My earliest memories of chameleons are from Walt Disney. When I was a kid, our family used to gather around the TV set and watch the Sunday night Disney movie. At some point, there must have been a segment about chameleons, told only as the people at Disney can do. I remember the calm but lighthearted announcers voice describing the talents of the chameleon as the cartoon image bounced blithely along, instantly changing from red to yellow to blue to green as the screen background changes. Then, to add the Disney punchline, the background becomes plaid. The chameleon freezes, his eyes bulge, and he screams in anguish, “I can’t do this!”
Years ago, I ran across the idea of a personality type called a “social chameleon.” The social chameleon is often taken for a fake or a con artist. There are a couple of distinct differences for the social chameleon, though. For instance, the social chameleon is not acting out his or her own ulterior motives — there is no desire to “put one over” on anyone. The social chameleon is also genuine “in the moment” and truly becomes whatever the situation or social event requires.
For instance, I have a very distinct personality when I am teaching. I call it my “inner rock star.” While I often get the kids a little keyed up, we have a lot of fun, I seem to hold their attention, and I figure if I can hold their attention I can teach them something. If nothing else, I can encourage many of them to let go of their fears in my room and be creative. To me, that’s priceless, and that’s my job.
However, as soon as I’m done teaching and the kids leave, I’m a total introvert. I go back to my projects and my laptop, and I shut out the rest of the world so that I can recharge my batteries. I am so quiet and withdrawn that I’m pretty sure that I come across as anti-social.
Put me at a computer keyboard, and I’ll pour my heart out. Ask me in person, and I’m just fine — I play my emotional cards close to my chest. At church, I lead the music with joy, then return to my seat and quietly take notes.
I’ve confused many people in my lifetime, probably because I don’t look all that reptilian on the outside.
So, what’s my plaid? A social gathering where I don’t know my “role.” It makes me want to scream in anguish every time.