The professional life: This is our most public face, the life in which we are focused on our career and the image we want to project to the general population. We live this life when we’re at the office, at professional events (although these sometimes blur into the personal and private), and doing public tasks associated with our roles. For instance, a mom attending a PTA meeting, a writer sending a query, and a businessperson attending a party for the primary purpose of networking could be said to be living their professional lives.
The personal life: This is still often a public part of our lives, but it is focused on a life outside of jobs, careers, and professional-related goals. This life includes such things as friendships, relationships, family, and hobbies, although only to a certain depth. It might also involve your religion (particularly if you attend church, thereby making your practice more public) and certain groups or communities you may belong to (while others of these will be private). Information (non-work-related) that you feel comfortable divulging in casual conversation with an acquaintance probably lands in this sphere. What you post on Facebook or Google+ often also falls into this category, unless you’ve made the decision to use these tools for strictly professional purposes.
The personal life can be an important component of professional relationships. We are often expected to have hobbies and interests so we appear well-rounded, for instance; there is also the stereotypical example from the ‘50s of the ambitious young man who is expected to get married (and perhaps even start a family) in order to receive the coveted promotion. The personal life plays a key role in the new trend of authenticity–allowing your audience inside your life so they gain the impression of really knowing you.
The private life: Most people do not want this life to be public. It includes the deeper aspects of relationships and friendships, facets of ourselves that we think we will be judged for, and certain stories from our pasts. If there is some part of your life that you do not generally speak of, or only to a carefully chosen few, that falls into your private life.
Everyone has different comfort levels and therefore different boundaries that constitute the private life, but we have certain societal norms for what we tend to share and what we don’t. When someone doesn’t share these norms or has parts of the private life come unexpectedly to light, the result is often scandal and/or controversy: for example, when Penelope Trunk tweeted that she was at a business meeting and in the middle of a miscarriage, or when a politician’s unconventional sex life becomes headline news.
The secret life: According to Kim Stanley Robinson in his novel Galileo’s Dream, we have seven secret lives as well: