Happy April Fools! April fools is all about people playing tricks on others, pranking others, and getting people to believe something different than their actual reality. This post is all about that and how people use your “names” to make you believe something about you that may not even be true! There are all kinds of legends and even spiritual references about how powerful a person’s name is. Hayao Miyazaki (the Japanese Walt Disney) said “The act of depriving (a person) of one’s name is not just changing how one (person) calls the other. It is a way to rule the other (person) completely.” and this is showing in his movie Spirited Away when the evil Yubaba takes the main character Chihiro’s name away enslaving her in a bathhouse (this is one of my favorite films). We’re going to be going over the power and meaning behind your name, and the ways others have tried to take that away and enslave you with a new identity.
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We usually think hard about the names we give things whether they are our pets or our children, but sometimes we are given other names that overshadow us and take us over.
I watched a show on Netflix recently called “Jailbirds” and it was a show featuring the women’s block of a prison. There was a woman named Megan “Monster” Hawkins (shown above) and she was fierce, not in the fashion kind of way but in the ‘might kill you’ kind of way. She had a tattoo above her left eyebrow that reads “Monster”. She said, “Yeah, people call me monster, cuz I got this nice side, but then I got this crazy side, this monster side”. As I watched this I started to think about names. Someone called her monster….and she embraced it. What if someone called her beautiful, or intelligent, or successful, or strong? I started to think about the names I’ve been given over my life that I have accepted as who I am and tattooed on my heart, names like stupid, vain, angry, crazy, and caretaker. None of them were good names and yet I embraced each one. I grew up thinking I was stupid, angry, vain, crazy and most importantly to be a good person and cancel all those names out I had to be a caretaker until I burned out.
My actual name wasn’t much better. My middle name “was” Lee, a family name passed down on my father’s side. My father’s side of the family never did anything noteworthy. My grandfather was an alcoholic and my father was abusive. For me, the name Lee was linked to alcoholism, depression, being a loser and expecting the worst from life, and until recently…until I started renaming myself, that was exactly what I got!
How many people are given beautiful loving names as infants and then have those names slowly taken away and switched with something that is NOT them, their failings and weaknesses. We become “difficult”, “ugly”, “angry”, “loser”, “monster” or in the case of people in jail, their name becomes their crime. People want to know more about “what they’re in for” rather than who they are! Technically we are all in jails of our own making which made this documentary even more thought-provoking for me. Our minds imprison us with negative thoughts, and we except the names of our failings…there really isn’t much separating us from the people in this show “Jailbirds”.
In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo says about their conflicting family’s last names “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and I would agree with this, except that rose’s that can’t hear or take in and adopt what their name is substituted with. If Juliet had been called “Dumbass Vain Bitch-For-Brains” perhaps she would have decided to have that tattooed over her eyebrows while in lockup instead of well…dying young…so I guess no matter what her life would have ended poorly (but it is Shakespeare after all), and that’s all besides the point. What names have people given YOU, that you have tattooed on your heart (or face)? What have you accepted about yourself as truth, that is a lie? What is your real name?
This was a question I encountered a lot in therapy. My identity from when I was a little child had been “caretaker”. I was expected to help my mother with my siblings, teach myself and my siblings (because I was “homeschooled” except most of the time I didn’t have someone actively teaching me like in a public school system), I was expected to help in my mothers home daycare, do chores, be perfect and get whatever my dad asked for (because he was too lazy to do it himself). When I didn’t understand something in school I was told by my father that I would be beaten up in a public school because I would have been held back for so many years (maybe I wouldn’t be held back if I had proper teachers?) but I quickly accepted the name stupid as part of my identity. It went on and on until my mother died and unwilling to take care of my father any more I decided to become estranged…a new name. An abandoner of one’s family…bad. I was now a Bad, Stupid, Angry, Caretaker Heather.
Estrangement was also good though because I started going over the years looking at what was mine, what was my family’s and what were names given to me by my family that were used to criticize or enslave me.
After moving to Massachusetts, I decided to start changing my middle name from Lee to Autumn. Why Autumn? For several reasons, I was born in October so it seemed fitting, but also because Autumn is a time of change…and death…of letting go and I am constantly in a process of allowing (or at least learning how to allow) things, thoughts, concepts, and opinions I have to change and die and opening up myself to something new. A name change is fine, but I also had to change mentally. I had to start going through those names others had given me and start taking back who I was.
The problem was, there were a lot of gaps in who I was. I was so young when my name started to be taken and substituted that often I found (and can still at times find) it difficult to know who “I” am. It takes time, patience, a LOT of compassion towards myself and the understanding that I am always creating and making me into me.
So for those of you reading this article, I’d like you to take a moment and think of the names that others have given you…and even some of the names you’ve given yourself and ask yourself if that’s really who you are. Are you a monster? really? Or is that a substitute name that was given to you to make you something weaker than who you are? You have the power to take back who you are, rename and remake yourself and become who you truly are…which is wonderful, beautiful, successful, powerful, and human. “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” ―
If you liked this article and would like to talk more about it just leave a comment below! If you want to be notified when I post another article, please SIGN UP HERE, and lastly, if you really enjoyed this post and would like to Buy Me a Coffee (help me keep this site up and running) Thanks! I hope this post has given you something positive to think about. Know that you are in charge or what you believe your name to be. You are beautiful, strong, healthy, happy and loving and you have the power to change your life into something great. Have a wonderful day. -Heather Astaneh