The summary is simple: remember you have nothing to hide, nothing to prove, and nothing to defend. You are worthy, beautiful, strong, and perfectly imperfect exactly as you are. Before the world told you who to be
This post was inspired by my own life. The masks I have worn, the chameleon role I have played to be accepted in other people's life. The things I avoid and suppress take me further away from uncovering who I truly am. It was confronting for me to write this piece. As it triggered many past lessons and even self-realization that had not yet been actualized into my life. This post is not about judgment, it's about love and truth. We all wear masks, we all wear chameleon suits and we all play as an actor in someone else'ss play and narrative rather than scripting our own. If we are courageous enough to take off the masks, take off the chameleon attire and shine a light on our shadows. We may finally uncover who we were all born to be. Wouldn't that be an epic outcome for the world? And for ourselves. Imagine the heaviness that would lift, the lightness we would have for life. The love, the empathy, and compassion that would ensue. Having found it for ourselves "worts and all".
One Key Message:
We spend most of our lives being an actor in someone else's play. Until one day we decide that we are worthy, beautiful, and enough. Exactly as we are. The person we were born to be before we put on masks and chameleon suits to be someone that we never truly were.
The 11 masks we wear to protect ourselves
Most of us learn to protect ourselves with defense mechanisms and personality traits that ensure our safety in the world. By adopting certain behavioral patterns, we unconsciously or consciously seek security and stability. We wear different kinds of masks to keep us from getting too hurt. However, in doing so, we close ourselves off from authentic relationships and stay stuck in the scabs of our childhood wounds.
Taking the masks off: By identifying our protective shields, we can begin to heal from past hurts and enjoy deeper intimacy with our loved ones. While our coping strategies are as varied as our personalities, here are eleven of the most typical masks we wear.
- The Cool Guy. By all outward appearances, this person seems to have mastered whatever it takes to stay calm in all situations.
- The Humorist. Humor is a brilliant defense mechanism to deflect
- The Overachiever: distraction, suppression, low self-worth
- The Martyr; Narcissism, control, apathy and lower ego
- The Bully; hurt people, hurt people
- The Control Freak.; Control and manipulation
- The Self-Basher: Victimhood
- The People-Pleaser: Being who others accept us to be
- The oversharer; attention-seeking
- The Introvert: Hiding who we really are
- The Social Butterfly: Finding validation in others and avoiding being alone.
The truth is we all wear masks, metaphorically speaking. We repress the Id — our darkest desires — and hide behind a more socially acceptable image of ourselves in order to cope with the frustrations of our day to day lives.”Jim Carrey
Don't fear these labels, or let them define you. We have all played these characters and roles in our life. Often without even realizing it. We are all of it until we decide to be our own character, in our own life play.
The three agents (Identity, ego, super-ego)
The "Id, ego and super-ego" is Sigmund Freud’s description of our instincts, our subconscious wants and needs a lot of which we can’t live out in everyday life due to laws, societal codes of conduct, and other limitations, like money or physical inability.
These are theoretical constructs that describe the activities and interactions of the mental life of a person. Our conscious and subconscious mind.
In the ego psychology model of the psyche,
- The id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual DESIRES
- The super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and
- The ego is the organized, realistic agent that mediates between the instinctual desires of the id and the critical super-ego;
Freud explained that:
The functional importance of the ego is manifested in the fact that, normally, CONTROL over the approaches to motility devolves upon it. Thus, in its relation to the id, [the ego] is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces. The analogy may be carried a little further. Often, a rider, if he is not to be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide [the horse] where it wants to go; so, in the same way, the ego is in the habit of transforming the id's will into action, as if it were its own.
Who and what we identify as being is a complex interaction of many parts. I have explored these parts in previous posts "The 9 states of being" and "12 rules for being human" . Bringing awareness to who we were taught to be, learned to be, decided to be, and who we truly are when we stand in our ultimate truth and vulnerability. For the world to see.
What would happen if you said what you really meant and intended.
What would happen if you expressed what you really felt at any moment, without a filter based on socially accepted norms.
What would happen if you had 2 people that you could confide in. Where you shared your deepest darkest fear, desires and even expressed the emotions/feelings associated with past events and perceived traumatic events in your life.
What would happen if one day unapologetically listened to that inner voice, rather than the noise of who you should be. And, started being that character in your own life play. Nothing to hide, no one to blame, nothing to compare yourself with, and no one to judge. Just you, simply being who you were born to be. In a way that feels good to you in any moment, knowing that each state of being is temporary and can change at any moment. Like a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly.
