Ask the Name Lady: My Tween-age Dream Is a New Name!
Q: I'm 17 and I've hated my name for as long as I can remember, for a few different reasons. First, I have a speech impediment which makes it almost impossible for me to say my name and have people understand me. This has made my dislike for my name grow over the years, as introducing myself has become intolerably frustrating. On top of that, I just feel like my name doesn't fit me as a person at all. My dad is supportive of me changing my first name, but I haven't told my mom yet because she can be very harsh.
My main issue in committing to this is wondering how I know this name is "the one." I'm afraid officially changing my name will hurt my mom's feelings, or end up with me regretting it down the road.
–Scared of Regret
A: Typically, I advise young would-be name changers to proceed with caution, and try on a new name unofficially before pursuing a legal change. But in my opinion, a speech impediment is a rock-solid reason to make a change, and do it now. Your own name should never feel like an enemy or a source of stress.
Regarding another source of stress—your mom, and her potentially negative reaction: If your relationship were better, I would suggest involving her, along with your dad, in a collaborative process to choose a new name. That helps make it clear that this isn't any kind of rejection of them. But it sounds like this might not work in your family.
Maybe the best that you can do is present the change in positive terms. Avoid "I’ve always hated my name," which Mom might hear as "How could you stick me with this awful name?" Instead, try something like "I'd like to change my name to one I can introduce myself by with confidence.” Or even, "I appreciate certain qualities of my name" (say, its ethnic background, meaning, or the person it honors) "but it’s very difficult for me to say, so I'd like to change it."
To avoid regret, it's safer if the new name you choose has a long history and gentle popularity curve. These are more likely to stand the test of time, while new and suddenly popular names tend to fade faster. Best of luck in finding something that you'll be proud to say, again and again.
Have a name question or dilemma of your own? Ask the Name Lady!