With an unusual ability to change the color of its skin, the chameleon is a lizard-family celebrity. Brown. Green. Blue. Yellow. Red. Black. White. This anomaly for changing colors provides the lizard camouflage, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not done as a camouflaging response. Rather, skin change reflects the chameleon’s reaction to temperature, light, and mood. Its color change communicates responses to stress, excitement, temperature, lighting, other chameleons and environmental influences.
We react to our moods and environments, too. People, pressure, or stress can cause us to respond in a way to fit in, be recognized or go-along to get-along. Sometimes our responses appear to others like color changes. Our decisions or actions seem out-of-character. I know I’ve had a few of these in my life. In fact, when I think of the choices I’m least proud of, most stem from chameleon-type behaviors. But unlike the chameleon, some of my color changes lasted for months or years.
Like taking up smoking in graduate school because a boyfriend found it sexy. That lasted well past the relationship. Or slowly losing a grounded perspective for what mattered when increased power and influence at work seduced me into a lopsided life. These and other chameleon-esk choices took me away from my authentic self.
There were times I found myself looking at the person in the mirror whose face I knew, but who was disconnected from me. She looked familiar; yet the essence behind her eyes was foggy and vague. These were the times when I avoided any in-depth self-reflection. It took migraines and feeling like a lost-soul to finally get my attention.
Recognizing the chameleon-like changes we make in our lives can be a painful awakening. When we come to realize that who we are pretending to be is not who we are, it challenges us at a core level. Author Neale Donald Walsch puts it this way, “Every decision you make — every decision — is not a decision about what to do. It’s a decision about who you are. When you see this, when you understand it, everything changes.”
That’s what happened to me. Everything changed when I realized I was responding to environmental circumstances, reacting from stress, needing to please, losing perspective, and being too influenced by others. Everything changed when I realized my life was on a path that gave me more angst than joy. And everything changed when I started showing up as me.
I’ve learned, in the scheme of things, to keep my chameleon behaviors grounded in who I am. That happens when I live more from the inside out, than the outside in; when my life choices are better aligned with who I am, what I believe, and what I know my passions are. So now when I notice my reflection in the mirror, I see someone different behind those eyes — I see me.