Becoming a “Social Chameleon”: Another Defense Mechanism Some Victims Use

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Fake it until you make it. When you’re a target of bullying, you learn very quickly to either blend in with the people around you or get eaten alive by bullies. Some victims learn self-monitoring and to rehearse everything they do and say. The mind equips itself with scripts for every situation and conversation. You pay very close attention to social cues and will mimic others behavior. It proves to be a useful skill. In short, victims of bullying can become social chameleons.

As you get older, you get better and better at acting, at getting people to like you, at impressing people you meet and at ingratiating yourself into all kinds of groups. Social Chameleons get so good at it that they can adapt themselves to any situation and to the moods of others without effort.

Often, victims of bullying learn to swing back and forth changing with their environment. They can be the life of the party or quiet and reserved. They can be introverted, extroverted, funny, charismatic, relaxed, wild, emotional, or stoic. When you learn to detect the moods of others, you adapt yourself to match those moods.

Understand that targets and former targets of bullying do this out of survival instinct. We become masters of deception and of cooling the anger of others in social situations gone wrong. Depending on the situation or people around us, we present different versions of ourselves and become experts at blending in and being accepted. We become highly self-aware and good at reading the emotions and nonverbal cues of others, adapt to them and polish our self-presentations.

It becomes so ingrained and natural to us that we don’t even know we’re doing it. Many targets of bullying are bullied in school but are later able to get along with anybody and are exceptionally well-liked as adults. I have done this myself.

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This is how we ensure we’re never again bullied. This is how we get people to like us. We know too well what not to do or say. The key to being successful at this is to not realize you’re doing it! Any conscious effort, on the other hand, comes off as contrived.

We’ve practiced this for so long that we’ve become intuitively attuned to other’s responses to us and are constantly adapting our behavior when we feel we aren’t making the right impression. We keep a few good saves in our back pocket just in case a social situation goes awry. And we do this so well we instinctively know what’s expected of us before we make a social move. We become uber successful at making good impressions in social encounters with total strangers and in business.
Our personalities become so fluid and unpredictable that we emit an air of mystery that intrigues others, which only adds to our attractiveness. However, this comes at a very high cost!

For me, being a social chameleon got exhausting and I chose to dial that down a few notches. I’ve found that it is much more relaxing to be myself and not to give a crap what others think.

Not only is being a social chameleon tiring, the knowing that you weren’t true to your heart and your core beliefs and convictions leaves you feeling as if you sold your soul to the devil! It leaves an emptiness inside you that you can’t fill unless you start being your authentic self.

It’s much better to be yourself and to stand up for what you believe in. You may make a few enemies but it’s much better than living with being a fraud and I’d much rather have a few people who don’t like me than to give up my identity and my authenticity!

So be yourself and be comfortable in your own skin! Embrace all your imperfections, because we all have them. Give yourself permission to say no and to voice an opinion some may not like. Because to be yourself is freedom!

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