Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Holding My Hand Up

Posted: 05/09/2014 in Uncategorized

The word persona is derived from ancient Greek, where prospon denoted the masks that Greek actors wore on stage in Ancient Greece, lending itself today to the modern usage of persona, used to represent an alter ego or character that we display to society.

We all do it. Some of us have one or two, and some of us have dozens for every occasion and scenario. Before the age of technology that we all now reside in, personas were only on display in person, masks that would be put on when we physically came into contact with people. Then came the telegram, the telephone, and now that we have the internet where we can jump in and out of different personas that we have carefully built over time and have become so committed to, it has become almost impossible to ascertain when you are talking to the person or the persona. And much like our internet accounts, we never fully logout of our personas. They are set on automatic, no longer needing a conscious prompt from us to burst into life.

The poet T.S. Eliot once said “Humankind cannot bear very much reality”. Personas, it seems, are our way of creating a reality that we can live with, and this process is far easier than identifying and facing the difficult questions that for many of us, we never confront. You act tough when you feel vulnerable. You act unhurt when deep down it is agonising. You say you are “OK” because that is easier than explaining why you’re not.

I am guilty of this. For so long (and this struggle is an ongoing one), I convinced/convince myself that I have a plan, that I know what I’m doing, that whatever path I am pursuing is the one that will bring me the most joy and success. The plan is fixed, the plan is a good one, the plan is suffocating…

We associate the term ‘self-doubt’ as a negative concept. That self-doubt is weakness, that self-doubt is the first step to quitting, that self-doubt is an easy way to convince yourself not to do something you really want to do. We of course hear of the success stories of people who did not let self-doubt hinder their progress, how J.K. Rowling was rejected dozens of times by publishers for that little boy character with the glasses, and how Richard Branson was selling postcards on Oxford Circus and being laughed at by friends for choosing not to pursue further education. They did not let self-doubt overwhelm them or make them give up. Yet, we never hear the reverse story, when self-doubt is the not embodiment of weakness but when self-doubt leads to you opening up your fixed plan and allowing for new possibilities you never previously thought of. Stories of when self-doubt can lead you onto an entirely different path where you fulfil your maximum potential, not just the potential you previously limited yourself to.

One persona that I am certainly guilty of is the “I know what I’m doing” mask. That my career choices are all good choices, and that I know where I am and where I want to be. It almost never allows for the possibility to take a step back, hold my hand up and say “I have no idea where I’m headed”. It’s a scary thought because it removes all the protection that I have built up over so long which conceals everyday insecurities that others will perceive as weakness. And as we all know, we live in the world that is dominated by continuously comparing ourselves to our peers, of being accepted and being thought of in high regard. By saying “I’m not sure if my career or life choices are making me happy” we lose precious ground in the rat race that we so value.

Henry Ford, the man responsible for bringing the car into commercial use and for building the assembly line that allows for mass products to be built at record speed time, once said of time: “Time loves to be wasted. It is the hardest of all waste to correct because it does not litter the floor”. Time seems to be everywhere, yet we often use time over and over again for exactly the same purposes. Ten hours at work, eight hours sleep, two hours of television, four hours of miscellaneous hobbies and travel time. Our time is extensive but not varied, and that is because we have personas and plans that are fixed. How many times when you were a teenager or at university, an elder told you “Enjoy this time because you will never have so much free time ever again”? That is because even time is in chains, only allowed to be used in certain quantities and uses. Yet, we never use time for perhaps what is most important, and that is taking precious time to ensure that what we are doing for the majority of the time is being put to good use or to think carefully about whether our life choices are making us happy. Not ever taking the time to consider whether your life plan is/will make you happy is akin to driving 100MPH without ever looking at the fuel gauge and just assuming the car will run forever without petrol. When the car hits a wall or runs out of gas (when we hit the wall or no longer find the energy to continue), that’s usually when we revaluate our life choices. But that doesn’t have to come so late in the game. We have terms like “mid-life crisis” but I would much prefer having a regular mid-year crisis so that I don’t have to wait two decades before questioning my life choices and how I spend my time. The only thing stopping us is ourselves, or more accurately, our personas. We now have so many personas that we use to protect our flaws and project a version of perfection that the very thought of focusing on our imperfections is terrifying.

But we have to start somewhere….I have to start somewhere.

A few months ago I woke up on a Sunday morning and logged onto Facebook and saw a friend of mine with a status saying he had quit his engineering career to pursue a music career. After many years of study and hard work, he decided it wasn’t for him. For many, it would be unthinkable to use so much time for something that you are now giving up. But I wonder how many of us are brave enough to take a step back, to take a deep look inside of ourselves, away from people and our personas, and pose questions that offer new possibilities? Why do we believe so vehemently that the plan we created five, ten, or fifteen years ago, is so perfect? Why does there only have to be one plan? Why does there have to be a plan?

Appearances are deceiving, so much so that when we look in the mirror, it’s hard to guess if the image staring back is the person or the persona.

This is me holding my hand up. I don’t have all the answers because I’ve only just started asking better questions.