Hi  there,

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.

I have lost a few hats on the way. Sadly, there is nobody left to whom I am a daughter or daughter-in-law. As for ‘work colleague’ – that term vanished, along with my nursing career, full independence and health, around 20 years ago. Since I am pretty reliant (to a large degree now) on my husband to take on most of the necessary domestic chores, I cannot honestly call myself a ‘housewife’ either! 

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.

What am I?

I’m a goddess
I’m an angel
a harridan
a whore.
I’m a mother
I’m a lover
a sweeper
of the floor.
I’m a puzzle
an enigma
no pigeon-hole
can fit.
I’m a nurturer
a nourisher
full of passion,
feelings, wit.
I’m fruitful
I’m decaying
I’m changing
all the time.
What am I?
I am woman
and I am
in my prime.
How we view ourselves may alter with time and circumstances. But there is a core, a centre of our being that is the essential person we feel we are. Maybe the hardest task we face in this image-conscious age is to allow that ‘real person’ to come to the forefront and be true to ourselves and others.
For me, getting to know God as Father and Jesus as Lord and Saviour was instrumental in discovering who I am and what I was created for – a unique and valuable purpose – to be in relationship with Him. Because that is His desire for each one of us.