Why Your Baby Name Choice Is Making You Miserable

Mar 21st 2012

Back when I was writing the first edition of The Baby Name Wizard, the phrase "namer's remorse" never entered my mind. Choosing a name was supposed to be one of the most joyous parts of pregnancy, a chance to look ahead and dream of the new family member to come. Yet in the years since, words like "angst" and "remorse" have cropped up more and more in baby-name talk. Post-naming regrets have become a regular feature in my inbox, and a popular question subject from reporters, too.

Is this just a trendy discussion topic, or is the baby-naming blues really on the rise?

I believe it's the latter. The process of choosing a baby name has genuinely become more stressful, and namer's remorse is indeed more common than ever before. It was inevitable. In the past generation, baby names have become an ideal breeding ground for anxiety, decision paralysis, and regret.

The core problem is what psychologist Barry Schwartz has called "the paradox of choice." Choice is freedom, and we expect that freedom to make us happy by allowing us to follow a path custom-selected to suit us best. In practice, though, an abundance of choice not only makes our decisions harder, it turns out to make us miserable.

The more choices we have, the higher our expectations rise. With a vast array of options, we feel that careful selection should lead us to a perfect choice. The decision process drags on. We agonize. Sometimes the pressure of choosing is just too much; we end up paralyzed by our options, and choose nothing. Even when we do choose, we usually discover that perfection remains an elusive goal. Thus even a very good choice can leave us feeling disappointed.

Then there's the road not taken. So very many roads. It's hard to feel comfortable with the choice you've made when the missed opportunities still swarm around you. Perhaps a neighbor makes a different choice, one you had considered but rejected. Did they choose better? If so, you have only yourself to blame.

Angst. Paralysis. Regret. Sound familiar?

This choice-induced misery is usually described as a side effect of societal affluence. Consumer choices explode, giving us hundreds of shampoos or coffee makers to choose from. But baby names are, and have always been, free. Can there really be an explosion of choices in a realm with no costs, where the menu of options is in your mind, not on the shelves?

Absolutely. More on this tomorrow.

On to part 2!


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January 29, 2017 9:20 AM

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February 7, 2017 12:44 PM

I think your name is beautiful and your choice was clear and clever.  It doesn't matter if your mom likes it or not, what matters is you like it and your decision was made from the heart!

June 13, 2017 9:20 PM

I notice not very many actually say what their children's names are...I think because in this day we all want our children to have a unique name.  One of my own daughter's has a very unique name and won't even use it when ordering coffee because someone always says they are going use it and she doesn't want it to become popular.

June 21, 2017 12:32 PM

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October 15, 2017 10:42 PM

John and Jim are much more my style, but I find this a very approachable list. They are as a group sturdy, rugged names.

December 21, 2017 2:59 AM

I was contemplating this post I understood that what I find fascinating about child name is the perplex viewpoint. That may be the reason I didn't get as intrigued by child names until the point that I had a couple of children then it turned into the test to discover a name that fit with Paul.



September 23, 2018 2:06 PM

For a boy I really love the name Adolf. But then I'd fear if I had a boy he'd be bullied because of Hitler. But my advice is, if you genuinely love a name, don't let that stop you. This is your child and your choice. If you want to give him an adorable name, don't let a German dictator ruin it for you. 

October 21, 2018 1:05 AM

I am going through this and seeing counseling today over it. I have had such remorse, I cannot even say her name aloud.

I am trying to see hope in this situation, but the only hope feels like going back in time and fixing all of the things that went wrong for me to choose a name in a dark labor room with no internet and feeling pressured to pick something after working my first year of teaching up to 39 weeks pregnant and handing off my class to a sub-par substitute that did not take care of my students.<3

EDIT: My husband and I have chosen a family name and will be legally changing it. I pray that all Mom's find peace with a final name for their babe. <3