According to psychologist Carl Jung, the persona is the mask we wear in public. It can be assumed both deliberately and unconsciously. We use the persona to both make a desired impression on someone, and to conceal aspects of ourselves we don’t want to show.
We need our personas to help us fit in with society – cultures, situations and jobs all require us to act a certain way to be accepted and successful. But problems can arise when we start to identify with our personas too much.
We start to feel as though we are nothing but the role we play. Our behaviour becomes rigid, and we become fearful of people seeing behind the mask – because we feel then that we’ve been caught in a lie somehow, and all our relationships will crumble.
We find ourselves in a confined and spiritually suffocating existence.
Over-identifying with your personal brand
If you’re an author, you’ll have an author persona. If you’re an editorial business owner, you’ll have a professional persona. This is often called a ‘personal brand’ – which is a fantastic way to differentiate yourself from other authors or editors and help you bring authenticity to your offerings.
However, when a lot of your time and energy is dedicated to these personas, it’s easy to overly identify with them – and feel like you’ve lost other aspects of yourself.
Psychological restrictions of a personal brand
I often feel this. I’m the face of my business, and – naturally – I want people to see me in a certain way. But when it’s time to turn off the laptop and step away from my work, I can carry my Liminal Pages persona with me.
This only becomes an issue when I feel like …
- I can’t relax – because my Liminal Pages persona should be working
- or I can’t create – because my Liminal Pages persona wouldn’t think certain things
- or I can’t say what I want to say – because my Liminal Pages persona wouldn’t say certain things.
Personas are natural and necessary
For a long time, I worried that I was being inauthentic by putting boundaries around my work persona. But by learning more about Jung’s ideas, I’ve realised that personas are both normal and necessary.
My Liminal Pages persona is still an authentic part of me. But it’s just one part. As it should be. It helps me in my professional sphere in ways that other aspects of my personality wouldn’t. And those other aspects help me in other spheres.
As Walt Whitman once wrote: I contain multitudes.