My name is Yasmine. How would you pronounce that without hearing it first? Chances are if you are from the Middle East or a nearby region, you would know to pronounce it as Yas-meen. But someone who is unfamiliar? You might say Yaz-min, Yaz-mine, or my favorite… Jasmine. Well, if I am being honest that last one was all me. I grew up in one of the five boroughs of one of the greatest cities in the world, good old New York. Brooklyn to be exact. It’s known for its diversity and array of cultures, present on every block. Yet somehow my insecurities as a child about my ‘foreign’ name prevailed. I so badly wanted to be a Lena or a Sara. I wanted a pretty, feminine name, preferably one that ended with an ‘a’ but one that didn’t attract any extra attention – “nice and short” I used to say. I didn’t want to have to go the extra step and say “No, actually, my name is Yasmine (Yas-meen)” and get the usual response of “Oh how interesting, what does it mean? Where are you from?” To others it may sound like I was trying to hide my background. But actually, I was just trying to hide…in general. I decided that it would be easier to assimilate – I adopted the name Jasmine. I went from responding with “My name is Yas-meen” to “Oh just call me Jasmine” – just because it was convenient, quick, and allowed me to blend into the background. Eventually I went back to being Yasmine in middle school. Not too old, right? But that is not where my insecurities ended.

I was the last of three in my family, with a rather large age gap between my siblings and me. With my sister and brother off to college and into the next phases of their lives, I grew up mostly on my own with my parents. Making friends was a huge goal of mine. But it wasn’t just making them… it was keeping them, too. I was a people pleaser, always trying to make those around me happy, even if it meant holding back and neglecting my own feelings. This need to keep the peace, to mediate any conflict, and to please others continued well into my adulthood. It was only in the last few years that I learned how to better balance my needs with those of my loved ones. Some days it still means keeping my thoughts to myself and pushing through, but other times it means just simply saying no, today I am putting myself first. I went from being a little girl who was timid and always second guessing herself to a woman who recognizes when she has given all she can give.

Fast forward and now I am raising little girls of my own. You would think after the feelings I harbored over the years with my not-so-simple name I would find one that is easy-peasy for my own children. However, my husband fell in love with the name Lara for our oldest, and that is what we went with. Yes, it looks simple and it is. But now we are running into the same old issue of mispronunciations. Lara is routinely being called Laura by many people, including her teachers. I am certain it is just an honest mistake, them not taking the time to read the spelling. But it pained me to know she would go through the same thing I went through. However, this time I took a different approach. Instead of ignoring the issue, I am trying my best to instill confidence in my daughter that I once lacked – to be proud of her ‘different’ name and to make sure people take the time to hear her say it or read it correctly. Today, I was met with the fruit of my labors. During a trip to the park my daughter was off making friends, like she always does. I hear a little girl say to her “Hi! What’s your name?” My daughter replies “Lara! What’s yours?” The girl replies, “My name is Nina. Laura, do you want to play?” Lara looks at her, pauses, puts her hand up and says “No, not Laura. My name is LARA.” The girl then replies, “Oh Laura, let’s play hide and seek” and yet again Lara replies, “My name is LARA” and starts her game. My heart fluttered. I may not have had it right as a child myself, but I can get it right this time with my daughters. Someday I hope they will read this and know all of my hopes for them are in a saying I once I heard: you were never born to blend into this world, girls, but rather you were born to stand out.

Yasmine Kasi

Tell Us Your Thoughts

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: