The idea of a private and public persona comes from social psychology, the word persona originating from the Latin meaning ‘mask’. Do we wear different masks depending on the situations we find ourselves in? What is our private and public self?
Our private self consists of what we are and feel inside, while our public self is the identity we present to others. Our private self is the part of us that we want to keep hidden while our public self is the part of us that we want others to see and acknowledge. Both persona’s influence our behaviour because there is a difference between how we are when by ourselves, and how we are when in the public eye.
Private Self dominant: we behave according to our own values and beliefs, are more self aware, prone to anger when provoked and more likely to experience regular mood changes. We are able to disclose private aspects of ourselves to loved ones and close friends with ease and often analyse our own behaviour.
Public Self dominant: we tend to be more sensitive to rejection by groups, readily comply with other’s expectations, conform to social values and place a great deal of importance on our social identity. We are good at predicting the impression we make on others.
However, we don’t necessarily fit into one group all of the time and there can be some crossover. We all have public and private elements to our personality. For example, a person who is private self dominant may well feel different in a group of people they are familiar and at ease with. Clients may be struggling to understand ‘who is the real me?’ and may benefit from considering questions that gently examine both elements of their personality. Questions may include “for whose benefit is your public self?”
It is also worth remembering that some aspects of our public self are defense mechanisms, such as putting on a brave face, which we may believe maintains our self esteem and confidence.