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- What is the persona?
- We have
more than one "mask."
benefits of a well-developed persona.
for improving the persona.
What is the persona? It is the
medium through which we present ourselves to the public; it includes
our personality, social roles (e.g., "parent" or "businessperson"),
our "image," our mannerisms, and our style of speech and clothing. It
is the bridge from our inner self to the outer world; it translates
our individual expression into a format which is compatible with the
social milieu (considering such matters as etiquette, cultural
rituals, tradition, and general protocol).
We have more than one
"mask." The term "persona" refers to the collection of masks which we
wear. Obviously we have a different mask (i.e., play a different
role) for each situation of our life; for example, we do not portray
ourselves in the same manner at work as we do with our spouse, or
with our children, or at a baseball game or a club meeting or a
of a well-developed persona.
- We can control the expression of ourselves to the public.
Thus, we can present the particular features which are most likely
to be effective; for example, at a cocktail party, we can display
the behaviors which are expected and rewarded. We have "social
- It facilitates people's interaction with us. Because our
persona has explicit features, the people can respond to our
distinct viewpoints and our general unique character. (Compare
that type of individual to those who "have no personality" and are
therefore dull and vague.) The word, "persona," is the Latin term
for "mask"; it refers to the literal masks which were worn in
Roman and Greek drama not only to obscure the actors' true
identities but also to define and intensify the role which they
- It protects us. The persona is our assortment of masks, behind
which we can hide and guard our secret thoughts and feelings, our
psychological shadow, and the parts of our psyche which do not
conform to our subculture's expectations. Our persona is essential
(as a "little white lie") in society and in the workplace;
sometimes we need to "put on a happy face" regardless of how we
feel, and we must behave in a particular manner despite our
preferences to the contrary. The persona is a compromise between
"who we really are" and "who we want the world to think we are";
sometimes this is a big compromise (as when we must be polite to a
rude boss); sometimes it is a smaller compromise (as when we are
with friends who generally know us well and accept us as we are).
- It affirms our identity in a group. When we decide to present
particular features in our persona, we assure the other members
that we are "one of the group"; for example, a businessperson
affirms his or her identity among other businesspeople through the
selection of attire (e.g., a business suit), vocabulary (e.g., the
jargon of that business), etc.
- It does not impose on our real identity. We can use the
persona as a means of expression while knowing that it is only a
role. If we mistakenly believe that the persona is our real self,
we might experience the following conditions:
- We live vicariously through this role, as if it were
another person -- sucking in whatever rewards society gives us
for our performance, but depriving ourselves of the nourishment
and satisfaction which would come from within, from genuine
self-expression. Thus we are likely to feel bored, stifled,
uncreative, and unfulfilled. A dishonest persona taints our
selection of friends, vocation, forms of recreation, and other
dimensions of our life; for example, our social position might
require us to attend an auction at the country club, but deep
down inside, we'd rather go bowling.
- Because we are merely acting out a role, and therefore
rarely communicating our true thoughts and feelings, people
probably judge us to be shallow, cold, robot-like, stereotyped,
and phony. Thus we cannot provide the warmth and intimacy which
are necessary for friendships and relationships; our careers,
too, are crippled because we seem insincere and untrustworthy.
(Even a mask which is finely attuned to both our feelings and
society has a degree of artificiality because it is still only
- We might lose contact with the other parts of ourselves
because we are focusing only on the superficial level of the
persona. Hence, we ignore input from our intuition, our
feelings, and the other elements which would contribute to our
well-being and vitality.
- We stifle the shadow. We create our persona (and ego) by
putting the unwanted traits into the shadow. As we assemble the
parts of the persona, we select certain features and therefore
reject others; we cannot be all things. For example, we
generally present ourselves as either hard-working or lazy, shy
or outgoing, kind or cruel. (Of course, we might act shy in
certain situations and outgoing in others, as we adopt a
different persona to use in each circumstance, but we do tend
to favor one position or the other in our overall self-concept
and behavioral habits.) If we act shy, then our capacity for
being outgoing is relegated to the shadow. An overbearing
persona represses the shadow material more deeply.
- We might not be successful in developing an adequate
repertoire of masks. For example, if we think of ourselves as a
"salesperson" (rather than knowing that that is only one of our
roles), we might tend to be a salesperson in inappropriate
situations -- perhaps aggressively "selling" our ideas during
- Our psychological stability becomes vulnerable. When we
overly identify with the persona, we suffer the harsh
ups-and-downs of that persona's successes and failures; for
example, the "student" persona might fail a test, or the
"socialite" persona might accidentally commit a social error.
We can, instead, identify ourselves with the soul, which
observes life's events with a certain detachment, almost as
though it is watching a Broadway actor depicting his or her
character's indignities on stage.
for improving the persona. Beginning in childhood, we create our
persona as we learn to present particular characteristics in order to
gain acceptance, approval, and other rewards from parents, friends,
teachers, preachers, etc. To some extent, we develop the persona
through a conscious effort, by observing the responses which are
elicited by our actions (and by testing and adopting behaviors which
we observe in the people around us); however, much of the development
process occurs unconsciously. We can use the following techniques for
creating a better persona:
- Archetypal field-work.
We develop a healthy ego. A strong ego supports the persona
with self-esteem, presence, and other qualities.
We become familiar with our shadow. If we believe that we are
only our ego, we tend to restrict our persona to the range of
behaviors which we associate with that ego. However, if we
understand our shadow (with includes the opposite traits), we can
explore the full range of possible behaviors in order to select
those which are appropriate in a given situation. (Another way to
access this full range is to know our identity as soul, which
contains all opposites within it, and is free to express whichever
one is suitable.)
We develop our awareness of intuition. Intuition can guide us
in selecting the precise features which will be most effective in
our persona, on a moment-to-moment basis.
- Self-talk. For example: "I display confidence at business
meetings" or "I am skillful in presenting a productive image"
or "I am gracious when I am with my in-laws."
- Directed imagination. We can visualize ourselves performing
effectively in various situations, with the appropriate
personality, mannerisms, and social ease. For example, we might
imagine a dinner party where we are comfortable and witty.
- Energy toning. We develop the energy tones which correspond
to our various masks; for example, when a father is exhibiting
the "disciplinarian" mask, he must convey believable energy
tones of authority, strength, and love.
- The as-if principle. The as-if principle is particularly
effective for changing the persona, because we are physically
acting as-if we are a different person, and we are presenting
that person to the public.