Guidance from the I Ching: #22 - Persona

What is the image you are projecting?

July 20, 2020

“Persona should be given it’s due, but there is no advantage in allowing it to advance and take the lead. Thus, the superior person adorns their rule with grace, but makes important decisions in conformity with higher laws.”

I consult the I Ching (Book Of Changes) for inspiration at the start of every week. This week’s message is all about the power of presentation.

Persona, sometimes translated as Grace, reminds us that how we present somethings can be as important as what we offer. Public relations firms and marketing agencies have built fortunes on this premise. Elections have been won and lost based on a candidate’s understanding of this principle. Love it or hate it; image plays a vital role in society.

According to the I Ching, our current conditions require us to pay a little extra attention to presenting ourselves in the best way possible. But this is not merely a case of style over substance. The I Ching suggests that “An enlightened person displays wit and charm when appropriate, but relies upon shrewd discernment when making serious decisions.” Persona reminds us that while others are influenced by what they see, our image’s impact is limited in its scope. Having the right Persona allows us to be successful in small matters. But we are also warned about the dark side.

” Now is the time to make sure that the face you present to others is the one that represents who you truly are deep inside or at least the person that you are trying to become”

Jose Johnson

Actor Cary Grant created a persona for himself as a suave, sophisticated, and confident gentleman, something he was admittedly not when he first began acting. Grant kept practicing his new Persona until it eventually became a part of who he was. But not everyone fares as well. Method acting is a technique used by actors to make the most of their performance by fully immerse themselves in the character that they will be portraying. Method actors don’t just want to play the role they want to live it, and sometimes that means going to very dark places. It is not uncommon to see method actors so caught up in “playing their role” that they begin to confuse the character from the real person. The process of becoming characters with less desirable attributes left them confused and struggling to return to their true selves. The I Ching cautions to be careful not to become so deeply identified with the role you are playing that it begins to make decisions for you.

The I Ching reminds us that while there is nothing wrong with showing a little style, don’t make the mistake of paying more attention to the vessel than the content. In Chinese martial arts, there is a saying, “hao kan, bu hao yong,” which translates as “looks good, but no use.” This saying stresses the importance of form and function. If someone has beautiful movements, but there is no substance or no ability to use them practically, their practice has been useless. It is easy for some to become more concerned about their image than their impact. We see this every day on social media with people who want to be influencers and celebrities. They spend most of their energy developing a glossy image and little on providing quality content. While sometimes the strategy of concealing the deep with the trivial works, you still need to have something of substance beneath the surface.

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Persona’s time gives us the unique opportunity to contemplate our environment from a state of grace, providing us a view of the possible perfection in the world. Life becomes silent for a moment, and you can now make decisions that will shape your future. The I Ching suggests that during this period, you may need to choose between two paths; glitz and glamour or simplicity and inner worth. Ask yourself, is it more important that you look successful or feel successful? During Persona, you may only be seeing things on the surface level and becoming enamored by the idealistic aspects of life and not the daily grind. Be careful not to let the endorphins lead you into rash decisions. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the rush, don’t let it sweep you away.

During this phase of Persona, focus on aligning your inner and outer worlds. Now is the time to make sure that the face you present to others is the one that represents who you truly are deep inside or at least the person that you are trying to become.

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