Persona - Who Are You Becoming?

However you might describe yourself today, most likely you are changing quickly. Preferences for food, music, entertainment, and lots more change over the years.  Your environment, moving  to new neighborhoods, changing schools, changes in the family, new siblings, divorces, remarriages, illness,  – life’s traumas and treats change a person. On the journey some of us discover hidden talents, the need for new or improved skills, and all along the way physical changes are taking hold, sometimes in abundance.

Also changing, is one’s personality. Personality comes from the term persona, which is from the Latin, per-sonarare, “to sound through.”  In ancient Greek and Roman theaters, the mask or persona was meant to convey the actor’s role to the audience and to amplify the voice. So B-mitzvah, like theater, isn’t just where you recite the words in the script of tradition, it is where who you are makes the day particularly special. Stepping up to the plate as a reader and teacher of Torah at B-Mitzvah is a moment where your newest persona is visible. Your persona at any point in time is a combination of who you really are, what society expects you to be, and who you are becoming.

Here are some basic principles to consider when evaluating your own personality and that of your students.

Your persona is intended to protect you. You radiate a persona with the intent to attract those you desire to have near and to deflect those with whom you prefer not to have contact.

Your persona takes on added power in certain settings; for example when a student becomes head of student council, or editor of a student newspaper, or when you acquire the authority of the pulpit at your B-Mitzvah.

Your persona changes. You might meet a very warm, welcoming person and want to emulate her, and when you do, you will succeed at bringing out a part of yourself that might not have been activated before.

Think of a few people whom you admire. Pick one and describe his/her persona.

1. Youth Example: My new best friend Elliot always invites new kids along to play soccer at camp. I was afraid of him when we were younger because he had a bad temper and would kick the ball right into me deliberately and it hurt. He changed about two years ago and stopped being an angry person. Now I’d say he’s more a curious person. He asks friendly questions and makes the new kids feel welcome. I admire his ability to change and often wonder whether to ask him how he did it.

 2. Adult Example:My friend Ellen is so attentive to guests. She notices if a desk is too high for comfortable computing, or if the room needs more lighting. She tries new things to expand her abilities as a therapist and after all these years still maintains a supervisor. I admire her integrity. Also that she has clear boundaries professionally and personally, she lets guests know how long they are invited for and which rooms are available for exploration. The walls of her home are like a canvas for her self-expression - pictures of ancestors, friends, collected pieces from many cultures, and paintings of sweet moments of spirit between people adorn her walls.  I greatly admire her creativity, integrity, and sensitivity to those around her.