Ultimately, if we always suppress who we really want to be, we risk feeling unhappy, regretful, or worse. To quote Alan Watts, we’ll never know what could have been:
“In reality, under the surface, you are all the actors. Marvelously skilled in playing many parts, and in getting lost in the mazes of your own minds and the entanglements of your own affairs, as if this was the most urgent thing going. But behind the scenes, in the green room, in the very back of your mind and the very depth of your soul, you always have a very tiny, sneaking suspicion that you might not be the you that you think you are.” Jim Carrey
How do we know if we are wearing a mask?
The Chameleon Effect
Mimicking a person, whether unconsciously or not, is something we all do regularly. While we might mimic a person consciously for the fun of it, it’s unclear why we mimic other people subconsciously. Usually, we lack our own sense of identity and confidence in who we are. It results in a void that we may feel that we can fill if we simply are like someone else. Rather than our true self. It may start from a point of comparison, jealousy, envy, self-loathing, or even aspiration. When we lack our own sense of self, we gravitate towards and latch onto people who seem to have it figured out. We change who we are, to be liked by the person we put on a pedal stool for reasons xyz. Maybe they have the confidence you wish you had. Maybe that has the partner or life that wish you could have. The result is often good for you, but draining for the other person. Especially over time, when patterns of behavior start to show and the external chameleon overcoat wears off.
Researchers believe we do it because it has the potential to positively influence our social interactions with others. When you mirror the behavior of a person close to you, the person whose behavior is being mirrored notices it and this causes positive feelings toward you.2
This means that we are like others, to get external validation and good feelings about ourselves. It's about self-gain, not about connection. There is something that we can benefit from that relationship or interaction.
It's worth noting, the term "mimicking" can sometimes take a negative intonation, but it simply means copying and in most cases is done harmlessly. We can also model and mimick people with beautiful character traits that we are inspired to be like. In character, values, and life. Not in form.
How to know someone's Chameleon Intentions. Are they good, or bad?
Question 1: Are they empathetic?
very empathetic people are more likely to imitate others than people who aren’t. When a person is truly empathetic, they pay more attention and form deeper connections with the person they are interacting with, which makes them more likely to mimic.
Question 2: Are they not empathetic? And more focused on what they can get from being like you, rather than give.
However, when people who aren’t very empathetic attempt to mimic someone else, the gesture can ring false and have the opposite effect of the social advantages one typically gets because of the chameleon effect.3
The simple way to know is to witness the situation. When was the last time they did something for you (any of your 5 love languages) without you having to prompt them? or without it being a birthday or other occasion. You can tell what people's genuine intentions are through their patterns of behavior.
For those that are being mimicked by others. Be mindful that you are not simply filling a void of connection in yourself by having people around you that see you as being more inspirational, aspirational, or successful. It get can get lonely at the top, where you can crave genuine connection after experiencing a lot of non-genuine connections. Be mindful that some chameleons have become extremely good at their craft. From gold diggers, to "best offer friends', to getters, and to those that play on your empathy by playing the victim of any circumstance. Chameleons can weave their way into your life, leaving you wondering where all the chaos and energy has gone.
Human beings are amazing chameleons. Even if we are not consciously aware of it. The 95% that is sub/unconscious will drive our behaviors to meet the needs of safety, self-preservation, and security in our pre-reptilian brain. Some people will use you as a safe port after a storm. Some will utilize your empathy, love, and compassion to meet the needs of their emotional brain and limbic system after a traumatic experience, a breakup, or any other emotional event. Utilizing your energy, without any intention of circulating back or being there for you when you need the same level of care.
On the surface, consciously (the 5%), none of us would openly admit that we are chameleons or that we are wearing masks, hiding our true selves. But, if one day we are willing to take the chameleon veil and masks off to reveal our true selves Bumps, bruises, scars, and all. We may just find that we are more attractive in true essence and power than when we are trying to be something that we are not.
Trust that anyone who has reached a point of abundance, inner peace, and bliss in their life has run this process. And they can see the mask, the chameleon suit, and the patterns of behavior. For the most part, these people have been there too and hold empathy for your own heroes' journey and self-realization. But, be aware that this will only be tolerated for a period of time. Before their light will start to illuminate the darkness hiding beneath the veils of mimicry. If these shadows come to the surface of your true self are revealed in the light of another. Don't hide from it, dismiss it or run from it. Don't defend or lie about the chameleon suit or masks you have been wearing. Own it. These lightworkers are giving you an opportunity to be truly seen, loved, and accepted in your truest essence.
