Do you know that nicknames have impact on your personal growth? Maybe it’s not something where you often think about, but it’s important to say someone’s real name. So you know why? Because it shows respect and that you see the whole person. And yes, I know that a nickname is mostly used with love. But still it can be something that at one day feels not comfortable anymore for the person who is called with that nickname. Maybe conscious, but at least unconscious. It will be a hindrance for potential growth.
Using nicknames or variations on the original name is a cultural thing. Probably in the biggest part of the world. And mostly with positive intentions. It starts when someone is a child. A lot of time people use diminutives. In the Netherlands it is common to ad “je” (or a variation of that) at someone’s name. It means something like little ……. Mostly it is used for the smaller ones, but not always. It is used with love and don’t have the intention to let someone feel small. But still it can have impact, although someone is maybe not aware of it. Your subconscious mind is still hearing every time that you are little.
I made a mistake
I also used it, for example as a football youth coach. And I also used variations on names. One of my pupils was named Mohammed. People with this name are often called Mo or even Mootje (Little Mo). So he was also called like that by his teammates and friends. And I did it too. At one day he said “my name is Mohammed”. And later on he repeated that to me. But I continued calling him Mo. A few years later I realized that it was a mistake from my side. Nowadays I will try to respect someone’s full name, always. Even someone is not asking specific for it.
Different types of nicknames
The same for nicknames. There are of course a lot of different ways nicknames are used. First there are names that are used to tease, although this is a minority. This category is most likely to avoid. Second there is the category of nicknames that are used with love. They can come from different origins. They are based on a situation that once happened. Or emphasize a character trait of someone (it doesn’t matter if it is really a character trait of that person). Then there are the nicknames based on a comparison with a “(famous) person. There are also nicknames that are picked randomly. And last, nicknames can origin based on a variation of someone’s full name.
Why I don’t use them anymore
What makes that I don’t want to use them anymore? The other person has to relate himself to his or her nickname. Maybe consciously, but at least subconsciously. It gives meaning to a part of someone’s identity. For nicknames based on someone’s characteristics or body it’s quite obviously. If, for example the nickname is related to someone’s obese, the person will always be aware of it. Probably it will be harder for this person to change their body, because it’s part of their assigned identity. It is also possible that it is a motivation to change if someone is not happy with it. But even then it is a topic for him or her. The change came by frustration and the relationship with weight will stay.
And even if it is a really ‘positive’ nickname it decreases the chance to change or show different behavior. For example, if it is related to someone’s loveliness it makes it harder to behave less lovely. What can also be very useful for someone sometimes. Or at least someone deserves the space to experience with their behavior. If someone’s nickname is related to their intelligence, there is less space for not knowing. Or maybe to listen to feelings, because there is always the focus on the brain.
Space for growth
In the given examples I valued what is positive or negative, but it doesn’t matter if something is positive or negative. It is about the space for growth or just to experience with other behavior. The same for variations on someone’s name or calling someone by their last name. In it is a meaning of someone’s identity. Or that name is creating a meaning for the other. By using someone’s real name (or how a person wants to be called) you give space for the whole identity. You acknowledge the whole person and the space for growth and experiencing with behavior.
What are your experiences?
I don’t want to ask you to not use nicknames anymore. Or to feel guilty about it. But I want you to invite to think about the nicknames peoples use or used for you. What do they mean to you? Have you always felt positive about them? And do you still identify with all of them? I want you to be truly honest to yourself, even if feelings are slightly negative. Your subconscious knows it. Just take a moment for it and feel what your nicknames mean to you and if you like that. And how would life be for you without any nickname.