The Persona: The Mask of Society

02/07/2023
The social mask is not a deception, but a self-control on the stage of life
The social mask is not a deception, but a self-control on the stage of life

The world of celebrities has always attracted the attention of the media, and scandals about famous individuals have been a staple in the news. These scandals expose the private lives of these stars, revealing a side that contradicts the glamorous image they project to the public.

For their devoted fans, these revelations are like a bucket of cold water, shattering their belief in the perfect personas of their idols. The truth is, no matter how famous, wealthy, or successful someone may be, they are still human, with their own personal issues. No one is truly perfect. When faced with the spotlight, they must learn to hide their flaws in the shadows.

The pressure from the media forces them to put on a facade, but it is also the media that ruthlessly exposes this facade. However, this is not an issue reserved only for celebrities.

If we are honest with ourselves, no one is unfamiliar with wearing a forced smile to hide the exhaustion behind it. We might convince others that we are fine, but we cannot deceive ourselves. We all have secrets cleverly concealed.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have a shell, a social mask, or what psychologist Carl Jung calls "the persona."

In Latin, persona means "mask" or "character." Its true origins can be traced back to ancient Greece, with the concept of "prosopon", referring to the masks worn in theater or religious rituals.

The image of this mask signifies individuals presenting a particular persona to a specific audience. The mask represents a certain character and everything associated with that character.

In his work "Psychological Types," Carl Jung noticed that this concept symbolizes a fundamental tendency in human psychology. According to Jung, even without being on stage, we all wear masks and play various roles in our interactions with society.

Jung arrived at this conclusion when he observed that individuals display different personalities, sometimes even contradictory ones, at different times.

A person may present themselves as enthusiastic, strong, and decisive in a professional setting. However, when they are at home, they may transform into a gentle, easygoing, and lovable individual.

Similarly, when with their family, they may become obedient and polite children. But when with close friends, they might exhibit a completely different, humorous and mischievous side.

In other words, each of us has a collection of masks. Depending on where we are, who we are interacting with, and what context we are in, we carefully choose which mask to wear to adapt and meet the requirements and demands of our surroundings. Most of the time, we do this unconsciously.

However, we don't just passively react to society; we actively create masks for ourselves, fulfilling our own desires.

The persona also represents an idealized image of ourselves that we construct from within, a person we aspire to be, and wish to present for a social purpose.

For example, a teacher may project seriousness and professionalism in the classroom to earn the respect of their students.

A salesperson may show friendliness and dedication to convince customers of their credibility.

The mask can be seen as a subtle metaphor. It symbolizes what we project in a temporary performance, rather than representing our core or immutable self.

Behind the external facade lies a multi-layered inner world, from the conscious to the unconscious, encompassing depths that we have yet to fully understand.

This truth harbors hidden danger.

It occurs when we mistake ourselves for the mask, and the mask for ourselves. We become too absorbed in our roles, to the point of deluding ourselves that the performance is our true selves.

The downside of conforming ourselves to the mask is that we lose connection with our inner depth.

We become slaves to societal expectations, fulfilling what others want to see, often without sincerity, and lacking our own individual stance. Aspects of our personality that do not align with the mask are suppressed deep into our unconscious, into what Jung refers to as "the shadow."

However, on the flip side, if the persona is not nurtured and developed, an individual cannot effectively integrate or adapt, find their role in society, maintain the connection with those around them, and may fall into a lonely state of isolation.

It means that the mask is not a symbol of deceit that we need to remove. Instead, we need to be conscious of it and construct a healthy mask for ourselves.

This is when the persona fulfills its psychological function, as a connection between human beings, an interface between the inner and outer worlds, a bridge between the subjective and objective worlds.

Through this healthy persona, we can integrate into the social environment without losing our individual uniqueness. We are not assimilated by society, nor are we indifferent to it.

Whether we like it or not, we still need the mask.

To quote sociologist Erving Goffman: "The world is a stage, and we are all actors."

We all have to perform, and some roles are more challenging than others.