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What to Do if You Hate Your Name

March 23, 2020

When you think about it, the way naming tradition works in many cultures around the world, including the western world, is quite interesting.

Your name plays a role in almost every aspect of your life. 

It’s what your friends, family, and colleagues use to communicate with you. Your name is on every single official document, like your driver’s license, passport, bank statements, tax documents, and many others.

If someone remembers your name, you feel good.

But even though your name plays such a vital role in your life, you get to have no say in choosing what it is.

Your parents give you a name based on their ideas, experiences, and perceptions. And as an adult, even if you don’t end up aligning with those ideas that inspired your name, you’re still stuck with it.

As it turns out, your name can affect how you view yourself, the choices you make, and how you perform in certain aspects of your life.

So, if you hate your name, it might have a significant impact on your life in a negative way. 

The good news is that, in the UK, you can legally change your name for any reason you wish. So, if you do hate your name, you don’t have to be stuck with it forever.

In this article, we’ll discuss how your name can affect various aspects of your life, how to pick a new name if you want a name change, and how to go about making your name change official.

How your name can affect your life

Your name can be a lot more than what people call you by. It has the potential to change your outcome in various areas of your life.

It may seem odd that we would behave a certain way based on our names, or others towards us, but there is some evidence to suggest that our names do impact how we interact with the world around us. 

Middle initial = intellectual?

If you have a middle initial, you might want to keep using it. 

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, essayists who used their middle initial were rated more highly by students, when compared to essayists who didn’t. 

Researchers also found that people with a middle initial were perceived to be of higher status.

Easier admission to schools for early alphabet initials

According to one 2007 study from the Czech Republic, people with names that started with letters earlier in the alphabet had a better chance of getting admitted to a school. 

So, if your name starts with A, you might have a better chance than someone whose name begins with an X, according to the study. The study found this to be true even when those with late alphabet initials had higher scores.

Needless to say, whether or not you get into a particular school can significantly impact the course of your life.

Gender-neutral names can benefit women’s careers

We all like to think that when we apply for a job or admission to a school, we would be judged by our qualifications, experiences, etc.

But that isn’t always the case, unfortunately. 

Women with gender-neutral names, like Charlie, Alex, or Sam, have been shown to have a better chance of getting a job in traditionally male-dominated fields such as tech, law, or banking.

According to one Clemson University study, when a woman changed her name from Sue to Cameron, she increased her chances of becoming a judge three-fold. 

Your name, implicit egotism, and who you marry

And it’s not just others that might act a certain way based on our names. It turns out that we might make decisions based on our names too.

According to a West Point and Columbia University study, we are significantly more likely to marry someone whos names resemble our own.

This may sound strange because you’ve most likely never accepted or rejected a date based on someone’s name, at least consciously.

One theory is that there is something called implicit egotism that is at play. The idea behind implicit egotism is that it is an unconscious process that causes us to gravitate to things, places, and people that we perceive to resemble ourselves.

There is further evidence that suggests the validity of the implicit egotism theory.

A study published in the Judgement and Decision Making Journal found that people are more likely to donate to disaster relief if the name of the natural disaster (hurricanes, for example) shared an initial with themselves. 

How does your name affect your personality?

So far, we’ve talked about how your name might affect specific outcomes in your life through the unconscious biases of others or your own.

But how does your name affect your personality? Is there a link between your name, how you view yourself, and your personality?

The Dorian Gray effect

According to the Dorian Gray effect, you look like your name.

Dorian Gray is a character in Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. 

In the novel, he makes a deal for his soul so that his body doesn’t age, but only his portrait does. The idea is that with his body not aging, Dorian Gray can continue pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle.

In social science, the phenomenon of the Dorian Gray effect refers to the idea that our names influence our personality, how we’re perceived, and even our physical appearance. 

But it is only valid when there is a cultural context.

So, for example, in the UK, someone named Rose might be influenced by her name to behave in a more feminine way, because society thinks of a Rose as being feminine. But if someone is named Rose in a country where no one speaks English, then the name wouldn’t have such an effect.

So, it’s not the name itself that influences our personality, but rather it’s the cultural and societal expectations surrounding our names.

Research backs up claims about the Dorian Gray effect

Researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem decided to test the Dorian Gray effect. 

