I find it funny how we do not identify ourselves by who we are, but rather the roles we play.
I am very guilty of this, as I am proud of the many hats that I wear on a day-to-day basis, but I’ve often wondered if one of the reasons we as humans succumb to pressure and systematically destroy our lives is our inability to define ourselves by who we are and not the roles we play.
If you ask people who I am, they’ll tell you “she’s a mom and a writer”. I’ll likely echo that statement. I may have added student to that list, but as I’m completing my studies next week, that will no longer be one of the hats that I wear. I define myself by my role as mother and by my job. My work, my talent defines me as a person, not my character traits.
Of course, we all do it. We’re so afraid of those hats, those titles that we start to worry that if we add a new hat, we lose some of our individuality. I loathed being known as a “wife” for some inexplicable reason. I wanted to be known as more. I didn’t mind being known as a “girlfriend” as long as you also recognized that I was a writer, a mom, someone’s friend, a coworker, etc. I think so many of us fear losing our identities by these titles. We destroy the best relationships because we’re going to acquire one of those titles, “spouse” or “partner” and we feel like we will lose ourselves. We want to be known for our education, our employment, our role as leader within the family. But why do we allow ourselves to be identified by these titles? For me, it’s a source of pride. I worked hard and overcame many things to become a published writer, so I use it as a source of pride for myself. I am proud of my children, and enjoy being known as their mother. However, men hide from the title of “husband” because then they feel they must be a leader. Women hide from the title of “wife” because it indicates submissiveness. Much like people see selflessness and kindness as weakness, we allow these titles (or potential titles) to strip us of our identities as people. Truthfully, those who worry that much about losing themselves within a relationship with a friend, lover, etc. likely have the least individuality. They simply take on the traits of those around them and play that role. It’s usually the relationship where we are truly allowed to be ourselves, the dynamics where we are forced to open up and be ourselves is the one that suffers when we struggle to meet expectations, when we struggle after setbacks. After all, it’s easy to settle back into the pretend roles, but not the ones where we have to be ourselves.
Perhaps we should only be identified by who we are, not what we do. Stop letting our occupations, family roles, actions define us. Choose to be known as only “ourselves.” For example, I’m MHC and I’m a mishmash of character traits and flaws and they all come together to be me. We should interact with people who do not define us by “the role” but those who see us for that mishmash of character traits, the good, bad and ugly and still want us around. The ones who think all we need to be is ourselves. That makes for the best friendships, partnerships, relationships, etc. Perhaps I should stop identifying myself by my life’s work or by my titles as well and focus on growing as a person. So, let’s take off the hats and start embracing ourselves and start identifying ourselves by who we are, not what we do and where we fit.