Behind The Mask

Play your part. But remember who you are.

The great psychoanalyst Carl Jung used the term ‘persona’ to describe the social mask that every individual wears—the face that we present to others.

Although we aspire to be authentic, society is such that each individual has to learn to modulate their thoughts.

And to be healthy and happy, this persona should not be fake but an expression of your own true nature.

A persona that is too far removed from the real self results in unhappiness.

Sarita, for example, is a reserved person. But, at work, she has adopted a gregarious and extroverted attitude because she believes it will help her progress in the company. While it might serve a purpose in the short term, this persona will eventually drain her.

Consider the case of Kartik. He has a great career and loves his work, although his wife complains that he is a workaholic who rarely spends any time with his family. Over the years, unbeknownst to him, Kartik has lost sight of who he really is. He finds it difficult to spend time with his family because he is unable to relax. The problem is that Kartik does not know who he really is. Unfortunately, a lot of high achievers become so identified with that role that their persona becomes a prison.

One might argue that as long as Kartik is successful, there is no need for him to let go of this persona. But, cracks appear—he might be transferred, the demands may change or he might retire. If this happens, Kartik will feel confused. When a person overly identifies with their persona, then that role suffocates them.

But if they see that their role at work is only a facet of a much larger self, they will experience freedom. By spending some time in quiet reflection, they will find joy, creativity, resilience, and happiness.

Work well. Play your part. But never forget who you really are.

Written for Outlook Business – January 2012

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