The word “persona” is basically derived from latin where it originally meant “a theatrical mask”. It’s fitting that the word “personality” is a derivative of persona because in most people their personality is simply a “mask” they wear to hide (or hide from) their true human self. The beautiful thing is that beneath all the facades, that we humans put up, there is an innocent being which is actually our true self – this is true for every single human being. Some of us are true to this original innocence, while most of us have created layers of “persona” to completely cloud the identification of this truth in us.
It’s heartening to know, and realize, that all human beings, beneath their masks, are deeply innocent beings and if you could see this innocence in a person, when their mask is down, you cannot help feel a deep love or compassion for him/her unconditionally. All human beings are inherently “good”, it’s only that sometimes they identify completely with the masks they put on (or were made to put on) to the point that they disconnect from their inherent goodness, innocence and integrity.
A simple exercise to know your innocence
A lot of psychologists seem to be more interested in analyzing the masks that people are wearing, and focus on guiding people to wear “better masks” or more positive masks, instead of helping a person identify their true innocence and guide them to be true to this innocence. It doesn’t matter what type of mask you are wearing, a positive one or a negative one, the bottom-line is that you will not feel totally aligned with yourself as long as you see yourself as the mask instead of knowing yourself in your true innocence.
Here’s a simple exercise that can help you get a sense of the “unmasked” innocence of who you are.
“Sit alone in a room, preferably in silent surroundings. If your body is feeling over-excited, or restless, just take sometime to relax and allow the body to become a little calm. Now, without trying to get it “right” or trying to be spiritual about it, just be your normal self and visualize a scenario where you are all alone in the middle of a dense jungle, thick with wild animals. Its getting dark as the sun sets. You are totally by yourself and there is no “audience” watching your performance. You can sense some wild animals closing in, mostly by their growl as they smell your presence. Look within and sense who are you in this moment – with no persona, with no pretences, just you in this abject aloneness.”
If you can take this visualization deep enough, you will get a very authentic sense of who you really are beneath the masks. When you are all alone, with no audience, in your survival mode, your true human self always reveals itself in all its humility, integrity and innocence – no superficial bravados, no artificial confidence, no artificial positivity, no aggrandized spiritual identity, no fake smiles, no persona, just an authentic presence. It doesn’t matter who the human being is, if he/she is in such a scenario all the persona will drop away and their innocence will stand revealed in that moment. It’s really amazing how many human beings are avoiding the acknowledgement that this innocence is their real truth, all the masks they use are just means to deny who they really are beneath all of it or a means to make people believe a fake version of them.
Why do we mask our innocence?
The basic reason why we mask our innocence is because we associate a deep “vulnerability” with it. We feel that if we stand true to our innocence we will be taken advantage of or we will be “weak” in some way. However, the truth is that any human being who stands true to his/her innocence is deeply taken care of by life, because in their innocence there is no resistance in them to the influx of well-being that is inherent to life’s movement. Whenever you take on a “mask”, and stay identified with it, you are basically standing in resistance to your true life movement and thus end up attracting realities that are “incongruent”, or conflicted, with you.
It doesn’t matter what type of mask you are wearing, you can be wearing a “positive” persona as your mask and you would still end up attracting a reality that does not feel congruent to you because you are not being congruent to yourself. It’s so easy to see through the inauthenticity in people who try to wear “positive personas” – like some spiritual mask, or some superficial confidence, contrived show of strength, or fake smiles, or fake cheerfulness. Anyone who starts becoming aware of their authentic nature would be able to see through the various pretences in themselves and in others.
Another common persona that people take up is the “role based persona” through a need to fit into a “society defined” role. You can see how a person who is not totally in touch with his/her truth takes up multiple personalities to fit into some designated roles – be it some professional roles (like a manager or servant role) or some personal roles (like a mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, wife, husband), we constantly “fake it” to fit into a role – it’s just like being an actor on a theatre who is hiding behind a mask of the character he/she is playing.
Some people take up personas based on their sexuality, gender, social standing, qualifications, status, physical looks and skill sets. It can get really complex when the mind makes up so many masks, shifting between them based on the situation, feeling totally confused and artificial (and also afraid because the mask can slip at times revealing their perceived vulnerability).
Be an authentic human
You are bound to reach a point, at some point in your life, when you get sick, and totally exhausted, of all the masks that you are wearing. At the latest it might be when you sense death approaching because then you will realize the futility of the masks. Sometimes when people are ill, or going through a loss, their true innocence shows up easily and a lot of people close to them (or the person himself/herself) can be surprised at how it was hiding all along beneath the masks. During illness the mind is so tired that it does not have the energy to create masks and so the human can finally appear in his/her true being, and there is a welling of unconditional compassion towards anyone who stands revealed in this innocence.
Your innocence is not your weakness, it’s your greatest strength. Your masks are a sign of weakness. When you stay true to your innocence you will be in total alignment with your life stream and hence will always be privy to an influx of well-being and love. When you shed your masks and stay true to your innocence, you will not get harmed the way your mind imagines you will, it’s only your masks that are truly harming your life by the resistance they create to your life’s movement. We all know how comfortable we feel in the presence of an authentic human being who is not putting on a “show”, who is just being true to his humanness. This comfort is felt because in their presence we sense our own authenticity and sense how pure/innocent our being really is.