This may seem like an odd question, beloved readers, but when is the last time you have spoken your name?
I am not referring to the times you give it as an answer, when given a prompt by another person.
Then it is just an answer to a question, a means to an end.
I am not referring to the times you give it to another person, as a piece of information for their benefit, during an introduction.
I am not referring to times when you are using it to do anything that requires you to identify yourself to pay a bill, make a purchase, or otherwise complete an errand.
When is the last time you have “said” your name, not “given” it?
Simply stated: “I am….”
This might seem rather useless…until you try it, with absolute sincerity.
I stood before a mirror one day and tried this. Being a former drama-kid it had to be full length of course, for maximum effect; what effect, I had no idea at the time.
At first I simply said my name, feeling ridiculous.
Bright early morning sunlight flooded my room and lit up my mirror. My two-dimensional twin responding in kind, to my silly grin. What struck me is that I did not make eye-contact with myself as my name passed betwixt my lips. I tried it again. This time, I fought to maintain eye contact with myself. I succeeded.
Despite my success, I felt disturbed. Why did I have to fight with myself, to make eye-contact (with just my own reflection no less), when it came to my name?
Suddenly what was a silly exercise in building presence, just a 30-second item on my To-Do List, became a serious issue.
Further more, why did I lower my voice, however slightly, when doing so. What lurked in my subconscious that caused me to glance away from my own reflection (and others, I admitted to myself) and lower my voice slightly when saying my own name?
That was the question I mulled over that day, as I quickly pulled my eyes away from my mirror and grabbed my keys. This odd inquiry-of-the-self followed me about, like a raging hummingbird, as I went about running errands, going to class, and doing chores.
Every spare moment I had that day, day dreaming through boring parts of lectures or standing in line, I reviewed times I stood on stage and gave my name for auditions.
Surely, noted my Ego, I, of all people, who had acted before crowds of 700+ had no issues with saying my own name. That thought was not good enough. In class, while driving, while cruising through store aisles, that excuse, no matter how many times I rehashed it, simply was not enough.
That was a cop-out.
I knew full well that the adrenaline that made stage performance so pleasant for me, gave me a boost that nullified whatever it was, before my mirror, in the privacy of my frilly bedroom, that caused me to glance downwards and lower my voice when speaking my own name.
The name crafted by my loving parents to give me an identity, a sense of self, sounds born of my native tongue that I could wholly and completely call my very own.
Why could I not speak it as I did on stage?
Without conviction, without guilt, or self-consciousness?
As a stood before the mirror again, the late afternoon sun as subdued as my mood, I noticed my carefully crafted posture shifted when I said my name as well. I was thoroughly put off by this.
In the split second that these actions happened, I was sending a message that those I spoke to received. The notion made me wince.
They more than likely, read it subconsciously, and could not have articulated it, if I had asked them to; yet, it did have an impact on how they interacted with me.
I had to admit to myself, as bitter a pill as it was: The message I had been sending for years was not a good one.
It did not say: I am confident, calm, poised, friendly, and outgoing. That is what the body language of Little Golden Lamb on stage said.
This was not a play. During a performance I knew how everything would end, what everyone would say, and that I would earn and deserve the applause at its end.
This was real life. (Gasp!)
I was in the one role I did not audition for and could not turn down if I tried.
The role of Little Golden Lamb.
I realized there was something about that role I did not like.
There was something about being Little Golden Lamb I did not like.
There were things about Little Golden Lamb I did not like.
There it was. Laid out before me and my reflection.
Unlike a character that I did not care to play, I could not put this script down.
The message I sent to those I interacted with, in a split second of brutally honest body-language, was as telling as that sent by an actor that cannot hide how much they hate a role to the audience. A role they took simply to pay the bills.
I do not like her.
That girl, that one I just spoke of, that Little Golden Lamb.
I do not like her.
That is the message I sent. That is what deep down, I knew I felt. I saw goosebumps rise on the arms of my reflection. My mirror diligently and dutifully reflecting the words burning in my rather dark eyes:
I hate you.
Being who I am, that was not good enough. It was not enough I had admitted there were things I did not like about myself. That I didn’t like who I was. That I, deep down, hated everything about myself.
Having acknowledged that, I eyed my mirror-born twin, fleeting sunlight piercing half-open blinds, marked a boundary between us. I was not content.
I was not content to hate myself.
I was not content with lowering my voice and shifting my gaze, if even for only half a second when I spoke my own name.
So then what? I could see the question playing in my own eyes as the sun rapidly set and my reflection began to dim.
I just had to have picked a full length mirror. Without my bidding my eyes picked out everything on the Little Golden Lamb before me I hated, though never admitted outright.
At the time I had cystic acne, was 35 pounds too much lamb, and shorter than I am now.
A hint of challenge flickered in the identical onyx pair of eyes in front of me. I knew what had started out as a silly idea, something I hardly took seriously, had put me in a place I had avoided for ages –and it had come out in odd ways. My difficulty in even saying my own name had proved it.
The sun fell fully, my room darkened and I had a choice: To ignore all that had transpired, as my temporary twin slowly vanished. My pupils dilated to greedily snap up any and every photon of light still present.
I had a choice: I could continue being someone that could not state my own name without feeling awkward, even alone, to no one but, myself.
Not as an answer, not as a simple piece of information, not onstage before glowing, white-hot lights eager to take on the persona of someone else. Someone with a different name, a name that did not mean Little Golden Lamb.
I had another choice: I could become someone who could say her name as a declarative sentence, with full confidence and peace because she liked –nay, loved!– all that it represented. Someone who could say the name that was meant to mark her as separate from all others. The few words of the millions spoken throughout the world that were her own.
I made the right choice, back then.
I believe this to be the case because, as I glance at my mirror (still full length) and inspect my mirror-dopple-ganger, she is 14 sizes smaller (Diet and Fitness will be coming to Little Golden Lamb), clear skinned, an inch and a half taller (the half counts, beloved readers), and a bit older.
I also believe this to be the case, because more importantly, than any of the things I mentioned above: I can say my name. Several things and a lot of prayer occurred, along with those listed above for me to arrive at this point.
The point where I can say my name.
I can say my name with a smile, shoulders back, eyes straight ahead, spine in perfect alignment, with a pleasant tone.
Perhaps you have never had such an issue.
Perhaps you’ve never had anything about yourself you did not like.
Perhaps you do not now.
Perhaps you have never had a self-esteem issue in your entire life and feel you just wasted ten minutes.
If so, congratulations. Really. I mean that with all sincerity, if your self-acceptance is legitimate and not a facade.
You are indeed special, in a day where we are constantly bombarded with images that are photoshopped to death and snark is mistakenly praised as wit. Even more so if you are a Woman of Color, taught from birth, that your brand-of-beauty is sub-par to the Euro-ideal.
For everyone else: Try saying your name today, with or without a mirror. Try saying it, not only when prompted and not only as a piece of information to be traded.
Try saying it, as the collection of sounds that represent, in a small (but powerful way) everything you have come to be at this point, good and bad.
You might be surprised, pleasantly or other wise.
When was the last time you said your name, with the understanding that it represents, in a way, the many things you are, with full acceptance and love of everything that happens to be?
Saying your name, with such a depth of self-acceptance, is just one more example of “How to Be Swell”.