was so thoughtful. You’re not alone, friend. Most people instinctively shorten names and even I find myself doing it on occasion. Like with everything, thoughtfulness usually is born out of personal experience. I wish I could pull a Samantha from Bewitched (who also went by Sam, if you remember – she was clearly much more flexible than I am), and just wiggle my nose and whisk you down to Costa Rica for a nice lovely lunch. I think it would be the perfect remedy for your COVID-worn-soul, my friend. Sending a big hug your way! I love your shoes, scuffs and all!

    • Thank you for describing how you think about diminutives, Jeff, and your motivations based on not wanting to be called Jeffrey.

      Very thoughtful people really try to use my son’s full name rather than an abbreviation because they remember vaguely that his parents call him by his full name. So they call him Christopher because in their heads he IS Chris – although their parents never called him Christopher as his name is Christian. And that is not much used over here; some have even told him that it is not a name.