The only challenge is if deep down you do not love yourself or the image of your truest self. The nose that's crooked by 1 millimeter that no one ever notices, the freckle on your chin that you hate, but other people love. Your height, your shape, your penis, or boob size. Your belly, your eyes, your hair, your teeth. If we can't find love for who we see in the mirror each day. Then we still spend our entire life wearing masks and chameleon suits, having never felt what it truly feels like to be yourself. living and dying as a version of ourselves that we never truly were.
To me, that would be the biggest tragedy. Imagine the energy and time it takes to maintain that illusion and keep battling between the heart, the gut, the emotions, and the narratives that we need to keep suppressing and rationalizing.
Here are some tips to help you cultivate the chameleon effect in a more positive way:
- Learn to be more empathetic of other people. What can you help them with, what are their needs? Put yours aside for a moment.
- Become a better listener. Listen to understand and not just respond when speaking with another person.
- Do it for the right reasons. Forcing the chameleon effect in order to gain certain advantages over a person can easily be seen through. The intention is everything. Check-in with yourself. What is your real intention here? To give or to get?
- Seek to build a healthy relationship with the person you are communicating with. It's about circulating energy, sharing, loving, and caring. Want the best for them, in the same way, they may want the best for you.
Borderline Personality Disorder and ‘The Chameleon Effect’
One of the biggest and most challenging aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is often ‘The Chameleon Effect’ – or ‘mirroring’. This is the constant, unconscious change in the person’s ‘self’, as they struggle to fit in with their environment, or the people around them. It is, essentially, a fluctuating identity. It is the manifestation of a basic inability or difficulty in establishing a stable sense of self.
The presence of The Chameleon is often one of the main obstacles to effective initial treatment and diagnosis of BPD, as it affects the interaction between patient and doctor, and can mask the disorder itself. It also affects and masks the way in which BPD intersects with other disorders that may have developed in connection with it – creating a complex web of behaviors that can be hard to untangle.
The irony is that, without diagnosis and treatment, most are unaware of The Chameleon, and it is only through awareness that The Chameleon can be managed.
Get to know and uncover your own Chameleon Self
All of us have probably had or currently have relationships that make us feel judged. Or we simply judge ourselves in their light, by putting them on a pedestal as being greater or "better" than who we are. Judgment of self and others in an absence of love within ourselves. Hard mirror to reflect on, but deep down we all feel and know it to be true.
remember you have nothing to hide, nothing to prove and nothing to defend.
We cannot change other people, but we can change the way we think about ourselves. When we remove our own chameleon veils, shine a light on our own shadows with love and acceptance, remove all our masks. We uncover something truly remarkable. Who we really are. We are all unique, special, talented and quirky with our personality traits. But that is what makes life beautiful, exciting in real. I would rather meet everyone exactly as they are, rather than the masks they wear. I'm sure that we can all agree on that.
Sarah Myles shares the beauty of what she found when she uncovered her own chameleon personality...
"Although I was diagnosed some time ago, and am now (relatively) successful at managing my BPD, I am only recently getting to know my Chameleon. BPD and its insidious brethren are ugly, unpleasant, and unsettling things to deal with, and perhaps it is the case that my mind slowly processes them at a pace it knows to be comfortable and realistic for me. Accepting the fact of BPD is one thing, but admitting to the presence of The Chameleon truly slices to the core of all of that pain and insecurity – all of which is like pouring acid on an already gaping wound, for an emotionally dysregulated Borderline.
Now that I am acknowledging the presence of my Chameleon, I am beginning to wonder if this is actually the key to everything. The whole kit and caboodle. The crux of the issue. From what I can see, everything stems from this lack of a stable self. Borderlines instinctively ‘mirror’ to fit in, because, without that behavior, we have no idea what will happen. We have little or no sense of our own identity, so we can’t know if that will be acceptable to others. Without acceptance by others, we risk abandonment, which is often an intense fear for Borderlines. Why do we have this intense fear of abandonment? Because if we are abandoned, we have nobody to ‘mirror’. The fear of abandonment is a fear of being alone. It is terrifying to be left alone with yourself when you don’t know who yourself is.
