Chameleon Favorites . . .

Chameleon like behaviors can be found everywhere in nature.

Are you a chameleon? Okay, I know that it is very unlikely that you are a blog reading lizard … so maybe I should phrase my question like this: Do you adapt to fit in? Do you change your colors to match those around you? How often do you compromise or hide your desires to seek acceptance? How many of your wants are you willing to compromise in order to be a part of a group? Do you know yourself well enough to actually have true favorites and wants not influenced by others?

The other day, I read a post (The Wrong Box of Cookies) that had me thinking long and hard about how we decide what we like, what our favorites are, what brings us pleasure, and what we really want. Why is green my favorite color? Is it because my eyes are green and I was complimented on them several times when I was young? Is it because I love nature and most of my natural world is green .. and how did I decide I loved nature more than cities? How are our favorites formed?

We are all somewhat chameleon like especially when we are young. Teens are expert chameleons. As a teacher I see it every day. One student’s favorite brand of jeans is soon everyone’s favorite … we even had a mass spread of the love of the color purple this past year. When students are given a choice between two things, the majority of the class is looking around to see what everyone else is picking. Obviously, most of teen’s favorites are determined by those around them, because their goal is to fit in … belong.

That chameleon behavior reverses to varying degrees as we become adults. We learn independence of thought and our favorites have much more to do with the fact that they have meaning to us and less because others around us like it also. We discover our true likes and then seek out people who are similar to us. Having opinions and choosing our favorites makes us unique. The more set we are in our likes/dislikes and make those a part of our lives the less we “fit in” to the world around us … and the more we have to seek people and things that fit us, instead.

For some adults, however, their concerns about what their neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends think are still driving their lives. To fit in and belong, they set aside or don’t even know what their own thoughts and desires are. These people are living the life of a chameleon … they will go to extremes to blend in and become what other people want them to be. Or, like the author of the cookie post I read, they abandon their wants and likes because they are afraid that they will be something unattainable. The author says ” I’m beginning to realize that over the years I have failed to express how I really feel, or ask for the things I really want because sub-consciously I am afraid that those would be the very things I wouldn’t be allowed to have.”

Like the writer of the cookie post, I have realized that over the years I, too, have failed at times to express how I really felt or what I really wanted because subconsciously they were things I believed I wouldn’t get or they were things I felt would isolate me. For companionship, I am inclined to go with the flow .. be a chameleon to fit in. For instance, on a night out with friends, I tend to go where my friends want to go. I have expressed an opinion a few times, I have even set up friendly get-together and many times, what we end up doing has nothing to do with my original plans. Adults call it compromise and there is nothing wrong with it as long as you know yourself and can express your likes as well (knowing that people will blend with you in return). To get along and have friends, the ability to compromise is essential … however, like everything else in this world .. extremes do us harm. You can lose yourself by constant compromise, by creating a life based on the likes of others to blend in.

Have you ever seen the movie “Runaway Bride”? I know, that sounds like a bit of a tangent … how could I find related substance in a chick flick (you would be surprised, most of the better ones have it)? … Anyway, an aspect of that movie was that the bride was a chameleon and that is why she ran away. It was shown in the simple fact that she did not know herself well enough to have a favorite way to prepare her eggs .. all of her favorites and desires were the same as whoever she was with at the time including the type of wedding she planned (groom 1: tattoos/protest marches/motorcycles, groom 2: the science of bugs, groom 3: social work and old traditions, groom 4: sports, mountain climbing) .. she was an extreme Chameleon. And, it raises at least a few important questions: 1) How long can we be chameleons to fit in before we can’t take it any more and we have to bolt like the runaway bride? 2) Can we honestly love someone else when we don’t even know ourselves? 3) How can we learn who we truly are if we are always changing for everyone else?

I don’t think I am that weird or unique, but as I get older, it is harder to find someone who likes all of the same things as me or wants to do the same things I do … because my likes and their likes are more clearly defined. That does not mean that we can not share our lives. Actually, our lives will be much richer if we can be open to sharing our differences openly instead of caving into the chameleon tendencies inside of us.

If John Locke’s words are correct … “We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us.” … Then, we better surround ourselves with people of extraordinary qualities and a positive spirit. Better yet, I would like to encourage everyone to discover themselves. Declare their likes and desires and instead of hiding those things that make us unique, share them.

– . – . – . – . – . –

Ironically, as I was brushing up this post, Minnesota Public Radio had an interview with Paul Bloom. He is a Yale psychology professor and author of “How Pleasure Works: The New Science of why we Like What we Like.” (to listen click on link above)


~ by bearyweather on August 18, 2010.

7 Responses to “Chameleon Favorites . . .”

  1. I’d like to think that I’m not a chameleon – but, sadly, in many more ways than I’m comfortable mentioning, I am. But as you pointed out, sometimes “going with the flow” is a perfectly acceptable way to compromise.

    • I think that knowing ourselves is extremely important, but we can’t be so limiting that we become like big dams in the river that make all of our friends have to try and get around us … sometimes going with the flow is the natural healthy way to go.

  2. I used to be very much a chameleon, much easier to be what others wanted me to be. Being your own person requires an act of maturity, but with it comes peace. It took me a long time to get there, but well worth it…not saying I don’t compromise, I do, but I’m also not afraid to stand up for what I believe in (most of the time). As far as finding a mate who likes the same things…hubby and I have shared interests and things we do together, but we also have different interests and hobbies and I think that is what keeps life interesting. We enjoy one another but are comfortable to do things seperately one respect one another’s differences. Excellent post.

    • I agree, there is an internal peace that comes with knowing yourself. The ability to share our loves and our differences with one another is key to healthy relationships. Sounds like you and your hubby have a great mix … maybe some day I will be lucky enough to find that, too.

  3. I think Locke had a point; we all get influence by people around us. It’s almost impossible not to… Which is why I believe it is essential for people to spend some “alone time” to figure out who they are at their core. When you’re surrounded by people- in a good way or a bad way, you get influenced.
    Runaway Bride? I love that movie! 🙂

    • Alone time .. thinking time is so important to a healthy life. Funny how when we are growing up alone time is avoided. Adults always seem to feel they have to keep children busy … and out of trouble. I think it would be better to teach children how to use alone/ quiet time to get to know themselves.

  4. Love this post. I have a theater background and learned at a young age how to change “character” and morph into roles…on the stage and off. One of the greatest gifts of maturing has been taking off the mask and being comfortable with being authentically me. There are still times when I like to slip into another way of being but the difference now is: it is limited, done with awareness and joy, and done without the intent of hiding or from a place of shame.

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