Everyone plays different roles in their lives. Over a day, you may play the role of a parent, coworker, public speaker or athlete. You could be playing the role of job seeker and interviewing for a new position. Each of those roles requires us to access different facets of ourselves, and other facets may interfere, impacting performance through self-doubt. In Todd Herman’s “The Alter Ego Effect,” he argues that creating a personal alter ego provides a vehicle to bring out the characteristics needed to perform at our best.
Alter egos aren’t a new concept. Beyoncé famously adopted her Sasha Fierce alter ego on stage to deliver a confident performance. Kobe Bryant transformed into Black Mamba to gain separation between the court and struggles in his personal life. Alter egos give you distance from yourself, allowing you to focus on performing without distraction.
Research has shown the self-distancing provided by an alter ego can also improve executive function in children as young as five, indicating the benefits aren’t only for adults dealing with imposter syndrome or similar difficulties.
Creating an Alter Ego
Think about the type of persona you want to cultivate and the qualities you embody when you’re at your best and craft an alter ego around that. Give that person a name. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can pull from athletes or performers that embody the traits you’re looking to represent, fictional characters or even animals that have the strengths you want to display.
Triggering Your Alter Ego
“Putting on” your alter ego should involve some type of ceremony, ideally personal to you. It might be a pre-game warmup routine, a predefined rehearsal before getting on stage, or even as mundane as putting on your alter ego’s favorite pair of shoes. Being consistent with the ritual channels the qualities inherent in your alter ego.
Have you cultivated an alter ego to improve your performance or outlook? Or just to achieve some self-distancing? Let me know in the comments.