Imagine being entirely alone, looking into a mirror, and seeing a total stranger. Or, worse still, seeing nobody at all. There is no ‘you’. That’s kind of horrifying, right? So you’ll go to great lengths to avoid that situation, because, as an emotionally dysregulated person who experiences feelings in extremes, that situation will put you headfirst into a tailspin.
Now, I feel as though I have almost finished this monster of a jigsaw puzzle. I am close to seeing the big, completed picture. Perhaps this explains the terrifying, recurring, childhood nightmares featuring facelessness. It explains the debilitating childhood fear of being alone – so intense it caused hallucinations (externalization of anxiety). It helps explain why, as an adult, I regularly experience severe dissociation. It explains further why the coping mechanisms that have developed over time – such as OCD – mainly serve as attempts to exert control over external daily life, as internally there is chaos.
It also explains why I am regarded by others as something of a ‘social butterfly, constantly flitting from group to group, person to person, being different things to different people, as required. It explains my inability to say “no”. It explains why my persona changes depending on whom I interact with – even down to my accent and mannerisms. These are not conscious behaviors, but I have become more aware of them over time. I have begun to catch my Chameleon in action.
This is all good progress for me, as it is soothing to have explanations and answers. But mostly, it provides hope for lasting recovery. If the central problem is an unstable sense of self, the answer must be to build a more stable one. I just have to figure out how. I believe I have started to lay the foundations, and I am incredibly lucky to have people in my life that are willing and able to see beyond my Borderline Personality Disorder. I’m under no illusions, however – this is a chronic illness and I will never be free of it. But I can have enough awareness to keep it at a low, manageable level. The next step is to continue working towards a stable self that I can have confidence in. Only then can I can tame my Chameleon.
Have I finally reached the pot of explanation at the end of my enormous psychological rainbow? I’m not entirely sure, but the ground certainly seems to be solidifying beneath my feet."
Where are you currently operating from?
What if you knew that your actions are not your own, nor are they conscious. We like to "think" that we are consciously choosing how we act and react in any situation or to any event. But the truth is that it is more likely that we are RE-ACTING, from subconscious programs in our pre-reptilian brain - FIGHT (anger, etc) or FLIGHT (fear and run), and our emotional brain (shadows, insecurities, relative traumas).
95% OF OUR BEHAVIOURS ARE DRIVEN DEEP DOWN BY SUBCONSCIOUS EMOTIONAL AND PRE-REPTILIAN (FIGHT OR FLIGHT) BRAIN
This means that...
"We act, react and respond from our level of emotional awareness, conscious awareness, past experiences, traumas, insecurities and self-perpetuated truths based on our beliefs.'
If our character is determined by our patterns of behavior (the 95%), not our conscious mind or words (the 5%). Then how we act and react in any situation. Irrespective of the stories we tell ourselves and others. Will ultimately show where we are operating from and how much deeper work we have done to modulate the interaction of these 3 brains in our day-to-day lives.
We can develop and expand our consciousness (conscious brain) and deepen our emotional resilience with more experiences outside our comfort zone. This will help us modulate our pre-reptilian brain that already has a 3:1 negative bias, seeking safety in every second of every minute. If we lack the depth of experience (emotional) or the depth of awareness (consciousness). Then it is likely that we will live in the privilege of our comfort and react mainly from fight or flight in any situation.
It also suggests why you can really determine whether someone has done the work or experienced life to the fullest by witnessing their character (patterns of behavior) under pressure. If someone can remain calm in the storm when it is already a stimulus-rich environment for the fight or flight pre-reptilian. Then it will tell you a lot about a person.
If you want to know where anyone is operating from on a subconscious level (their 95%). Take away safety and comfort, put them in a challenging or stressful situation and simply notice how they act/react and respond.
SHADOWS - ALL EMOTIONS ARE NORMAL
SO, LET'S NORMALISE IT
Many of us have been taught and conditioned to believe "negative" emotions are problematic and are linked with having a flawed character, being ungrateful, or having something wrong with us.
In reality, emotions are neutral—they are simply pieces of data, and they are neither good nor bad. Emotional experiences show us what we need to pay attention to in our lives, within ourselves, our relationships, or our experiences. Emotional responses also give us information about how we are reacting to our inner world and outer experiences.
SHADOWS ARE REAL EMOTIONS, WAITING T0 BE ACKNOWLEDGED, NOT SUPPRESSED
From a psychologist's perspective, labeling emotions negative is problematic and creates a response to avoid or suppress these experiences, becoming defensive, shutting down, denying, or ignoring. This is why I label emotions described as negative as shadow emotions.
