A surname is a name you share with others in your family – it’s a shared identity.
So, Who are you?
If you answered this question with your full name, this is just for you. Read on.
‘What’s in a name?’ – William Shakespeare
Everything. Why else would the author write his name underneath this quote?
Now, let’s understand why should you not change your surname after marriage.
Simply because it’s an identity crisis.
This is a common practice in India when a woman changes her name post-marriage.
She drops their maiden name and adopts her husband’s surname. While very few change their first name as well, mostly change their surnames only.
What’s in a name? If this is to be believed, then even changing or keeping the name as it is wouldn’t matter either. Right?
A resounding No.
Let’s understand the concept of a name –
‘name is a word or words that a particular person, animal, place or thing is known by.’Oxford Dictionary
‘Known by’ i.e. the word by which they are identified.
The purpose of a name is to give a unique identity to a person, to establish communication and to avoid confusion.
Identity is the highest level that a person relates to.
What is an identity? The characteristics, feelings or beliefs that make people different from others. Even animals identify with their names when called several times.
Your name is your primary identity. Your gender or age, your nationality or religion gives you a broad identity but your name gives you a specific and unique identity which is relevant only to you.
Imagine you’re enjoying a delicious meal at a restaurant and you suddenly turn your head when someone calls your name. Turns out the person was calling the waiter with the same name as yours.
Do you remember when you had a namesake in school, how did the rest of the people differentiate between you two? Usually by your surname.
Imagine if MS Dhoni changed his surname to MS Kohli, what do you think will happen? When the crowd chants ‘Kohli-Kohli’ in the stadium, he’d be confused ‘whether they chanting for me or Virat Kohli?’ CONFUSION.
A name is not just a mere word. It’s the address of your identity, not just for you but for the rest of the world to locate your specific identity.
A sudden change even in your address, your environment is not met with a great response.
Remember changing schools? Or transitioning from school to college and then to a job or changing your house, city or country? Eventually, you settle with it but it does create an impact that you struggle with for a while.
While the above changes bring value to your identity (changing job/graduating etc), any challenge to your identity that comes from outside is not easy to settle with.
According to Robert Dilts, we operate at 5 levels, with identity being the highest level.
Any change in one level will subsequently change its lower levels.
Many feel a change in their capability as a professional or a change in behaviour post-marriage.
Coming back to the context – Why would you change your surname?
The reason is pressure from society to adopt the new surname. Which essentially is pressure to change your identity post-marriage.
The history behind this practice is another matter. But the practice has continued long enough to become a solid tradition.
Some modify this tradition and add their husband’s surname while keeping their existing maiden name in the middle. This further creates a level of dissociation.
Whether or not you decide to change your name post-marriage remains a personal matter.
However, discarding or rejecting a tradition doesn’t happen easily or overnight.
We are usually hard-wired to follow traditions without reasoning. So acting against that conditioning takes time and conscious efforts – often facing resistance.
Having said that, it’s good (and safe) to start with at least the awareness of:
- The Purpose of that decision
- The Consequences of that decision
Do you agree with this? Do you want to share why you disagree?
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