This is not something we generally think about. Or even think that we need to consider. But it is a critical question to spend some time on.
You may have heard others talk about people in terms of their ‘business persona’ or their ‘outside of work persona’, which may be radically different. Or you may also have heard people describe the masks or the hats that they wear in reference to their different roles and the face to the world that each may require. Does it seem strange to you that there should be a difference?
I used to feel that there was a clear shift in my demeanor when I put my mom hat on, versus when I was away from my family. When my kids were younger, I didn’t put much thought into this, but as they got older I started to wonder why I would choose to act so differently. With my kids, I felt as if I had to be ‘on’ and in charge of making sure everything got done and nobody got lost, or hurt. I felt like I was missing the enjoyment I allowed myself when I wasn’t wearing my mom hat.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy doing things with my kids, but that always in the back of my mind was the feeling that I had to remain vigilant, and not let myself relax in the moment. Looking back, I realize this perhaps robbed me of some of the joy of raising three fantastic kids.So, somewhere about twelve years into the process I decided not to be so strict with myself. Obviously as a parent I worry that I am doing my best, but I do not want to worry so much as to not live and enjoy the rest of my life. I was wearing my mom hat almost exclusively.
Having multiple hats or masks to wear and keep straight can be exhausting, and really when you think about it, not very authentic. Part of the energy drain comes from trying to juggle all the hats and keep straight the behaviors, vocabulary, and presentation that each one calls for.At work, it isn’t always best to share personal stories, and most people talk and act very differently there than at home or when hanging out with friends. At home, it may be OK to drink out of the milk carton (except at my house), but not at a friend’s house. Seems pretty simple, but is it? Consider this…
Have you ever met someone who seems so real, authentic and comfortable in their skin that it flows into all that they do. When you work with them, or meet them outside work you get the same person? And you feel safe, that whatever they say or do is because they meant to do or say it? How awesome does it feel to be around someone who greets life from who they are inside?I know I am inspired when I spend time with people like this. It doesn’t always mean we agree on everything, but that as a person, we are both respected and acknowledged. This is a person who has hung up the hats and put away the masks. And has so much less clutter in life as a result. This is a person who will say no if the request isn’t right, and you are appreciative of their honesty.This is a person who can command the attention of a room without saying a word, because they live and speak from the place within that is their truth. This person would naturally do the same thing no matter where or with whom they are.
Personas, then, seem necessary when we are not sure who we want to be, or when what we spend our time doing does not mesh with who we really are. This leads to feelings of discontent and longing for something else, even if we can’t quite put our finger on what that is. If that is you right now, it may be time to do some soul searching for those activities and people who make you feel alive and useful. It’s the way we were created, to do something in the world which means something- if even only to ourselves.
For now, let your thoughts run wild as you consider what it means to be YOU. Next time, we will follow up with what to do to help you clear your vision and combine some of your hats.