TEDActive Name BadgesWhat’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

I got to thinking about names, labels, and identity during the TEDActive conference. During the advance online registration process I had some angst about which identity to share on my name badge. Should I be food blogger, experience consultant, TEDx curator, author? And why?

As I filled out the registration fields that would create my badge, I wrestled with how to present myself, aware that my motivations ranged from honesty to a desire to impress. Did I want to start my conversations explaining my current business, which is more interesting to others than it is to me? Or lead with my foodie passion? Or have the chance to talk about my book?

Ultimately I went with my paying gig.

When I arrived at check-in, there it was, big and bold. The photo which had seemed so flattering turned out to be a poor choice, and within a day I had marked up my badge to add the other information that was lacking.

It wasn’t until the party on the last night where I realized I wasn’t alone in this challenge. I sat down next to a lovely woman without a visible badge. I’ll call her Allie. Allie said, “I put my badge away because I’m embarrassed. I’m just a stay-at-home mom. My sister brought me. I didn’t know what to put on my badge.” She sheepishly pulled out her badge to show me. It read:

Allie Smith
Stay-at-home mom

Ouch. I was sad and embarrassed for her, and did my best to assure her that raising great humans was an incredibly worthy task, as important as being a CEO or a venture capitalist. But in this charged atmosphere of accomplishment, I felt my words ring hollow.

We talked about the incredible kid scientists we’d seen, and how maybe her kids would be on the TED stage one day. We talked about how cool it was to be here, and how overwhelming and daunting to meet so many high-powered people.

Her sister—also a gluten-free eater—joined us and we had a fantastic time. It was one of my favorite chats of the conference and I hope to stay in touch with them both. But the whole name badge situation bothered me, and I continued to feel sad for her.

Of course the registration process should be improved. Perhaps it could focus on “what are you passionate about?” instead of fields for companies and titles. Perhaps they could add a preview feature, so you could fix things before it went to print.

Or perhaps we could re-think how we value people whose primary job is raising or educating our kids.

What do you think? Have you ever stressed about about a name badge?

Today’s post is part of our mission to help you rebuild your health through food and lifestyle choices. Look for posts on Mondays featuring gluten-free, sugar-free recipes made with healthy plant-based ingredients, Tuesday reviews, Wednesday essays, Thursday how-to’s, and Friday giveaways (when available).