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How This Simple Act Helped Me Bring My True Self To The Workplace

What is in a name?

A name is a word or set of words by which we as individuals are known, addressed, or referred to.  A name is the composition of the people around us, the experiences we carry and the sound waves we bring to everyone we meet.

Before all of that though, I would submit that one’s name is their first possession.

What do you mean ‘first possession?’  I suppose it does sound a little strange but think about it.  It’s the very first thing that’s given to you by your parents.  It’s well-thought out and in some cultures, carries with it a beautiful meaning in the hopes that the name will ground you and guide you.

“Darshana” means “to see”.  Its translation is construed as “vision”, “blessing” or “knowledge”.  My name, I daresay like some of yours, has endured plenty of taunts and jeers.  People have refused to attempt its pronunciation, claiming it was too difficult for them. It started in primary school and continued up until mid-high school.  It calmed down in my senior years and was almost non-existent at university.

Then I started full-time work.  For the most part, there were no jeers or taunts.  There were however questions of whether I would mind shortening my name for ‘email purposes’.  The answer was always a resounding yes, I would very much mind as my name was my name.  There were also instances of being introduced at meetings with statements like “oh and we’ll let our legal counsel introduce herself”.

These instances never embarrassed me as they did frustrate me.  As a person with a non-Anglo-Saxon name, I can tell you that everything is in a name: my culture, my identity and my sense of belonging.  I made sure to learn the names of my peers and colleagues. Yet sometimes that same courtesy wasn’t extended to me.

I have spent my entire life in Australia.  I grew up riding my bike (always trying to catch my sister), playing with the kids across the street and dealing with the dilemma that was Backstreet Boys vs ‘N Sync (Backstreet Boys obviously).

In amongst it all, I never thought my appearance, or my name warranted lesser treatment.  A different sounding name isn’t permission for anyone to disrespect me, yet people seem to think that’s exactly what it means.  Sadly, my friends and colleagues have had similar experiences.  If they’ve not been the subject to these comments, then they’ve witnessed them in their workplaces.

Sometimes it can seem easy to let these situations pass.  It is after all tiring having to defend your very presence despite the experiences and qualifications you bring to the table.  But the next time you could not be bothered or want to smile through the frustration, I want you to imagine your name sitting next to you as a person.  When I thought of my name as a person, I realised she is my sword and my shield.

She bears the first reaction of anyone I meet, pleasant or unkind.  She receives the compassion and love of others, and more importantly, she receives my full backing whenever she’s disrespected. If you could ask your name what she (or he) has been through, what would she say?  She would tell you that she’s been there with you your whole life and she commands respect from everyone.  Her strength is only as powerful as your faith and belief in her.

The next time your name, or someone else’s name is disparaged, I want you to remember.  I want you to remember the love and care that went behind the name.  I want you to rely on that love and speak up, and it might be terrifying.  I want you to remember that courage comes in accepting ourselves for who we are, and that starts with how we introduce ourselves to the world.