During middle school I wanted to not care if people liked me. I recognized that freedom as a common trait among people that everyone liked. Maybe if I had that then everyone would like me… whoops.
During college I would deliberately leave my IM alone so my status would be idle. I hoped people would think I was away from the computer doing something fun.
Obscure away messages were good for that too.
The thought of my different groups of friends hanging out used to make me sick.
Even now the persona is quite upset about this post: “don’t reveal all this, people don’t like that..”
When I started to blog I started two blogs. One was about potential robot threats and the other was this one. I wasn’t sure people would like this, so I figured I could get affirmation through the other, more fun one.
Those two blogs are a humbling picture of the persona/ego dynamic. Jung describes the persona as the part of us that works to be acceptable to others. The ego on the other hand is the “I” we typically associate with.
Throughout high school I suffered this dynamic by trying to be acceptable to teachers, parents, my pot smoking friends and my AP friends. Through secrecy and chameleon-like malleability I somehow succeeded. Yet the persona’s success meant failure for the ego’s demand of consistency.
From eastern philosophy I adopted the idea that growth meant diminishing ego. There are times when this will likely be the path. But when the persona is unchecked by the ego then our highest goal becomes acceptance. What I am finding is that this eventually gets in the way of better goals: how likely is it that the person everyone accepts is the person the world really needs?
But isn’t it important to consider what others think?
That’s the tricky part of the persona. The fear that others will reject us is disguised as love and concern for the other. But truly it just wants other’s acceptance, not what is best for them.
Maybe this seems like an long forgotten problem but I still hem and haw when I have to deliver bad news. I rationally know that a clear and direct delivery is the most helpful and ultimately the most loving. But the persona is too worried. It’s also very worried about what type of job I’ll pursue or what conversations I initiate.
The persona is not the enemy though. The persona acts like ballast. Too little and the ego runs wild. Too much and we’re going nowhere, paralyzed by worry:
“Don’t stand out too much, don’t question, and don’t rock the boat.“
I’m not advocating rocking the boat just for the sake of rocking the boat: that’s just a different form of seeking acceptance. I’m advocating that we rock the boat when we know it’s going the wrong way. Rock the societal boat (challenging consumerism, embedded violence, backwards policy and prejudice) and the personal boat (challenging false beliefs, assumptions and fears). The task of ego is to choose the right direction and it takes an exceptionally strong ego to do so when it means going against the tide.