Shadow emotions fall into SIX categories:
- Fear and anxiety
- Embarrassment and shame
- Disgust & Judgement
Within each broad category are shadow emotions that vary in intensity from mild to moderate to more intense. Shadow emotions are part of what it means to be human. Embracing shadow emotions opens up the possibility to be curious and committed to understanding our emotional health in more depth.
The shadow side of human nature was popularized by psychiatrist Carl Jung who emphasized that the shadow self is the parts of ourselves we reject, deny, repress, or ignore. Shadow work focuses on bringing disowned parts of yourself and experience to the light through awareness, curiosity, and intention. Accepting the shadow part of oneself, including shadow emotions, creates space to understand and process experiences, thereby allowing new self-appraisals, healing, and behavior change to occur.
Shadow emotions are the wise part of ourselves asking to be cared for and acknowledged. When shadow emotions are not paid attention to or managed, they get louder and more intense until we're forced to deal with our emotional experiences.
TRAUMA IS RELATIVE
The term “trauma” comes from the Greek language meaning a “wound” or “hurt” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013).
Psychologically, “trauma” refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, and one that often has long-term negative mental and physical (including neurological) consequences.
An EVENT is thought to produce a traumatic response when the stress resulting from that event overwhelms the individual’s psychological ability to cope (McGinley and Varchevker 2013).
WHY IS TRAUMA RELATIVE
Such differential reaction is based on many factors, including the individual’s age, gender identity, pre-morbid ego strength, previous traumatic experiences, the chronicity of the trauma, family history of trauma, current life stressors, social supports, and one’s cultural, religious or spiritual attitude toward adversity (Amir and Lev-Wiesel, 2003)
Insecurity is a feeling of inadequacy (not being good enough) and uncertainty. It produces anxiety about your goals, relationships, and ability to handle certain situations.
Everybody deals with insecurity from time to time. It can appear in all areas of life and come from a variety of causes. It might stem from a traumatic event, patterns of previous experience, social conditioning (learning rules by observing others), or local environments such as school, work, or home.
It can also stem from general instability. People who experience unpredictable upsets in daily life are more likely to feel insecure about ordinary resources and routines.
On the other hand, insecurity can have no definite, external cause. Instead, it can appear as a quirk of personality or brain chemistry.
If you want to find inner peace, happiness, and bliss in your life. Then do the opposite of your pre-reptilian brain. Rather than fighting, arguing, or emotionally trying to manipulate and control situations.... Rather than letting fear win, where you forget everything and run, avoid and distract yourself. Do the opposite. Lean in. Normalize pain and other shadow emotions as signals. let these signals guide you towards uncovering your true self. When you do, happiness ensues. If you enjoy suffering inside, even with a fake sm ile on the outside. Then keep avoiding and suppressing these feelings.
The summary is simple: remember you have nothing to hide, nothing to prove, and nothing to defend. You are worth, beautiful, strong, and perfectly imperfect exactly as you are. Before the world told you who to be.
I hope to one day meet you in this ultimate truth one day. The world needs more of it right now. So do future generations.
Call to Action
Let this young girl inspire you to love all of you as you are. With courage spend 5 minutes (yes 5) looking yourself in the eyes in front of a mirror. No distraction, no noise.
Then simply witness your thoughts and feelings that come up. Where are you judging yourself, where are you loving yourself? What are you focused on? Are there things you want to change about yourself?
After 5 minutes, you might feel some pretty intense emotions. But come back to your heart and speak to yourself in the same way you would speak to your younger self. Imagine he or she was this young girl. What would you tell her, before the world told her what to be.
Get help with understanding your shadow, insecurities, traumas.
Jungian analysis is of course helpful as a route to exploring it all
But really any sort of talk therapy that seeks a bigger picture of how you became the person you are today will be just as useful. It can be as simple as finding 2 people you can confide in and trust to speak freely. If these people have already solved what you are exploring for yourself, then they may in fact provide a safe container for you to simply get it off your head and heart. That in itself is something special. Bringing subconscious and unconscious questions to the surface for a conscious exploration.
If you want guided support from experts. look into long-term "therapies"(for want of a better word) like psychodynamic psychotherapy, schema therapy, existential therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Emotional and trauma release therapies.
With all our REFERENCES We have done our best to reference everyone’s expert opinions, peer-reviewed science, and original thoughts, HIGHLIGHTED IN THE TEXT. So that you can go direct to the source as you read.