Many people look good but feel bad. They are chronically stressed, sad, and anxious. They are lonely in their marriages and disconnected from their relationships. They know something is wrong but have no idea what it might be. They fear, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me.”
A “chameleon” is a person who changes his or her opinions, ethics, morals, and behavior to please others or to defend himself or herself. This person often behaves in a manner so plastic, shallow, and two-dimensional that it is like witnessing an act. People wonder, who is this person really? Why isn’t there any connection? There’s always this…distance. Everybody knows a chameleon, but not everybody recognizes it when he or she is one. I sure didn’t.
In this blog, I’m not only going to discuss what it means to be a chameleon and the consequences of that type of behavior, but I’m also going to use my formative years as a chameleon to illustrate. Of course, this is risky—I could be despised and rejected—but growth only comes from risk, and I’m certain it’s normal for humans is to grow, or what in psychobabble we term “moving towards self-actualization.” Failure to grow means stagnation and engaging the process of decline and death. Our emotions (e.g., loneliness, depression, anxiety, boredom, etc.) can inform us that we are not living our lives fully and authentically. Our emotions also tell us when we are on our right path (e.g., contentedness, happiness, joy, love, etc.).
Chameleons believe that if they were perfect—had a slicker act—then they’d feel better, people would like them more, and they could protect themselves from being hurt. They try to be attractive in a way that they do not believe they were as children. They feel shame, so they chronically alter their true “colors” to protect themselves. They attempt to control the image others have of them. They “impression manage” or control and cultivate the image they convey to others. By controlling the image they project, people can exercise some influence over how they are perceived by others and the way others respond to them. The payoff is feeling safe; the cost is lonesome suffering, even when they are surrounded by people.
We behave differently depending on the roles we fulfill to meet our responsibilities; this is necessary and normal. But when we do not live with integrity, we become chameleonlike, and then nobody truly knows us. There is little emotional intimacy, and that can feel bad, especially when it’s chronic.
However, there is help. It seems counterintuitive that the best way to deal with the Chameleon Complex is to stop covering shame and to uncover it. Many people need to learn how to let down their guard around safe people in order to reveal more of their authentic selves, to keep up their guard when the situation demands it, and to know the difference. Very quickly, a connection will result, and loneliness, sadness, and worry will fade.
With awareness comes the ability to change and grow.
As this blog and my story unfolds I’d like you to consider how the personal is universal, how my story is, to an extent, all of our stories. If you’d like to read ahead you can find The Chameleon Complex online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and many other online booksellers. However, I also hope you will hang in here with me online. This blog includes over 150 additional pages not included in the book because I didn’t want the book to be too unwieldy. Plus there will be photos on this blog that are not included in the book.
I look forward to taking this journey with you.