Personas seem to get a bad rap these days in self-help circles. We talk so much about embracing our essential selves, it’s easy to lose sight of the role our social self has to play.*
Simply put, the social self is a mediator. When everything is in harmony, the social self navigates the world on behalf of your truest nature. Your essential self has the blueprints, but it’s your social self that builds the house of your life.
I hear a lot of talk (frequently from myself!) urging people towards authenticity. We ask if you are playing a role, if you are being authentically you, but we forget that we have many authentic selves. Is the “real” me the way I act when I’m having dinner with friends? Or is it the me who sits down and watches a movie with my husband? Or the me who is sitting here typing this out? Yes, to all three, and more. Because my inner core may not change, but my attitude, my behavior, my clothing, and my use of language will all change based on circumstances. We are each a plurality, people, not a single unchanging entity! And that’s a good thing – what motivation would there be to stretch, to grow, to try and experience new things, if they didn’t bring out different qualities in us?
So long as our social self (or even social selves, since they change based on circumstances) is working for our essential self, then it is a wonderful asset, and even a great source of fun. If you are using it consciously (and not letting it use you!), your persona, or social self, is simply the face that you chose to show to the world. And just like clothing, you don’t have to use the same persona (or wear the same outfit) all the time. So I urge you to play with it! Really pay attention to how you present different versions of yourself in different circumstances. If there some that you really enjoy, but don’t get to use very often, think about ways that you can let that aspect yourself out to play more often. And let me know how it goes!
*For those not familiar with these terms: your essential self is the part of you that is not influenced by that others think, and which knows the path to your best and happiest life, whereas the social self is the part of you that wants to make people happy and knows how to play our social games.