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Exploring the Psychology of Name Changes

There are a variety of situations in which changing your name from your legal birth name to something different makes sense. And while there are certain practical benefits to doing so, did you know that there’s a long list of psychological benefits associated with changing your name? 

The Psychology of Names

Your name is more than a combination of letters. And it’s not just an identifier or calling card that people can use to get your attention. A name is intimately intertwined with our sense of personal identity and self. From the time we’re just several months old, we recognize our names as part of who we are. Psychologists even go so far as to say our names can influence our behaviors, perceptions, and major life decisions. 

The Social Identity Theory posits that a significant portion of our self-concept derives from our membership in social groups, which includes our family names. Research also points to the fact that a change in one's name, particularly the surname, can lead to a reevaluation of one's self and social identity.

Just as your birth name impacts how you think, feel, and process the world, so does the process of changing your name. Changing a name can have profound psychological implications. If you lean into this process and are smart with your decisions, it can result in numerous benefits in different areas of your life.

The Process of Changing Your Name

The actual process of changing your name varies depending on where you’re located. In the United States, it involves petitioning a court and providing a valid reason for the desired change. Once a judge approves the request, the new name becomes the individual's legal name, which they use on all official documents and in all legal matters. This process usually involves filing paperwork, paying court fees, and possibly attending a court hearing – though the latter isn’t always necessary.

In the UK, changing your name is extremely easy and fast. You simply apply for a deed poll by filling out an online form and paying a small fee. The application is then processed and filed with the relevant agencies. Deed polls can be processed for children and adults, though the form is slightly different.

5 Psychological Benefits of Changing Your Name

As you explore the possibility of changing your name, here are several psychological benefits that should reinforce your choice:

  • Creating a New Identity: For those who want to make a fresh start or put something negative in the past, changing names can provide a strong emotional boost. People who have a history of trauma or abuse will often change names as a way of manufacturing a new beginning. It might sound silly to some people, but it really works.
  • Alignment with True Self: For people going through a gender transition, a name change can represent a significant step in aligning their identity with their true self. The new name can affirm their gender choice and contribute and lead to stronger self-esteem and confidence.
  • Personal Empowerment: Changing your name can be an empowering act, symbolizing the act of taking control of your life. It can also be a deeply personal and symbolic choice that reinforces your autonomy and self-determination.
  • Rebranding: As cheesy as it might sound, you are your own brand. (We each possess a unique brand specific to how we portray ourselves to others). A name change can serve as a form of personal rebranding.
  • Cultural or Spiritual Affiliation: In some cases, a name change helps people better align with their cultural, ethnic, or spiritual beliefs. This can foster a stronger sense of belonging and identity within a community or organization.

As you can see, there’s far more to a name than there initially seems. By changing your name to something you feel better suits you, you can enjoy a host of new benefits. 

Set Yourself on a New Path

Some people will say that a name is only a name. In other words, it’s nothing more and nothing less than a combination of letters. But as anyone who has gone through a name change can attest to, it means a lot more than that. If you’re looking for a new path forward, changing your name can open many doors. Make the decision that’s best for you and your family!

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