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The Psychology of Identity and Your Name

Psychology of Identity

A person’s identity is unique to them and cultivated by their life experiences, values, belief systems, and their genetic make-up. These characteristics develop from the time a person is young and solidify more as they age. 

For most people, the fluidity of self is ever-changing, growing, and expanding, because life experiences act as a mechanism of change. These experiences may sometimes necessitate the need for an individual to re-evaluate themselves,  which results in changes.

What a Name Says About You?

Name is one of the first defining characteristics of a person’s identity. A name can tell you a lot about a person, from their ethnicity to their culture to their gender and even their religion. 

This name, and the subsequent culture they are raised in, act as building blocks for an individual’s identity.

Many people choose to change their names despite what a person is named. This name change can be due to a variety of factors:

Avoid Judgment

Your name affects how people treat you. Famous authors throughout history have used pen names to hide their identities or appear gender-neutral to avoid prejudice. This is due to the preconceived judgments that people have from seeing a name. 

This same idea is true when applying for a job. One study found that a person with a more traditionally “white” name only needed to send out 10 resumes to get called, while someone with a more racially diverse name needed to send out 15 resumes to elicit the same response. 

To Be Accepted

Likewise, individuals with different cultures or ethnic backgrounds might change their names to make them easier to pronounce and be accepted into their new environments. This acceptance is vital for people to feel a sense of community and be connected to their peers.


There are also traditional reasons why individuals change their names. On average, 80% of women who get married or divorced change their surnames. Most municipalities allow for one free name change per marriage, due to it being a traditional practice.

Don’t Like Their Name

For others, the reason behind their name change is because they don’t like their name, or they don’t feel like their name is a current reflection of who they are. This idea goes back to the evolution of self, and how individuals want to be more authentic to the person they are or have become. 

This name change enables a person to free themselves of the traditions of family, culture, or social constructs that they associate with their old name. This old name is more commonly associated with a person’s “dead name,” as the individual has chosen to evolve and embrace a new identity. 

The Theory of Self-Determination

The answer to why a person’s identity evolves and changes is simply that people can change. The self-determination theory is the idea that a person’s intrinsic self is the motivator behind their change. 

True change comes from within, and a person must be motivated and want to change, valuing their own being and recognizing their own ability. The outward expression of themselves is merely what has already happened internally. 

Although family and friends may have difficulty seeing these external changes of self– because they differ from their traditional culture or value system– this expression of self is the result of internal change and understanding, not the change itself. 


The psychology of identity is unique to each individual and their own journey of self-discovery and learning. When a person is seeking greater understanding and working on bettering themselves, these changes are often positive and result in a better and more aware individual.