When I was a child, I used to daydream in third person. Back then, I didn’t like myself much, and I’ve often wondered whether I felt I didn’t deserve to be in my daydreams. In both real-life and the daydream world, I was an observer, not a participant. But even then, my daydreams always included one main character I identified with. She was the person I wanted to be – confident, popular, a natural leader. As I got older, my daydream worlds changed and evolved; sometimes plots were reworked, sometimes whole worlds were left behind and new ones created. And over time I found I was daydreaming more and more in first person. The main character was still basically the same, but now I was exploring what it was like to be her. I was seeing things from her perspective. I was acknowledging what had actually always been the case: she was an idealised version of me.
But she never had my name. Perhaps because I originally daydreamed in third person, that never struck me as odd. In the beginning, I didn’t realise she was me, so why should she have my name? But even after I started to identify with her, she still didn’t have my name. She had various different names over the years, but she became Kyla about ten years ago and the name stuck. She’s been Kyla ever since, through several major plot changes.
The other thing is, I’ve never connected with my birth name. Even as a little child, I always felt that the name wasn’t mine. I didn’t dislike it particularly, but it just never felt like it belonged to me. When people called me by my name, it always felt wrong, like they were talking to someone else. I never really associated that with the fact that my daydream self had a different name, because back then my daydream self was a different person.
And then, last year, I had a major mental health crisis. It felt as if the person I had been for most of my life had died. I’d spent my whole life suppressing my authentic self in a failed attempt to be what I thought the world wanted me to be. And last year I was forced to confront that. I let go of all the limiting beliefs and misguided assumptions that had been holding me back, and I started a journey to discover and connect with my authentic self. It’s been a transformational journey, and I’m not all the way there yet, but one thing has become clear. The idealised version of me that I become in my daydreams is actually the real me. My alter ego isn’t some fictional idea of what I would have liked to have been, she’s the person I should have been, the person I would have been if life hadn’t got in the way, and the person I’m going to try to be from now on.
Once I realised that, keeping my birth name became untenable. Every time someone used it, it felt like I was being pulled back into the past, back to the false self that I’d projected onto the world for so long. And I didn’t want to go back. I couldn’t move forward while I still had a name that tied me to the past. So I decided to start using my daydream name in the real world. Because when people call me Kyla, it feels affirming, it feels authentic, I feel seen. And it’s a constant reminder that I’m finally becoming the wonderful person that I always had the potential to be.
I was nervous about changing my name, obviously; it’s a big decision. But the reaction from my friends and family has been better than I expected. People who’ve known me for years have made the switch effortlessly. If anyone thinks it’s weird to change my name at my age, they haven’t said so. I’m just so excited to finally have a name. A name that feels like it belongs to me.
I don’t think most daydreamers will want, or need, to change their name. But I do think we should all reflect on the relationships we have with our alter egos. Who do you become in your daydreams, and where does that person come from? Are you allowing your authentic self to show up in the real world, or, like me, have you repressed your authenticity so that the only place you can truly be yourself is in your daydreams? And if you can be awesome in your daydreams, why don’t you think you can be equally awesome in real life? Reflecting on questions like these might enable you to improve your real life in ways you never expected. Because our daydreams aren’t just figments of our imagination; they come from somewhere much deeper. And sometimes they carry messages that we would benefit from listening to.