Glad you could join me. I’d like to ask you a question. “What hats are you wearing?” No, I haven’t suddenly turned into a fashion commentator or savvy sartorial stylist. My interest is due to the following:
On a recent family outing it struck me afresh that I am different things to different people. To the restaurant staff I was a ‘customer’, ‘client’, ‘consumer’. To my family I am a wife, mother, sister (including ‘twin’), ‘half’, ‘in-law’ and ‘step’ – complicated family!), plus an aunt and great-aunt. When you factor in friend, acquaintance, neighbour etc. it is clear that I have many ‘faces’ in the eyes of others and wear many ‘hats’ – as we all do through life.
Literal hats can be good as they are indicative of our function, role and responsibilities and can be things we wear with pride (or embarrassment perhaps, depending on the hat?!).
Metaphorical hats, however, can be either willingly or thoughtlessly jammed on our heads by ourselves or (most likely) by others. They are the labels and titles we may assume or be assigned.
Neither do I wish to define myself solely by the labels of ‘sick/incapacitated person’ or ‘ME sufferer’ as they are not really how I see myself as a person. Long-term chronic illness and/or disability carries its own stigma, consequences and expectations from others; but those who suffer in that way want to be seen for who they really are beneath the effects of the disease or infirmity.
So how do we define ourselves?
Much of our identity and worth seem to come from what we do rather than who we are. It can become quite puzzling to answer the question: ‘Who, or indeed what, am I?‘ I pondered these issues some years ago with relevance to the role of women in particular and it resulted in this poem below (previously published in ‘Womens Words’ anthology – ‘Breaking the Chain’ 2001), which seeks to verify and validate the essence of who a woman might be.