In everyday usage, we think of a persona as an image or an impression. It’s an image projected outward for social purposes or public consumption, designed to meet the demands of a given situation. Advertising and marketing experts create personas to represent an idealized customer or groups of potential buyers so that the company can focus its marketing efforts. In literature, a persona is an assumed identity, often an alter ego of the author. In drama, a persona is an actor in a play. In fact, the word’s etymology is from the Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask.
We forget that sometimes. That a persona is not the inner personality of an individual, but the mask that disguises it. Underneath that mask may be fears and insecurities that don’t seem to fit the part we need to play. If we are in positions of leadership, we may be afraid of disappointing others. We may fear criticism or ridicule. We may be afraid that someone else will outperform or replace us. We’re better off, we think, with all that self-doubt concealed behind the masks. We can become very comfortable in those masks then, and so convincing, to others and ourselves, in our roles, that we become completely unconscious of playing a part. We forget that the actor in the center of the stage is not who we really are. Not someone we know, or even someone we really like.