“Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.” – William Somerset Maugham
Lee Ann Lambert at Living Introverted has written a post on the necessity of having a “persona“. The post discusses how your persona makes social interaction easier and protects your self. As I read Lee Ann’s post I asked myself – “Can you still be yourself and have a persona?” I think the answer is “yes.”
When I write for this blog I always hope to convey the importance of living life authentically and “becoming yourself.” Too many times in my own life I found myself acting in a way that was consistent with other people and not with myself. Living life as myself is one of my main goals and I’ve tried to to base all of my actions on my own self-knowledge.
However, living life authentically does not mean that you still don’t need to use your persona, and it doesn’t mean that you are “fake” if you do. Revealing yourself fully to everyone that you meet would not only be exhausting, but dangerous (psychologically). Giving someone access to the real you is an act of trust and is only meant to be given to a few. Having a persona is a way to protect yourself while still acting authentically. It is the way that we make our social interactions smooth and pleasant.
The persona is usually thought of like a mask. But, I think a better way to think about it is like “make-up.” A mask disguises us so others can’t tell who we are, but make-up simply accentuates the parts you want to show and covers up those that you don’t. A persona helps communicate what we want and allows those things we don’t to fade into the background.
There is tension between being who you are and being a member of a group. The persona helps us to do both. We don’t reveal all of who we are, but we also don’t put on a complete disguise. We can act in a way that is authentic with who we are, while still attending to the needs and expectations of the group (which there always is).
Unfortunately, there is the chance that we will use the persona to a degree that we will identify with it and not with our true self. When this happens, your persona becomes not about what you want to communicate, but what other people want to see of you. The danger is not in using a persona, it’s becoming a persona.
What do you think? Can you “be yourself” and use a persona at the same time? Let us know what you think in the comments!