From Jo March to Ma Ingalls: How Our Titles Influence Our Identity

What titles do you bear? 

You may be a husband, a wife, a partner, or a parent. Maybe you’re the chairperson for a non-profit organization, a writer, a kick-butt sister, or the best cook you know. 

We often define ourselves by our titles, and what we perceive those titles mean to others. But how do our titles influence our identity and how can our attachment to those titles end up limiting us?

One of my favorite titles is “wife.” If I’m honest, I never really thought I’d enjoy being someone’s wife. I’d grown up with a fiery spirit much like Jo from Little Women, determined to have an impressive career and never need anyone else to make me happy. The title that I proudly wore back then was “Independent woman.” The thought of being married made me cringe…until I eventually admitted how lonely I was. 

Suddenly I found myself at odds with the title I’d been so stubbornly touting, and the person I truly wanted to be. I wanted to be someone else’s #1. I wanted to have someone to sit next to at holiday dinners. I craved someone to share everything with forever, someone who would love me unconditionally and call me their wife.

Signing up for a dating app initially felt like a huge failure. Was I really going to pursue a traditional life path as a wife and (hopefully one day) mother? After all, everyone else my age seemed to be bucking tradition. Would I regret not being “bold enough” to be different too?

It took courage to admit that the title I had been wearing no longer matched my identity. That in this season of life, I’m more of a Ma Ingalls than a Jo March. I’m still independent and fiery in the ways that matter to me, but not in the ways that I used to be. 

It’s much easier to dig our heels into the muddy depths of who we were rather than become what we were meant to be.

I was no longer happy wearing the title “independent woman” as I’d defined it. But now, I’m an extremely happy wife. I don’t hide from this title or invent my own just because “wife” used to mean something negative to me. I’ve claimed it as my own and I’ve learned to thrive within it.

That’s the thing about the titles we bear. Usually, we’re the ones who decide what they mean.

I’m married and I identify as a woman, so naturally, I’m a wife. That being said, my definition of what it means for me to be a wife might look different than yours. And, in time, my definition might evolve. That’s normal. And that’s ok. 

What’s not ok is when we are at war with our titles and ultimately our identities. When our titles no longer give us peace, it’s our sign to get to the root of why. If after doing some soul searching we can’t change our titles or don’t want to, at the very least, we can adjust our definition and learn how to thrive within it.

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