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How to Prepare To Change Your First Name, Considerations And Others Reactions
What You Need To Know When You Change Your First Name
It is a big decision to change your first name legally. For some they want to start fresh, begin a new chapter in their life and the name change signifies this rite of passage. For others it may be because they have always been called a certain name, but it is not legally their first name, so on the first day of school or on important documents they are called a name that does not resonate with them. Another reason, some need to take ownership of themselves and changing their name allows them to claim their identity. For others they just do not like their name, and they want to change it.
Whatever the reason may be it is important to remember it is your name. It is your life. It is your decision. Now as an adult, it is your identity not your parents.
My good friend changed her name from Kim to Casey several years ago. At first it was difficult for me to change her name in my mind, and memories. Not because I did not want to honor her change, I was just used to calling her Kim. I had to concentrate to say her new name. I would often pause when talking to her and had to think about calling her Casey instead of Kim. It took some work. Eventually, it became easier as Kim is now the name I have to work hard to remember.
A few years ago I legally changed my name from Carla to Carly. It was not a drastic change as Kim to Casey or another name, but it was significant enough for me to change one letter. I have been on both sides of a name change. As a friend relating to a person I once knew as Kim and now needed to relate to her as Casey, and as an individual who changed her own name.
Changing your first name legally, involves many layers. It is not recommended to change your first name impulsively, or out of anger to spite someone else. Here are some considerations beyond the necessary paperwork:
- It cost money to change your name, often it costs hundreds of dollars depending on the state you live in, the fees cover court costs, documentation, filing of your new name, etc.
- If you would like a lawyer to help you with the process you would need to pay their fees
- It cost time to change your name, you need to gather the right documents, and in most states have a court hearing
- You may not be able to change your first name if a judge denies your request
- After your name change is granted you will have to change your name on your driver’s license, social security card, bank account, credit cards, bills, lease or mortgage, health insurance, prescriptions, HR at work, or administrations at school
- You will need to tell people of your new name
- You will have to deal with some people who will not honor this change, and may continue to call you by your old name
- Psychologically there is a rite of passage of becoming the person who you are now named, it can be freeing and exhilarating at the same time grieving the loss of your old name and what it represented to you
- It is easier to introduce yourself to new people with your new name, because they do not know your former self
- It takes friends and family members time to call you something different if they have always related to you as a certain name
- At first it might be awkward, eventually you will come into your own with your new name
Why Do People Change Their First Name?
- They want a name that best reflects who they are
- The current name prohibits them from becoming the person they want to be
- Bad or abusive memories attached to their name
- They have always been called a certain name and now want to make it official
- Enrolling into the witness protection program
- Needing to connect to their heritage or tribal name
- They need a rite of passage symbolizing a profound change from the past
- People who transition between genders
- Adoption, orphan, finding their biological roots and wanting to reclaim their original name
- People who become ordain as a Catholic priest or nun often change their name to signify their new vocation
- They just do not like their name, and never had
Where To Begin
If you are changing your first name, the best place to begin is to introduce yourself to someone new with your new name. “Hello, my name is….” Introducing yourself to new people, gives them and you the opportunity to be strictly known as that name- since they do not know you, or your former name. You do not need to give a soliloquy of why you introduced yourself as Paul instead of Keith or mention your old name.
I remembered when I decided to change my name from Carla to Carly. I told myself the next time someone requests my name I am going to say, Carly. I remember the exact day and the place. It was a spring day in Michigan, I was at the park with my son who was running around and playing well with another 3 year old boy. His mom asked me what my name was. I said, Carly. I had a huge smile on my face, because that was the first time I owned my new name to a stranger.
Simultaneously, I told my friends and family to begin to call me Carly instead of Carla. My nickname was always, Carly. When Carly was used it was with endearment, especially from my father. I wanted to be reminded all the time of being loved and special when I heard my name called. Thus the change from Carla to Carly. It took some time for other’s to catch on, but they eventually did.
I did not legally change my name to a year or more after I started verbalizing my new name. Over a years time I have fully stepped into my own name and identity as Carly. I was ready and wanted to go through all the hassle to formally change my name. It was time and a healing rite of passage for me to make Carly official and solid.
Others Reactions, Including the Parents Who Named You
The name your parents gave to you and the name everyone has been calling you since you were born has meaning to others. They attach your name to your identity. They relate to you as their family member, friend, co-worker by the name they know you by.
It takes some time for others to reassemble who you are so they can re-relate to you by your new name. Changing your name changes your identity. Your name is how people identify you. If red wanted to be called blue, it would take time for your brain to identify the color formerly known as red to blue.
Remember to give people time. I do not mind when my old friends and family call me Carla. It used to bother me, because I wanted everyone to be on board with me when I was making the change. But now, it is kind of nice to integrate the past with who I am now. Simultaneously, I am honoring how other's relate to me. My 'Carla' friends loved me when I was that girl. Just as my 'Carly' friends love me now. It is nostalgic.
Some consider a name change being disrespectful to parents and the choice they made. The name your parents gave is significant. It is your birth name. However, it does not mean you have to live with this name. Do not confuse the attachment to the name as the same as the attachment to the person.
If you do change your name, remember that you can keep part of your original name to maintain that connection to the name you were born with. Carla will always be a part of me. For my friend Kim who changed her name to Casey, her middle name began with the letter 'C.' She already had the initials K.C. You can always keep part of your original name. You can make your name more than three names, that includes a first, middle and last name. You can have several middle names. Legally a person named George Garrett, changed his name to Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined. I guess he did not keep any of his original names.
It might be emotionally hard for parents to let go of their child's given name. Afterall, they spent time picking out your name. For them your name has special meaning. You will always be their baby Johnny or Martha.
An adult child renaming themselves is not meant to be an insult to their parents, unless the intention is to make it an insult. Just because someone gave you, your name, does not mean you have to like it and keep it. It is your name. Just like your mother gave birth to you, it is now your body.
Changing your name will not make you a new person. However, it can provide you with a significant new beginning to express who you are and who you want to become.
For some it is necessary and worth the time and energy to change their first name.
Are you considering changing your first name?
Do you know anyone who has changed their first name?
Do you think people who change their first name are selfish, and should keep their given name?
© Copyright Carly Sullens 2012. All Rights Reserved.