Being Myself: A Hat Story
Many years ago, a friend said to me, "You're so creative and original. I love how you wear hats." There was the yarn beanie, the red fedora, and the wool beret. I wore a mesh cap on walks and a bucket hat at the beach. At Easter, I pulled out my vintage straw pillbox and pinned it to my hair.
My husband's story of meeting me always includes a hat. "I wanted to get to know the woman in the little black French beret," he says, and although it was actually a gray newsboy hat, I never correct him.
I always enjoyed this way of expressing myself. I never minded being different.
Until I did.
Every time I wore a hat, it was the thing that got noticed. I couldn't blend in with a crowd. I grew more and more uncomfortable. And besides, I wasn't as young as I used to be, and I read somewhere that only young women look good in hats.
I stopped wearing them.
They sat in my closet for about a decade until I bagged them all: beanie, fedora, beret, cap, pillbox, bucket hat, and newsboy. I dumped them in the Goodwill bin.
A few months ago, I was "circling" in a small group. Circling is a group activity that helps you tap into your feelings.
I said out loud that I was having trouble being myself lately.
"What would it look like if you experimented?" asked Grace.
"What if you did one thing to express yourself?" asked Shawna.
Without thinking about it, I stood up from the circle on the floor where all sat quietly. I strode over to the open closet shelf in this home that I had never before visited. I picked up a hat. I put it on.
I sat back down.
Grace and Shawna, and the entire circle, began to laugh. "I had no idea what you were going to do!" said Eric. "It is so much fun seeing you with that hat on."
And then I realized, I had to wear hats again. It's not about the hats - but about doing the one small thing today that makes me happy - even if it sets me apart as different from others. Perhaps it's an act that will call unwanted attention. Perhaps it's weird. Maybe it does nothing for my "image."
What matters here is the joy of being myself. More and more, I realize I need to make that joy a habit in all the little and big ways it presents itself.
1) Have you ever experimented with something that made you feel "too different"? What happened? Did you continue with it? What did you tell yourself about the experience?
2) If other people's opinions didn't matter so much, what would you do differently today?
3) Write about a hat you once had.