People mess it up all the time. And it’s not on the basis that it’s objectively hard to pronounce. It is actually very easy to sound out the syllables. It’s just that it’s very unfamiliar in Jamaica, or well, almost anywhere outside of the African continent.
The name “Sihle” (pronounced “see-leh”) just rolls off the tongue like warm shea butter onto freshly shaven legs.
No, really. Try it…
It’s this unique and curious name that sits on my birth certificate. Everyone calls me Sihle. I rarely get a general nickname that really sticks. It’s who I am. Sihle.
And that’s fine. I quite like the name. Actually, I love it — particularly if it is pronounced the way it was intended.
But I just noticed how difficult it is for ME to say my own name.
Or rather… to call myself what my name means.
When people occasionally ask where my name is from, and what it means, with a timid smile and an air of humility, I say, “It’s isiZulu…and it means ‘beautiful’.” People are normally pleasantly taken aback by this, and most quip back with some cute compliment like, “I see why!” or “Oh, that’s very fitting” or “Well, you are!”
But quite recently I noticed that it’s difficult for me to call myself that. Why is my name so difficult to say? Why can I say so easily, “Hey, I’m Sihle,” yet it feels so… foreign to say, “Hey, I’m beautiful”?
I have looked in the mirror maybe three times in my whole life, awkwardly saying the phrase to the being looking back at me.
It tumbles out the way school supplies suddenly fall out of a pencil case, colliding with and scattering all over the floor in the middle of a quiet room… It’s awkward and clanky and I feel even a bit annoyed with myself and want to scoop everything back in as soon as possible and pretend the whole scenario didn’t even happen.
But don’t you think that’s kind of sad? Well, I do. I think it’s heartbreaking how easily I hype everyone else up. I am the ultimate cheerleader and compliment-giver, certified with honours. And it is all very genuine. I see so much beauty in others, sometimes I honestly get overwhelmed. Me 24/7 to the masses be like:
And when people turn that back to me, and praise me, I be like:
But trying to say that to myself be like:
It’s almost like, I’m not allowed to say it. Not to myself. Not to identify myself.
But that’s nonsense, and it’s incredibly ironic, since it’s my name. I am “beautiful”.
I’ve struggled with various insecurities since childhood. And it’s like… as soon as I overcome one of them, a new one arises. Yes, there are also things many people care about that I don’t let bother me about who I am, but then there are other things–some of which are even embarrassing to say out loud–that I may feel insecure about.
And you know? That’s okay. It’s human.
But could it be possible to say and believe that I’m beautiful while still struggling with the details? I think so. And I think many of you reading can relate. I am happy for the people who are confident and can easily use this, and similar words, to address themselves. It’s something to admire (although I dislike when this quality is displayed in excess).
When did I teach myself that it isn’t okay to see me? That you should like yourself… but not too much. That you should show a little confidence, but not overdo it.
When did I learn that a part of being attractive is to forbid self-acknowledgment? I made humility such an important value to me that I made no room for many positive self-descriptive words. I would always show enthusiasm with others. My passion for life and people and beauty makes it easy for me to be loud and proud in stating what I like about someone. I pick up the words easily and toss them at the subjects of my admiration like a pro. But when shifting inward, I get butterfingers. I can barely pick up the ball, and I fumble at passing it to myself…
But… I want to change this.
I want to learn this new language that I shut out and side-eyed for the longest time. I want to practise it until I achieve a respectable level of fluency. I want to refine my pronunciation and scribble verses of poetry in the margin of the notebook of my mind. I want to change the way I see myself. I want to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror of the eyes of God.
"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27)
Who am I to shudder at the thought of saying I’m immacutely made when my entire being was meticulously crafted after God’s own nature?
I want to be able to say my own name, and not feel like a fraud deep down when I do so. I don’t want to just oblige politely when people tell me I’m beautiful. I want to believe it myself. To know it. Even if I don’t feel so in the moment, I want to hold this as a foundational truth…
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
With his divine finger, God drew a bold and steady line of grace and beauty in every living thing. We need not understand it, but only accept it. We all do. Yes. You too, reader, are a work of ART.
And for those denying it, don’t let me smack you through the screen! I didn’t say it; GOD did. So even if you don’t think you have the perfect smile, or your face is blemished, or you have an… interesting… body shape, or maybe your knees are constantly kissing when you stand up, or your shoulders, your tummy, or buttocks have tiger stripes from your impressive growth… lol, just remember that you are super attractive to the One who created you, once you respect and acknowledge Him. This is what I think of when I don’t feel conventionally pretty:
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)
With that, I will close by saying that we are all Sihle. And I’m going to practise to say it without getting tongue-tied, brain-fried or wide-eyed.
And well… so are you. Obviously ❤
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