Having a nickname is a unique experience because it can sometimes feel like I’m two different people. Professors know me by one name, but acquaintances know me by another. My best friends and family have a nickname for my nickname.
From the day I was born, my parents had given me a nickname and it just stuck. I went from Sophia to Sophie. I never questioned it, but I knew I liked having a nickname. Sometimes it can get tiring, like having to correct people when they keep calling me by my legal name, but it’s not too much of a burden. I feel more myself when I go by Sophie instead of Sophia, and it’s worth the hassle to correct someone if it makes me feel better about who I am.
I introduce myself using my nickname with people who I have an informal relationship with, such as classmates or people I share a mutual friend with. I do so because I feel like there is room for a relationship to form, in which we can become closer friends. People who call me by my nickname are people I care about and I know they care about me. I am not just a random name they hear throughout the day, which makes our relationship meaningful.
Once I get to know someone well, sometimes my nickname gets its own nickname. It’s essentially just my name split in half. I associate having a nickname with people enjoying my presence and feeling comfortable enough around me to call me something other than my legal name. I somehow feel safe when I’m around people who use a nickname for my nickname because I feel like they know me well and our relationship is more than just casual conversations. My nickname symbolizes all of our inside jokes, experiences and memories we’ve had together. People who give me a nickname view me differently than those who don’t because they know me on a deeper level, which is something I value in a relationship.
Those who don’t call me by my nickname are people who don’t know me that well, such as professors, employers or medical professionals. Rather than having a close relationship, we usually have small talk and our interactions are more formal. They don’t know my personality or likes and dislikes, but rather are here to just answer questions or work with me temporarily. Although I don’t mind this, I think it’s common for people to want to have others get to know them, and that’s what I associate having a nickname with.
I’ll respond to either my legal name or my nickname, but there’s something special about having a nickname. To me, it means having close relationships with people I love. Nothing is wrong with either of my names, but my nickname lets me feel like my truest self.