I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast where we're adventuring into the world of mindful modern magic and authentic spiritual practice. It's March 31, 2022, and today's topic is the difference between being a persona and being a person in spiritual terms. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome back, witchy friends and spiritual travelers!
I’ve mentioned my day job here periodically, and part of why this comes up so much is… Well, first of all, for those of you who are actively on a journey towards greater authenticity, a fuller embodiment of your authentic self, you’ve probably noticed that what also happens is that the compartmentalization of your life decreases.
Before I took big action towards my own authentic way of being, there was, you know, I was one person at work, I was a different person with my family, a different person for this hobby or this other activity, that kind of thing. There was this thing of, like I was juggling different roles, different levels of being authentic. At the most dramatic parts of my life with this, it was the kind of thing where… When I had my art gallery business, my parents helped me run it, and there were people I had met in the pagan community who were artists that I wanted to feature in the gallery, in the shop, and I had to carefully navigate this crossover between two areas of my life that I really felt needed to be kept separate. My parents weren’t supposed to know about this other part of my life. I didn’t want my pagan friends to interact too much with my parents.
And that’s… If your life is like that at all, that’s like a map showing you where your inauthenticities are.
But anyway, the upshot of that is that now that I’m really committed to authenticity, now it’s like not only am I not a different person with my boss and coworkers and clients than I am in any other context in my life, me being authentic at work means that my boss sometimes comes to me to have conversations about her own spiritual journey. I’ll get, like, messages going, “Hey, could you get out your pendulum or pull some cards on this for me?” or “What does your intuition say about this?” or “I have to share what came up in my iboga ceremony,” or whatever.
And last week I got a late night message from her that said, word for word, “A persona vs a person. Question: which one am I?” And we went on to have a conversation about what the difference was between people who we think of as people and people who are just personas, especially in the context of, like, famous people or people who are well known in whatever circles. Because she’d realized that one of her key advisors and coaches wasn’t really a person to her, she was just a persona, and she herself didn’t want to be that to others.
So we had this conversation about what the difference is. And for me it has nothing to do with, like, how polished or glam or professional or whatever someone is or seems to be, it’s more about the depth of what they allow people to see. It’s not that those that I think of as personas are fake necessarily, although they might be very inauthentic, but mostly they’re just incomplete to me. Someone who is a persona could absolutely be, you know, authentic and in touch with their deep self and yet doesn’t exist in a fully embodied way or they could be very inauthentic and masked and all that, but you have no idea which they are. You have no idea who they are.
I… The funny thing is that I actually came up with an example to kind of illustrate to my boss what I meant by that, and if I’m about to insult a celebrity you love, just… I would rather you don’t waste your time justifying your feelings to me. Okay? But to me it’s like… So my wife and I watch a lot of Food Network. And I’m, of course, famously not really into the whole country thing. I’m totally not the intended audience for shows that are all, like, country music and things happening on farms and whatever. That said, I would watch Trisha Yearwood’s cooking show all day long, but if Ree Drummond comes on I’m probably changing the channel. And it’s because to me Trisha comes across as a whole person, and Ree is just a persona. I feel like Trisha gives a window into her whole personality while Ree is carefully embodying the personality she wants people to think she has.
So, what does this have to do with spirituality or magic? Well, it definitely has to do with authenticity in general, although maybe not in the ways that seem obvious. But in terms of spiritual authenticity there’s definitely a tendency for especially religious ideas, our relationship with religious ideas and ideals to push us towards something of a spiritual or religious persona rather than being a fully embodied, fully authentic, fully integrated spiritual being. And what I want to talk about today is the impact it has on us spiritually to fall into those tendencies, not just for our relationships with other people, but actually the impact it has on us internally.
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Now back to the episode!
I mentioned the whole thing about how authenticity kind of manifests itself in our lives by starting to break down the compartments between the different areas of our lives, and this really does have a ton to do with the topic at hand. A persona can be authentic or not authentic, it can be a mask we choose or just a very limited perspective of who we are, but the whole reason we become more persona than person has to do with the same things that drive our inauthenticities. It’s this idea that we’re expected to be something, that we’re not going to be allowed to be authentic or that it’s going to bring consequences if we are.
