My 30th birthday party was a riot of purple. The tablecloth, balloons and cake decorations all displayed purple hues. The decor generated many comments! It may have seemed like overkill but to me it was a significant moment. This was me declaring my favourite colour and something that brought me joy. I wanted to step into my thirties as fully me, without the chameleon camouflage that I hid behind my whole life.
Do you remember that movie ‘Runaway Bride’? The main character had come close to getting married multiple times and was about to try again. A reporter starts interviewing all of the previous fiances as part of a story he is writing. Over the course of the movie, we see that the main character changes to suit each partner, including the choice of her favourite way of eating eggs. Watching this movie was uncomfortable for me. I identified a little too strongly with it!
I find it easy to adapt into most environments and relationships. My accent even changes to mimic those around me. This flexibility can be a strength but was often at the cost of my identity for many years. My taste in music would shift to accommodate who I was with at the time. Few of my opinions were solid enough to withstand a differing viewpoint. The adaptation was less about being able to get along with people and more about not wanting to offend or be rejected. I didn’t know who I really was anymore.
“The thing about chameleoning your way through life is that it gets to where nothing is real.”John Green
In some ways, not much has changed. I still struggle if asked to identify a favourite movie or song. I don’t have strong opinions on most music styles. Ask me where we should meet and I really don’t care! Some may describe this as ‘easy going’ and I am in many ways. This has allowed me to lean into my strength of seeing situations through multiple view points. I can put people at ease and hold space for others to express who they are fully. The chameleon ability allows me to come alongside a wide variety of people.
None of this adaptability changes my foundational identity though. I have done the work to discover who I am, what brings me joy and the issues important enough to me that I won’t compromise on. This grounding needs to be refreshed frequently through journaling, mentoring conversations, and my faith practices. I need to exercise my decision making muscles and assertiveness skills so they can be used when it truly matters. When I keep that foundation strong, I can be fully me, with chameleon abilities working for me and not hiding me.
Where have you found yourself hiding behind camouflage or becoming a chameleon to go along with the crowd? I know I’m not the only one who experiences this. How are you discovering who you are? Maybe this week you can find one opportunity to assert your preference or proudly embrace something that you love. I firmly believe that our chameleon abilities can be used for the benefit of those around us without sacrificing the fullness of who we are at the same time.