Town Talk Features

The Honest Truth: The Name Game

A colleague at my new job has the same first name as I do. He wants me to go by my  middle name to avoid confusion. I don’t like my middle name. What should I do?

Jill: Maybe your co-worker has forgotten that the job of naming you was done by your parents—when you were born! Wondering if you should change your name for someone else’s convenience could be a sign you’re willing to give up your autonomy a little too easily.

As a recovering approval addict, I can tell you—doing things you don’t want to do just to make other people happy will decimate your self-worth. Plus, you could get resentful, which can be poisonous for you and the people you’re trying to please.

A clear and friendly boundary is called for here: “Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m going to stick with my name. We can add a last initial to clarify if it gets confusing.”

Beth: What Jill said. Don’t be a doormat. The fact that you’re asking this question may be a canary in a coal mine. I’m guessing there are other places in your life where you accommodate people to the point of being a martyr. Trust me, you cannot thrive from that position. If you have trouble recognizing the difference between being a nice guy and being a doormat, you need a trusted friend or thinking partner to help you see it. Let us know how it goes.

My 12-year-old daughter wants to change her name. What do you think?

Jill: When my daughter, who is now a high school senior, was 9, she wanted to start using her middle name. She sent us an email saying, “Heretofore, I will be known as Jane.” My husband and I incredulously told her she didn’t just get to rename herself. Friends shared tales of regrettable adolescent name changes that resulted in change backs as they matured.

But our daughter’s wise teacher encouraged us to keep the conversation open. After weeks of debating, my daughter looked me in the eye and said, “I like my first name. But Jane is the name that feels like the real me.” There wasn’t much I could say to that. She’s been Jane ever since.

Beth: When I hear about a young girl who has the desire and the moxie to change her name, I want to have a ticker-tape parade. Lots of girls dream of changing their names, but few have the sales and marketing skills (not to mention follow-through) needed to get their parents, teachers and friends to buy in. Any 12-year-old who has the tenacity to get it done and the resilience to overcome the objections gets my vote.

Jill Farmer is a master certified life coach, author and time management aficionado. Beth Chesterton is a master certified executive coach and an expert in organizational psychology.