I talked about this when I talked a few episodes ago about being in the broom closet as a witch. And I want to reiterate what I said then about how, you know, authenticity doesn’t require us to be fully embodied all the time and with everyone. Sometimes we make very authentic choices that resonate very deeply with who we are at the moment to keep portions of our authentic self private from people. Compartmentalization isn’t, you know, something we need to demonize and fight against. It’s just something of a barometer, I’ve found.
But even if we are being totally authentic to who we are when we select only certain very narrow pieces of who we are to show other people, the external result is exactly the same as if we were literally putting on a persona that isn’t authentic to who we are. It means that the people who interact with the persona don’t get any depth of understanding of who we are. And spiritually speaking this is, like I said before the break, it’s something that we can end up doing in response to whatever pressures we feel or whatever expectations are on us or that we feel are on us to fit into very narrowly defined roles or identities.
I know that my… I remember realizing as a teenager that my mom did this. She was the minister’s wife and she had a really specific understanding of what that meant she needed to be. And I could see how she pushed certain aspects of her personality forward and totally concealed others. And it was really frustrating to me, of course, because I knew what she was like day to day, and so much of it wasn’t what the church saw. That… that sounds more ominous than I mean it to be. But, like… You know, it’s exactly what I did in various customer service jobs I’ve held where, like, my genuine reactions to things and my whole personality and any, like, hint of what went on in my life outside of work was just not something customers were supposed to get to see. But with my mom it was definitely a whole different level than that because it was motivated by this need to be an example, to not let the congregation see the parts of her personality or her life that might seem less than ideal.
And it’s not… I really want to say this as many times as I need to to make it clear for everyone, but the act of being selective about who gets to see the whole you isn’t bad in itself. Especially in our day to day, mundane lives, there’s often very good reasons why we would feel unsafe being completely transparent and fully embodied with people. Would it be better to live a life that doesn’t require you to do that, where you feel safe and comfortable being authentic with everyone? Yeah, the closer you get to that, the healthier it is for us emotionally and mentally.
But in a spiritual sense, when we’re running in a spiritual context, when we’re with the people who are supposed to be our spiritual family and support system and whatever, if we’re not engaging in that community as anything but a persona, is that really a beneficial spiritual environment?
If we feel like the only way we can engage in that environment is to do so as a persona rather than as a full person, as a spiritual personal and not a spiritual being in all senses, how does that support or benefit our spiritual practice and spiritual life?
I think one of the biggest red flags about any spiritual community is if it has really strict standards, formal or not, about not just conduct or behavior but in a way that forces people to deny their basic reality or identity in order to exist in the community. It’s exactly in a lot of ways the same coercive situation as, you know, working a customer service job where the expectation that you behave a certain way, whether than means you just carefully curate a surface level version of yourself or whether it means you put on a manufactured persona like a mask, people go along with that expectation because the alternative is to not be able to exist in that environment and, therefore, not having income. There’s…
We exist in those spaces and play by those rules because the alternative is worse than existing in that surface level, superficial way. As damaging and unpleasant as it is to do the masking thing, to hide and deny parts of ourselves so people don’t see us as the full people we are and only see the persona we want them to see, as bad as that is, the consequences are worse. That’s how we get coerced into it. My mom cultivated the preacher’s wife persona because the alternative was… at least she thought it would mean putting my dad’s career and ministry at risk. And my boss, you know… This is within the coaching space, the entrepreneurial space where there’s a pervasive feeling that if you want to be successful in business you have to present yourself a certain way whether that’s how you really are or not, and the alternative is failure and financial consequences. It’s… It’s not really, by the way, but that’s the perception.
