I recently changed the name of my blog, and it got me thinking about when I changed my own name.
For the first 22 years of my life, my name was Camilla. I never really thought that it fit me, and I didn't really like it, but what can you do? It's your name. It's the name your parents gave you, the word you have connected to yourself your whole life, and in a way, it's your brand.
But just like with my website, sometimes a rebranding is in order.
When I got married to my ex-husband I was going to change my last name, and we joked about me changing my first name too. The thought stuck with me, and my thoughts went from "I can't do that, that's crazy" to "Why don't I change my name?"
So I did. I demoted Camilla to be my middle name and put my previous middle name Erika first.
I'm a person who feels guilty not using/wanting things people give me as gifts, so rejecting the name my parents picked out for me was not an easy decision. If you're thinking about it, here are five things to think about before you take the plunge.
1. Just how much do you dislike your name?
Really think about how much this means to you. Is it just a general feeling of "Man, that other name is so much cooler," or does it feel like it's affecting your happiness and your sense of self?
I actually always wished that they had named me Erika instead, so it's not like I did this on a whim. I just never thought that it was something I could do anything about! But one of my coworkers had changed her name that year which is what made it seem possible.
Another point for me was also the fact that I was living in Ireland and planning to move to the U.S., and for some reason no one seemed to understand me when I said my name in English. I don't understand why, because we pronounce it about the same, but I had to repeat myself two-three times every time I introduced myself and I was getting really sick of it. So this also spurred my decision.
2. Do you have the money for it?
In Sweden (where I'm from) it was actually free to do it since I just changed the order of my given and middle name. Depending on where you are it might get a bit expensive, for example, in the U.S. you might have to pay a court filing fee ranging from $150-$200 (but this varies by state). Along with that, you will also have to get a new passport and driver's license.
Photo by Francesca Tirico
3. Is it a good time?
Like I said earlier, I was taking my now ex-husband's last name which meant I would need to change my name everywhere and get new documents anyway. So if there was ever a time to do it, that was it. I was also waiting for my green card so I could move to the U.S. which meant that I would be surrounded by people who wouldn't even know that Erika was a new name.
It can take a while to get all this set up, so if you are applying to college or a new job it might not be the best time. If you forget to change your name in some records it might make the process more complicated. And depending on where you are the process can be quite time-consuming; it can range from just filling out a form to having to attend a court hearing to get it done. Make sure that you're at a point in your life where it makes sense to do it.
4. Have you properly thought about it or done a trial run?
I had about five months to think about it and make sure that it was what I wanted, and since I worked in a call-center I started greeting customers as Erika to see how it felt. It can be a lot of work involved, so make sure that it's truly something that will make you happier. Have your partner or friend address you with the new name for a while and see if it feels natural to you.
5. Is it worth the hassle and possible emotional pain?
It's a really big responsibility to name a baby. You don't know his/her personality or what they will be like, so I totally see how you can get it "wrong." Even my mom said that she never really liked her name, but when I suggested she change it too, she said no. It wasn't worth it at her age after living so long in the same place.
You will probably upset your parents (my coworker's mom didn't speak to her for a while, and it took my parents a few years to start using my new name), and it might be confusing for your friends. I didn't share these news until I was sure I would do it, so it came as a bit of a shock for my family. I really recommend having a discussion about it first and explain why you're thinking about it and what it would mean to you.
Photo by Mimi Thian
I have never regretted changing my name. It was a bit of work and it took a few years before my family started to actually use it (except my grandparents -- I have made my peace), but I live on another continent so it's really not that often anyway. The people I have around me on a daily basis just accept it as my name (because why wouldn't they?).
Unless someone will be really hurt by this decision, it is only about you and how you feel. If it will greatly affect your life and happiness, I say go for it! Don't do it lightly, but it's your life and your name and if you don't feel comfortable with it, then you have the power to change it.
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I know what it's like living with anxiety and depression, but living and living are very different things. I believe in practical tips and methods, and I will use them to help you be the brave, daring, darling individual you are.
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