George Carter
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Is a Change of Name Authentic?

| Saturday 28th October, 2023

I’m big on “authentic”. In fact, you might say it is my life quest to be as authentic as possible… to know me, and to be me.

How does that work with a name change? Surely choosing a name is not an authentic act… you are no longer yourself if you let go of something that has been with you almost since birth.

But then again… who says your name was authentic in the first place. It was given to you before anyone really knew you. And it’s only a label in any case.

Let’s look at a couple of angles…

First, you could say that a name is simply a label and therefore it doesn’t matter what your name is. Look at some brand names: Shell, Penguin, Virgin, Apple. They really have nothing to do with the products or services on offer.

This would be an argument against changing your name. Simply be you while carrying the name you were given.

Conversely, but using the same argument, you could say that it doesn’t matter what your name is, and therefore you can choose anything you like! You can change it weekly if you wish – though those around you may get confused and/or frustrated!

But what if we decide that a name is important? If we acknowledge that a name carries meaning with it? If you don’t agree, consider the huge plummet in popularity of the name Adolf in Germany by 1950.

If it’s so important, then we could argue that it’s too important to change. What are you leaving behind if you change your name? Does your identity change with the change of label?

Again, we can make a converse case using the same argument… a name carries so much meaning—and potentially baggage—that it’s vital to have a name that suits you, and that you feel fits. This would suggest that a name change is required if you make any kind of personal evolution.

It’s very common in the monastic world to change your name on taking your vows. It signifies the end of your old life and the beginning of the new. Yoga practitioners will often change their name after their studies, when they become the teacher. Monarchs and Popes often choose a different name from their own as they accede to their position.

We know that there is no right answer, but if you choose to change your name, recognise that your choice is valid and there is plenty of precedent for doing so.

Only you need to know the real reasons—even if that reason is “seemed like a good idea”—and you don’t need to justify your choices to anyone.

Of course, having supportive friends who celebrate your decision never hurts*.

(*this is a beautiful phrase that my ‘growth buddy’ introduced me to… “we don’t need external validation, but it never hurts”)

Are you thinking of changing your name? Have you done so? What do you think of these arguments? Leave a comment…


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