In our spiritual communities, the ones that are coercive and drive this pressure to be only a persona, only an ideal, the consequence is rejection. The consequence is separation from, at some level, separation from the divine. But that’s not the true reality. In a moment I want to talk about how we get the deepest connection to the divine when we’re fully embodied and exist as a full spiritual being.
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Spiritually speaking, every relationship we have with people, with objects, with ideas, it’s all relationships and all those relationships are connections. I’ve talked about this idea before, I talk about it a lot in my book, it’s the foundation of my understanding of spirit. And so if we think about the fact that all our relationships are connections and connections are the root of spirituality, they’re the pathways on which energy, including magic, travels and works, then any time we stunt and stifle those connections, our spiritual practice and magical practice suffers.
We can’t be connecting from our core, from our deep self, if we’re connecting through a surface-level facade, especially if it’s not even us, it’s just a mask we’re putting on. That’s… It impacts what we’re able to do as far as intention, magic, manifestation because we put ourselves in a situation where we’re doing all that while also trying to keep parts or even most of ourselves shut away and pulled back. And that’s part of the reason it’s so difficult on a spiritual, emotional, mental level to exist as a persona more than a person.
Thinking about people like my mom or my boss’s coach, there’s… Even when it’s not fake, even if it’s not like they’re adopting a persona which isn’t really part of their real personality and life, the work it takes to keep that up, to maintain the control of external perspective, the careful framing and compartmentalization and potentially even switching back and forth between full authenticity and the persona or between multiple personas, that requires a ton of energy, a ton of spirit, and when we’re pouring into that, we don’t have that spirit, that energy available for the things that we want to achieve or manifest. We don’t have that energy left over to take care of ourselves and heal and evolve and all of that.
And this is… I’ve talked about evolution and how evolution is not about picking a goal of how you want to be and then making yourself into that. And that’s for a lot of reasons, but this whole thing of persona comes into that as well. If we’re like, spiritually this is how I want to develop, this is my goal on a spiritual level, I’m going to work on my life and my routines and my behavior and grow into this new thing… There’s definitely the high potential for that to become a persona we put on which is at odds with our natural evolution. It can become a thing where, if we struggle to force ourselves into that new identity, new role, instead of dealing with those struggles, instead of confronting our actual deep self issues and doing our shadow work, instead of moving towards authenticity, we close in on ourselves and fit ourselves into this idea of the persona we feel we should be embodying, the persona we think is ideal.
And we become more shallow in the way we connect.
It generates shadow aspects. It pushes us towards being a less integrated, less fully realized spiritual being and towards being more of just a persona. And again, this isn’t about having to let anyone and everyone see into every corner of our lives. But it’s about the difference between… Like, my boss’s coach interacts as a persona because it’s clear that her success and her image is the brand she is selling, and there is no room apparently for depth of identity in that, and anything which isn’t part of the image she’s selling just never sees the light of day. It’s pushed back. She doesn’t interact as a person, she only interacts in the role of successful business CEO and nothing else.
So if we feel like we need to be or to become, like, the super spiritual person who is the super spiritual new age type person or the active practitioner of witchcraft with all of that specific knowledge and whatever, or whatever the ideal looks like in your head, if that’s what we feel we need to be and we work really hard to be that in opposition to our authentic reality, our authentic way of living, our time as that ideal has nothing behind it except illusion, right? Whatever the truth is underneath that persona is only hidden behind the persona, not connected to it. We end up actively trying to dismantle and conceal the reality behind the persona we’re trying to be and the persona ends up just hollow, just really surface and shallow.
And in terms of spirituality, spiritual practice, that’s the last thing we want to be.
The thing is, I think if anyone asked each of us if we were trying to be a spiritual person or a spiritual persona, none of us would say we want to be or exist as a persona. But if we’re on this journey trying to be more authentic in our spiritual connections and practice, if that’s what our goal really is, it’s crucial to check in with ourselves now and then and be honest about how much time and energy we’re spending being a persona, trying to be a persona even when we don’t consciously intend to. And look at the reasons why that is, why we’re there and doing that, because that will uncover some of our shadow.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.