Merriam-Webster dictionary defines persona as an individual’s social facade that reflects the role in life the individual is playing.
Cambridge dictionary says that a persona, or the type of character a person seems to have, is often different from the real or private character that person has.
Why do we need something, a persona created to fool the world and the people around us, to be liked, to be accepted, to be ‘someone’?
Our persona is just one, often ‘less genuine’, part of our personality which we present to the world in order to gain something from the character we put on. It’s like a mask. Mask we change depending on the situation.
When you hear the word persona, politics is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Politicians use personas to connect with people so they can later vote for them. They will wear nice suits with ties in the colors of a party they represent. They will visit places, schools, cities, talk to people in a friendly way, promise lots of things, etc. The main task is to present themselves as ‘people-friendly’ guys and gals. It’s easier to connect with someone who is similar to us. But the only thing most politicians want is our vote. I am not saying that a person who uses persona is inherently bad, but more often than not, it’s not genuine who he truly is inside.
A person looking to find a partner may portray itself as fun and intelligent on an online dating website, in order to attract a mate. The person is creating a positive public persona of someone with whom it would be fun to date.
Similarly, when we come to a new social circle, we want to present ourselves as popular, unique, and affluent. Our stuff plays a significant role in that. We use branded clothes, drive expensive cars, live in a good neighborhood, go to a fancy restaurant, etc.
In the business world, a persona is all about perception. Perception of being successful, of being a good leader, of being charitable, strict, powerful, reliable… Depending on the type of perception a person wants to create, they will do different things. If a businessman wants to be seen as a nice guy in the eyes of publicity, he can donate lots of money to charitable causes. If he wants to be considered successful, he might drive a fancy car, wear expensive clothes, travel to exotic destinations, and so on.
We all use personas in our lives. And the easiest way to present ourselves as someone we are not is to use our possessions to convey desired image. Politicians may use nice suits and ties, businessmen may drive an expensive car and wear a rare watch, and the average Joe may buy branded clothes, newest gadgets, and Gucci sneakers. Why? Because we all identify with our possessions to some extent.
I considered myself an audiophile. Don’t get me wrong. I truly appreciate music as an art form. And I listen to it every single day. From the first second I wake up to the last when I close my eyes. But to show my love for music, I thought I had to buy the most expensive headphones and the best audio system there is. I thought it would make me more of a fan.
I am also an avid reader, and I read every day. Print books are wonderful. I like the smell of the paper, physical action of turning the pages, and how easy they are on the eyes. They have a certain warmth that eBooks will never have. I would finish a book or two or three per week, and then proudly put it on display before I returned them to the library. Or I would buy a book and then store it in my personal library. I thought I could show what an avid reader I am. Anyone who sees a pile of books will think that you read a lot and you’re knowledgeable, right?
After embracing minimalism, I realized that there were many books sitting in my small library just to maintain my appearance as an intellectual. In fact, books were one of the last thing I minimized. If I give them away, I thought I would lose a reader in me.
Today I only use eBooks. There are many benefits. I can store thousands of books in the cloud, and they are easily accessible on all my devices no matter where I am in the world. I can casually pull my phone out while waiting in line and read.
There are things we love so much that they start to feel like they are a part of us. They assemble themselves into personas we then have to maintain. I am aware that it’s hard to part with something we love because it feels as if we’re losing one part of ourselves. But the truth is, by letting go of our stuff, we let go of our appearances.
As I am not my library of books, nor my expensive headphones. I don’t need them anymore to enjoy reading and listening to music.
By getting rid of everything that is not fundamentally important or brings us immense value, we are able to achieve the freedom that is hard to put into words. It’s the freedom from the image we used to portray – freedom from personas.
Though I still remain a big fan of music and books, I realize that before, I was just attached to the persona of an ‘audiophile’, and a ‘book enthusiast’. Today, I don’t worry about that anymore. I am just a person who enjoys music and likes to read.
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