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The Power of a Name

Updated on May 1, 2013

What's in a Name?

Most of us use the names we were given at birth. Women then typically, but not always, change their names at marriage. These customs vary according to cultural and personal values. For example, some couples hyphenate their last names.

But what if we go deeper? What if we choose a name for ourselves?

This article could also inspire you when you are choosing names for your children.

What is the value of choosing your own name? Consider this: A name is something to live up to.

The Buddha is a name that means "The Awakened One." It was given to Gotama Shakyamuni 2550 years ago, and he accepted it.
The Buddha is a name that means "The Awakened One." It was given to Gotama Shakyamuni 2550 years ago, and he accepted it. | Source

Inspire Yourself With a Name

In some spiritual and religious traditions, we are given new names. For example, on my journey in Zen Buddhism, I've received four names. Each of them has been extremely powerful. And I've used each of them by seeing them as something to live up to.

My Buddhist names are: Clear Truth; Heart of the Heart; True Full Taste of Awakening; and Eternal Spring.

Each day, I can ask myself:

  • Am I living in integrity, so the Truth clearly shines through me?
  • Am I loving all that is, transforming my heart and being to pure Love from the very core?
  • Have I carried Awakening (Buddha) to the very depth and breadth of my being?
  • Am I allowing myself to be a presence, an environment, a season, in which all can be reborn new and beautiful?

Asking those questions, I use my name like a tuning fork. My name is a tuning fork, and I am a violin and also the violinist, tuning myself.

A tuning fork gives a pure, clear sound, but it is not very beautiful. But the tuning fork guides the violinist to tune the beautiful, complex violin to the right starting place, so all it's richness and beauty can sing out true.

My wife and I missed an opportunity over 25 years ago. As we were getting married, we considered taking on a new last name together: Wordsmith. We didn't want to fight that battle with parents and society, and we stepped back.

But we are Wordsmiths. Now, after 25 years of marriage, we are coming out as Wordsmiths, writing and publishing more and more. I think we might have done it a lot sooner if we'd given ourselves the name. It would have been a reminder to sing true to who we are, and not let our voices get drowned out in the confusion and noise of the world.

And now, we are affirming ourselves. I am a Wordsmith. My wife is a Wordsmith.

What name inspires you to be true to your Highest Self?


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    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks, Shella, for your thoughtful additions to this article. I'd known about Biblical name changes, but didn't think of them when I was writing this article. A friend of ours had parents who were going to name her Marie. But the moment she was born, they said, "This is a Molly!" She's been Molly ever since, except on her birth certificate.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country


      In Biblical tradition, names were often changed to signify a spiritual turning point. Abram became Abraham, Simon became Peter, Saul of Tarsus became Paul.

      My Mom wanted to call me Shelly, but thought that sounded too much like a nickname, so she named me Rochelle. They tried to call me Shelly, but a neighbor always said Shella-- and that's what stuck. Family members still call me Shella, but when I started school I became Rochelle to all my classmates and friends. I did take my husband's surname when I married, and it signified an important change in my life. I had a new identity, a new start.

      Your points are well-taken our names do influence our lives and probably influence the way we feel about ourselves.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you, Au Fait! It must be quite something to dislike your own name for your entire life. You can change your name by simply using a different one. I had a friend in high school who everyone knew as Layla. It was a small school (only 120 students), and I knew everyone's name. One day a man came and asked where his daughter Sarah might be. I told him that there was no Sarah in the school. I asked him his last name, and I told him there was a girl with that last name named Layla. It turned out that she gave herself a new name at school, and no one at home had ever known about it.

      Or, you can legally change your name by requesting the name change in court. Legally, in the US, anyone can use any name he or she wants to, as long as we're not using the name for criminal purposes.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I have different names on the Net depending on what I'm trying to accomplish. I have always hated my legal given name ever since I asked my brother what it was.

      My brother told me my name and I didn't think his answer was a name, and that he had misunderstood my question, so I asked him again what my name was. He said my name again and explained that what he had said was my name. I was perhaps 2. I said I wanted a different name and he said I couldn't have a different name.

      If it wouldn't be disrespectful to my mother I would have changed my name years ago. I don't know to what because it was never an option so I didn't spend a lot of time on it.

      Interesting hub.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you, Alexandria! Your question came just in time for the one-year anniversary of this hub.

    • alexandriaruthk profile image

      alexandriaruthk 4 years ago from US

      Wordsmith, I like it! True, a name is something to live up to! :) Awesome.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Certainly our names can limit us. Name-calling, as a part of bullying, is an obvious example. There are two sides to this. Socially, if there is prejudice, then someone named Goldberg (even if he's not Jewish) might run into trouble with anti-semitism. Or feelings against Arabs, Muslims, or people from the Far East might be triggered by their name.

      More importantly, our inner reaction to a name we are given or called can limit us. But we can do something about that. We begin with self-awareness. How do I feel when I am called, or I call myself this name? Or when I use this title or profession? If "I am an engineer" limits me to geekdom, then I can either release that feeling, or choose words that are healthier for me, such as "I am a creative designer working in engineering."

    • promaine profile image

      promaine 5 years ago from New York

      Voted up and Awesome. Love the idea of names (legal, online and avatars) as ways to shape ourselves and make our destiny. Can the opposite happen as well? Can names (labels) that limit us, and how can we avoid that? Paul

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you for listening!

      Creating an online avatar and name can be an inspiring way to test the waters of a new name. I use Eternal_Spring as my poetry handle on Twitter, and it gets me inspired to write haiku and gogyohka.

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 5 years ago from trailer in the country

      Interesting concept....people who use computers today are always changing or adapting a new name to themselves. I use "Listener" on here, because I feel I have been called to be a listener.