We love us a good persona.
The entrepreneur with his hoodie and laptop. The lawyer with her sleek pant suit and painted claws. The hipster with his coffee beans and facial hair.
Think of personas like Barbie dolls. They come pre-furnished, with all of the decorations of self already included: designated wardrobes, food preferences, friend groups, and grooming techniques. You too can become Teacher Barbie or Doctor Barbie. The persona opportunities are endless!
It’s enticing to latch on to these plug-and-play personas.
The security of these personas, with their established respect and reputation, is hard to turn down. Copying and pasting a persona is so much easier than making your own.
Psychologist Carl Jung believed we all have personas, which are the social faces we show to the world. In fact, “persona” is the Latin term for a personality the mask of an actor.
The healthiest among us have multiple, flexible personas.
Psychologically healthy people have many personas. And importantly, the qualities of the personas they adopt reflect their true personality.
Think of the lifelong artist who indulges in the artist’s persona, with its quirky eye-wear and liberal views on open relationships, but is also authentic to who they are. The artist persona is one dimension of themselves, but are not reliant on it for complete self-definition.
But sometimes we adopt personas with no resemblance to or overlap with our personalities.
We force ourselves into personas that don’t fit. Or we latch onto a persona so strongly that we become unable to define our self in true, individual terms.
And this is how many great funks, depressions, and anxieties begin.
The over-reliance on a persona or adoption of a false persona can lead to an identity crisis, shallow sense of self, and big time self-doubt.
This persona trap is particularly harmful for our professional selves.
Professional personas are mightily tempting during the first decade or two of our career, when we’re sorting out who we are, what we’re good at, what we like, and how we want to make an impact with our career.
And who hasn’t taken on a professional persona at some point? We’ve all done it. Yes, I’m looking at the doctor who wears scrubs to the bar, prefers to be called “doctor” socially, and includes “M.D.” on every piece of self-identifying collateral (including their Facebook profile…).
There are three ways to avoid a persona crisis:
1. Get Flexible
If you lean into a professional persona too strongly and then decide you hate your career, your self-concept can spiral into a tailspin. Any career angst will be met with an existential identity crisis.
The solution is to get flexible! It’s okay if you identify with the Yoga Instructor persona. But don’t become a vegan just because all the other yogis are. Don’t wear mala beads if you’d rather wear jewels.
2. Become Multi-Dimensional
If your professional persona is your overriding persona, you become one-dimensional. You become the career Barbie version of yourself. Your happiness is entirely rooted in your professional success.
You can avoid this by having more than one persona. You can have an entrepreneur persona + writer persona + artist persona all in one human. This protects against over-reliance in one domain.
3. Find Your Archetype
But for the most lasting way to avoid the persona crisis, you should find your archetype, not your persona.
Jung believed that every person has archetypes that stem from the collective unconscious. While personas include superficial aspects of the personality, like your appearance or job, archetypes capture more fundamental motifs like motivations, values, desires, and talents.
Archetypes are more sustainable than personas.
While you may adopt and discard dozens of personas over a lifetime, you will likely only have one or two archetypes. And these stick with you throughout your life.
Mine has always been The Sage. No matter what job, friend group, city, or mood I’ve been in, I’ve always been obsessed with truth, analysis, wisdom, thinking, philosophizing, and teaching. Sometimes it’s annoying, but it has always been true…
And it’s kind of nice to know that will never change.
The beauty of learning and developing your archetype is that you can take it in infinite directions. It can span careers, relationships, and life transitions. If you decide that you no longer want to be a real estate agent or a teacher, you don’t have to drop your archetype like you have to drop your persona.
Take a look at the chart below and find your archetype(s). You can have a few! Water and nurture it. Be really proud of it. Show it off in every aspect of your life.
Because you’re way too interesting for a persona.
Archetype descriptions SoulCraft.
|The Ego Types
1. The Innocent
Motto: Free to be you and me
Core desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
Greatest fear: to be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: to do things right
Weakness: boring for all their naive innocence
Talent: faith and optimism
The Innocent is also known as: Utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.
2. The Orphan/Regular Guy or Gal
Motto: All men and women are created equal
Core Desire: connecting with others
Goal: to belong
Greatest fear: to be left out or to stand out from the crowd
Strategy: develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Weakness: losing one’s own self in an effort to blend in or for the sake of superficial relationships
Talent: realism, empathy, lack of pretense
The Regular Person is also known as: The good old boy, everyman, the person next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbor, the silent majority.
3. The Hero
Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Core desire: to prove one’s worth through courageous acts
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Greatest fear: weakness, vulnerability, being a “chicken”
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight
Talent: competence and courage
The Hero is also known as: The warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, the soldier, dragon slayer, the winner and the team player.
4. The Caregiver
Motto: Love your neighbour as yourself
Core desire: to protect and care for others
Goal: to help others
Greatest fear: selfishness and ingratitude
Strategy: doing things for others
Weakness: martyrdom and being exploited
Talent: compassion, generosity
The Caregiver is also known as: The saint, altruist, parent, helper, supporter.
|The Soul Types
5. The Explorer
Motto: Don’t fence me in
Core desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Biggest fear: getting trapped, conformity, and inner emptiness
Strategy: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Weakness: aimless wandering, becoming a misfit
Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul
The explorer is also known as: The seeker, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim.
6. The Rebel
Motto: Rules are made to be broken
Core desire: revenge or revolution
Goal: to overturn what isn’t working
Greatest fear: to be powerless or ineffectual
Strategy: disrupt, destroy, or shock
Weakness: crossing over to the dark side, crime
Talent: outrageousness, radical freedom
The Outlaw is also known as: The rebel, revolutionary, wild man, the misfit, or iconoclast.
7. The Lover
Motto: You’re the only one
Core desire: intimacy and experience
Goal: being in a relationship with the people, work and surroundings they love
Greatest fear: being alone, a wallflower, unwanted, unloved
Strategy: to become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Weakness: outward-directed desire to please others at risk of losing own identity
Talent: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment
The Lover is also known as: The partner, friend, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, spouse, team-builder.
8. The Creator
Motto: If you can imagine it, it can be done
Core desire: to create things of enduring value
Goal: to realize a vision
Greatest fear: mediocre vision or execution
Strategy: develop artistic control and skill
Task: to create culture, express own vision
Weakness: perfectionism, bad solutions
Talent: creativity and imagination
The Creator is also known as: The artist, inventor, innovator, musician, writer or dreamer.
|The Self Types
9. The Jester
Motto: You only live once
Core desire: to live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: to have a great time and lighten up the world
Greatest fear: being bored or boring others
Strategy: play, make jokes, be funny
Weakness: frivolity, wasting time
The Jester is also known as: The fool, trickster, joker, practical joker or comedian.
10. The Sage
Motto: The truth will set you free
Core desire: to find the truth.
Goal: to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.
Biggest fear: being duped, misled—or ignorance.
Strategy: seeking out information and knowledge; self-reflection and understanding thought processes.
Weakness: can study details forever and never act.
Talent: wisdom, intelligence.
The Sage is also known as: The expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative.
11. The Magician
Motto: I make things happen.
Core desire: understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: to make dreams come true
Greatest fear: unintended negative consequences
Strategy: develop a vision and live by it
Weakness: becoming manipulative
Talent: finding win-win solutions
The Magician is also known as:The visionary, catalyst, inventor, charismatic leader, shaman, healer, medicine man.
12. The Ruler
Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Core desire: control
Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: exercise power
Greatest fear: chaos, being overthrown
Weakness: being authoritarian, unable to delegate
Talent: responsibility, leadership
The Ruler is also known as: The boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model, manager or administrator.