When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see yourself, or do you see the labels or titles you have earned or have been bestowed upon you, whether you like them or not? Men are often defined by their successes and failures. Women, on the other hand, tend to be defined (and define themselves) by the roles they play for others. We are often labeled as someone’s wife or so-and-so’s mother. We are frequently defined on the subjective basis of how pretty others think we are. We stop seeing ourselves as individuals and seeing ourselves as objects. We lose the things that make us ourselves and start seeing who we are through the worth others place upon us.

It starts so slowly that sometimes we are unaware. At first we might be flattered by attention. But then we realize that it doesn’t matter how smart we are or how talented we may be, we often are not taken seriously simply because we are women. We may beat a man out for a position and automatically it becomes a question not of our capabilities, but who we must be sleeping with in order to have gotten the job. Other times, there is an even larger loss of self. We give up things that men are never asked to do. For instance, when we get married, we are often culturally expected to take our husband’s name. I believe that this is a personal preference and would never look down on a woman who took her husband’s last name, I think it should be a decision each woman makes based on what she wants to do and not what she feels is an obligation or  The more widespread and frequent these instances are, the more women can start to accept that they are not a person in their own right.

I am here to tell you that you can be those things—the wife, the mother, any of these other roles that you have for yourself—and still be YOU. The roles that you fill are part of who you are, but they are not the sum total of who you are. You have never only been one thing. Just because you get married or have a child does not mean that any parts of you not associated with those functions has died off. You are a separate person from the one you married, from the parents you have, and the children you have borne. You are not an object put on this earth only to please or fulfil the needs of others. No matter what other names you go by, craft your identity in a way that is meaningful to you. Do not shed your old self like a skin just because your life situation has changed. Add these new roles to your persona as if they are new threads in the gloriously beautiful tapestry that is your identity. Redefine the way you see yourself so that you recognize the person in the mirror when you see her as the person you are, not as a reflection of the roles you play in the lives of others.

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