They wanted to find out if the name people are given at birth, which is the first label a person gets, had any predictable impact on their physical appearance later in life.

As part of the study, researchers found that both computers and people could pick people’s faces based on their names, with the accuracy level being twice as much as would be expected by chance.

In other words, both people and computers were able to match people’s names to their faces with a surprising level of accuracy.

Psychologist Yonat Zwebner, one of the lead researchers in the study, explained that since we are aware of the cultural norms and cues around our name, we might subconsciously alter our behavior, and our appearance, to conform to societal expectations. 

So, how might this influence our self-perception?

If our names influence us to behave a certain way or to alter our appearance to conform to expectations, that in turn could have an impact on how others perceive us. 

And how others interact with us can have a significant impact on how we feel about ourselves and also on how we self-identify.

So, indirectly, your name can play a role in shaping your self-identity and self-esteem.

Why do people choose a new name?

Now that we’ve established that your name has the potential to impact your life in significant ways let’s look at some of the common reasons why people choose to change their names.

Most commonly, people choose new names either after a marriage, divorce, or separation. Here, we’ll only talk about when people change their names due to dissatisfaction with their current names.

The reason why you want to change your name is deeply personal and unique. But here are some of the reasons why people choose a new name in the UK.

  • Their current name feels like unwanted baggage
  • They feel like their name defines them in an undesirable way 
  • Their name is too unique and it separates them from their peers
  • If the name is too common, one might feel like they want to be unique
  • They’ve recently been through a gender change
  • Their name makes them think of something they don’t align with

Remember, there is no right or wrong reason to want to change your name. In the UK, you can legally change your name for any reason you wish.

If you already have a new name in mind, that’s great!

But if you hate your name, but you’re also not sure how to pick a new one you’ll love, then here some ideas to get you thinking.

How to choose a new name?

If you’re at a loss for ideas when it comes to your new name, here are some things to consider.

Since you’re unsatisfied with your current name, try to think of the underlying causes of that dissatisfaction and what could remedy them. Then, try to come up with some name ideas that would be better suited to your ideal scenario.

For example, if you hate your name because you feel like it separates you from your peers, then really, you don’t like your name because it is too unique within your circle. So, you want to fit in more, and you should brainstorm name ideas that would better fit in within your group. 

History

If you’re a fan of history, you can go through your favorite periods, stories, or characters in history to see if there’s someone you strongly identify with. 

Maybe someone overcame serious challenges to make an impact in the world, or they created beautiful art. Or perhaps they were a warrior.

Whatever the story might be, as long as you resonate, it could be worth putting that name on your shortlist.

Religious text

Similar to history, religious texts are filled with stories. And the overarching themes in those stories are often relatable to our lives. 

Take some time to explore some of the ancient texts to see if you can find a character that you can identify with.

Your family

You don’t need history or religion to think of a new name. It could be as simple as someone in your family or one of your relatives that you’ve always admired.

People often name their kids after other family members. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same for yourself. And it doesn’t have to be their exact name; it could be something related.

Of course, it might be a good idea to talk to them first and to explain why you’re interested in taking a similar/related name.

Online name generator

Finally, there are online name generation tools to help you get started with the brainstorming process. Here’s one you can try.

How to change the name you hate

As we explained before, the good news is that, in the UK, you can change your name for any reason you wish.

To legally change your name, you need a deed poll. The only exceptions are if you’re taking your spouse’s name after a marriage, or reverting to your maiden name after a finalized divorce.

What is a deed poll? 

A deed poll is a legal document that makes your new name official. It demonstrates the following:

  • You have chosen a new name
  • You have given up your old name
  • The date you started using your new name

Once you have your deed poll, you can officially start using your new name. You can update your driver’s license, passport, land registry, employment/tax documents, and anything else that requires your name. 

How to apply for a deed poll

Even though a deed poll is accepted as official evidence of your new name all over the UK, there isn’t a government office that issues deed polls to the public.

To apply for a deed poll, you have two options.

You can hire a solicitor to help you with the deed poll application process.

Or, you can apply for a deed poll online, which is usually a cheaper and easier option.

For detailed information, and to learn how to apply, be sure to visit our deed poll information page.

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