To alter ego or to not…

Curious Rascal
4 min readDec 12, 2023


‘Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman’. Anon.

I love this quip. I laugh because although Batman in many ways is a lame super hero, he’s also pretty cool as the alter ego of a disturbed man. And he’s rich and gets the girls. Did I mention that? So what’s not to like.

Do you ever have the feeling of standing outside looking in at yourself, pondering your actions and behaviour. Marvelling and possibly bemused at what you observe? I met someone recently who surprised herself by enjoying something she didn’t think was her. It made her wonder if she’d mis-understood herself; that perhaps who she thought she was, was outdated?

I believe in an idea of multiple persona’s. A persona, a term developed by Carl Jung, is a role or character we adopt to reflect certain traits, values or an image. Some we drape over ourselves today to fit a situation; others have been useful in the past and are kept as keepsakes of where we have come from. The mantles of persona are powerful — both protective and offensive tools in the human armour. Someone described the disgraced business man Robert Maxwell as having four souls which is an interesting observation because it brings to mind the concept of morphing into these personas or characters at will. It suggests we are all actors in the reality show of life — unclear where we end and the internal personality constructs we have created to be part of society start.

As a child I was painfully shy. I’d never push myself forward, converse easily and I was happiest with my nose in a book. Was that my true self? Because this young person is quite a contrast to how I come across or actually feel today. It was a huge effort to transform myself, but it was a deliberate metamorphosis. Being so shy meant I was ignored which was dispiriting for an ambitious type. Somehow through actualising a more confident character, little by little this new ego dismantled my former self. And so it taught me how to cultivate and wield a smorgasbord of personas. The persona who listens and has mastered the art of sparkling conversation; the persona who observes and learns to pave the way for new tentacles of a career, the one who suppresses her on button to control her innate recklessness, the persona that strives to act her age…or the agitator persona who mouths off before thinking because she knows to blow things up occasionally is necessary….

The implication of my unscientific experience suggests our personality can change with effort and we can come to embody whatever nature we choose. Shape shifting without the Sci-fi. Evolving the identity I had previously assumed was fixed and brittle. Perhaps as we blossom with age, our disposition becomes more supple and malleable by inner and outer forces than we give credit. But if everything about us changes or flexes (except our DNA), are we the same person from before? The Ship of Theseus a thought experiment asks if everything in a ship is replaced, is it the same ship? (Or to us English, Triggers Broom asks the same and in a more down to Earth way!)

I am intimating we can fabricate personalities out of thin air. Carl Jung instead suggests rather than hide our true self, personas allow us to bring forward traits of our personality which already exist.

Beyonce brought into being an alter ego she called ‘Sasha Fierce’ when she began performing on stage. She was quoted as saying ‘I’m not like her in real life at all. I’m not flirtatious and super-confident and fearless like her’. This character propelled the uber confidence she is known for. Beyonce killed off Sasha Fierce in 2010, perhaps as in John Wyndam’s The Day of the Triffids — she had woken as Sasha Fierce? In 2012, Robbie Cooper, a British photographer, over many years created a book of photographs of gamers and their avatars (alter egos). It’s a fascinating portrait into how the online world is freeing up some of our hidden personas.

But holding onto another identity isn’t always about confidence. Sometimes we use alter egos to fit in — with our family, work or friends. Because no matter how tolerant society is, there are ways to behave which are valued and appreciated and at times it is better to copy and improve on those than reflect our true weird selves. Self distancing is a behavioural technique that utilises alternate personalities. It is an approach we employ to be slightly aloof from our emotions and support our ability to reason more objectively with the situation in hand. It can be empowering as we remove ourselves from worries and insecurities. Illeism is another way of creating an alter ego by referring to yourself in the third person. It has been known to help trauma victims cope more effectively with their past.

So is a persona a revelation of us or a conjured disguise that can fit very snugly if we so choose? I think it is for each of us to decide. Whatever you determine, whether you bring your one self or your multiple selves to your day to day, personas are useful so long as you don’t lose yourself in their depths, you flourish them knowingly and you keep a sense of yourself.

But there again, if you can be Batman all the time — why wouldn’t you be?



Curious Rascal

I'm keen to understand more of the world, people, history, science, making sense of the random because it helps me in life and improves my thinking.