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“Are You A Chameleon?” Struggles of Identity Adaptation

Are You A Chameleon?

Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Therapy 365 podcast with Lisa Kift. In this episode, Lisa discusses the concept of people being “chameleons,” individuals who adapt to their surroundings to the extent that they lose their own identity. 

So, without further ado, let’s jump in.

A Deep Dive into the Complex Inner World of People-Pleasing Individuals

Lisa suggests that chameleons often have low self-esteem, are uncertain about their identities, and tend to be people-pleasers. They are adept at sensing other people’s emotions and needs but often neglect their own feelings and desires to avoid conflict.

Despite appearing easygoing on the surface, these “chameleons” often struggle with inner conflict, resentment, and frustration. They aren’t living in alignment with their true selves but instead strive to meet everyone else’s expectations or follow societal norms. This inner distress can lead to a sense of being lost, not knowing who they truly are or what they want.

Additionally, chameleons often find themselves caught in a predicament, torn between living for others and living for themselves. They harbor a fear of authenticity, which is exacerbated by the fact that they might not even have a clear understanding of their own identity.

Due to their adaptability, chameleons may attract people who are emotionally unhealthy and demand a lot of attention. These dynamics can be draining, making the chameleon feel as if the other person is consuming their energy. Despite the discomfort, chameleons often find themselves stuck in these relationships due to their people-pleasing tendencies.

Why Do People Turn Into Chameleons?

Next, Lisa delves into why people might turn into “chameleons.” Their past experiences have often taught them that it’s safer and more socially acceptable to adapt to others’ expectations rather than express their true selves. This behavior usually stems from their family environment and early life experiences.

5 Steps To Transition From Being A “Chameleon” To Discovering And Embracing One’s Authentic Self

After that, Lisa provides guidance on transitioning from being a “chameleon” to discovering and embracing one’s authentic self.

#1 Identify personal likes and dislikes : Firstly, start by understanding your preferences, even in small things like food choices. This will help you create a clearer picture of who you truly are.

#2 Practice assertiveness : Begin by expressing your opinion on easy topics, like suggesting a place for dinner with friends. Note that assertiveness, which involves setting boundaries and stating opinions, differs from aggression, which is the harsh expression of those boundaries or opinions.

#3 Keep a journal: Write about your experiences and attempts to express yourself. This will allow you to track your behaviors, feelings, and how you’re navigating self-expression.

#4 Find a confidant: Share your journey with a trusted individual. If you don’t have anyone who fits this role, consider seeking the help of a therapist.

#5 Remember your worth: Understand that you deserve your own space in the world. It may take time to create this space and to feel comfortable within it, but remember that it is a deserving endeavor.

Conclusion

You can visit loveandlifetoolbox.com, where Lisa shares more insights and tools for fostering emotional health and happy relationships. She also offers email consultations for anyone with specific questions about emotional health or relationships.

At Therapy 365, you are always a work in progress.

Transcript

Lisa Kift:

Hey there everybody, it’s Lisa Brooks Kift, and this is episode 13 of Therapy 365. Welcome. Today we are going to talk about chameleons. Are you a chameleon? So chameleons are reptiles that are able to change their colors to camouflage themselves and also maybe send social cues to each other. They can communicate that way. Well, people can also be chameleons and for some of the same reasons actually.

So, primarily because they feel the need to adapt to their surroundings rather than feel comfortable being themselves. So there’s some indicators that you are a chameleon. You identify with being a people pleaser, you have low self-esteem, you aren’t really sure who you are. So as a chameleon, you’re an expert at tuning into others. And often at the cost of yourselves, you can go to great lengths to avoid conflict. And oftentimes you won’t admit it if you’ve been hurt.

You just don’t say a word. Quiet, right? Cuz as a chameleon you want to blend in even if it means hiding your true feelings, your opinions, your desires, your wants. Nothing is articulated and saying no is extremely challenging. So on the surface, a chameleon may appear to be really quite easygoing and easy peasy and go with the flow. But there’s a problem. The inner world of the chameleon is highly conflicted and they’re probably dealing with a lot of resentment and frustration that they’re not actually living in alignment with themselves, but attempting to do what everyone else around them wants or what they think they’re supposed to be doing.

And a lot of times vb people don’t fully realize they’re out of alignment, but the distress that can come up internally for people really is a result of that. And they often have no idea who they are or what they like.

They don’t like how to, you know, how to live for themselves. And over time this can cause a lot of distress. They kind of feel stuck in between living for other people and living for themselves. And they have a real strong fear of being authentic if they even know what authenticity means because they may not know themselves, right? So it’s tricky. And because they’re so adaptable, they can draw in people who are less emotionally healthy and they may require a lot of bandwidth from them. So the chameleon can sometimes get stuck in these dynamics with friends where they start to feel like the air is just being sucked out of them. The life is sucked out of them by other people who have very high needs. And the chameleon is the perfect person, right? The one who will show up is a people pleaser or is highly attuned to their emotions.

But this can get really uncomfortable over time, especially if you’re surrounded by a number of these types of personalities.

Reasons People Become A Chameleon [3:26]

So how does it happen that someone becomes a chameleon? Well, if you look into the history of people who become chameleon, you’ll often find really good reasons for it. They’ve learned at some point that it was probably safer and more acceptable for them to adapt to others rather than be themselves. So this is where family of origin work can really help you if this resonates. So part of what that can do is help you to understand why that happened and then be able to work through it so you’re not stuck in this mode in chameleon mode as you move through life, which can be ultimately quite stressful and unsatisfying.

How Can One Transition From Being A Chameleon To Truly Discovering And Embracing Their Authentic Self [4:02]

So how to move from being a chameleon to you to finding you being you, right? Shutting your chameleon skin.

The first thing you can do is really get familiar with your likes and dislikes. Take them to heart and start creating a picture of who you are. Some people just really do not know who they are, even down to what kind of food they like, or I mean, you name it, the list goes on and on. So start to really learn your likes and dislikes.

And then number two, practice assertiveness. And start with the easy stuff, like offering an opinion about a place for dinner, maybe with a group of friends rather than what you usually do. You probably go with the flow. Sure, I’ll go, I don’t care. Whatever you guys want. Even if Mexican food gives you heartburn or whatever, right? So practice assertiveness and remember assertiveness, is that right? You have to set a boundary or just state an opinion, right?

And aggressiveness is obviously when you state those opinions or set boundaries in a very harsh way. So sometimes people who are challenged with assertiveness, right? Get confused between the two and feel like assertiveness is aggressive, but it’s not. You have a right for that.

So number three, keep a journal to gain an understanding of who you are and the experiences you’ve had where you have tried to express yourself. So you’re starting to track what you’re doing, how you’re going about it, and the feelings that are coming up as you are doing. So.

Number four, find a trusted confidant to share your journey with. And if you don’t have anyone that feels comfortable in that way, you can find a therapist to help you out.

Number five, remember that you deserve a space in this world too. It just might take some time to create that for yourself and to become comfortable with that.

Conclusion [5:42]

So that’s it now. You can check out love and life toolbox.com for my insights and tools around how to have a happy self and happy relationships and a happy life. And if you have a specific question around emotional health or relationships, I do offer email consultations there as well. You can check that out. And until next time, remember that at Therapy 365, you are always a work in progress.