I want to be visible, and I’m scared to be visible.
The kind of visibility I’m talking about is being honest about who I am and what I dream of achieving.
I decided to describe the traits, strengths, and values I’ve identified in myself. These are traits that make it difficult to come out of hiding. They are also aspects and reasons why I care so deeply about you, the earth, the life we are meant to live.
In no particular order, here’s my research.
1. Chameleon Tendencies
According to Webster, this is a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behavior to please others or to succeed. I don’t think it is this simple. Nor is it just the negative portrayal you find if you Google chameleon personality.
As a chameleon personality, I’ve always appreciated the gift of blending into my environment and the natural ability to connect with people. The downside is the subversion of my needs, wants, desires and even personality.
What I find frustrating about changing colors (without trying) is this malleable core can’t be defined and known in the way society organizes. That’s where I first noticed not fitting in. There was always a feeling of being off even around a similar Enneagram or Myers Brigg types. Where others would bond by being an INFP or INFJ, I felt even more isolated. I was never able to put myself in the right box, the right job, or to take a strong stand on any particular issue. I have a high tolerance for ambiguity, and it’s easy to play devil’s advocate. I’m neither an extrovert or introvert. I’m an ambivert. I need to be around people exchanging ideas, and I need to hibernate. I could write a book about this but to keep to the point; it’s essential to understand this chameleon aspect because if you have it too, you know how hard it is to land solidly on one side or the other. The other word that comes to mind here is ambivalence, and it takes patience to cultivate the gifts that come from this way of seeing the world.
In the book, Genius: A Very Short Introduction, Andrew Robinson explains, ” … exceptionally creative people do not have the kind of stable personality on which the Big Five factor model of personality is predicated. The more creative a person is, the more multifarious is his or her personality. To be exceptionally creative means to have a chameleon personality. Exceptionally creative people modify their personality to suit their context.”
2. Independent Thinking
Also known as being stubborn or strong-willed. I like to do it my way, and I can’t stand being told what to do or how to think. If I want to present this trait in a positive light, I can call it self-direction or autonomy. Whatever you call it, you know what it feels like to be a lone-wolf. You know when you can no longer tolerate imposed social obligations and conform to hierarchal values. It is the inner-rebel, and it isn’t as much about wanting control as it is about not wanting to be controlled.
I’m learning to appreciate this trait, but it scares me the most. I have a core wound related to being trapped which is the feeling that I need something I can’t get. It stems from my mother wound.
Self-explorers take the ultimate adventure into the interior. I experienced an insatiable need to take the road less traveled, but I didn’t know why so I also created a story that I’m different and that I don’t belong. With that comes the feeling of being unliked. Gut-wrenching feelings.
On the positive side, as an exploratory learner, I tend not to follow step-by-step processes and instead play with something and tear it apart to put it back together. I use intuition and feel my way through new territory.
The difficulty of being a self-explorer has been my reluctance to listen to people with more experience. I could have avoided more mistakes if I had been teachable and that is the work I’m doing now. I’m learning that everyone I meet is my teacher. Listening is taking me to the next level of exploration.
Similar to the chameleon tendencies, being adaptable is both a strength and difficulty and stems from the need to survive. I became over-adaptable in too many areas of life and had no ground of my own to stand on.
I found myself being overly accommodating mostly because I love collaboration and I was afraid of losing the relationship, whether it was work or personal I often sacrificed my needs to hang on to the promise of creating something together.
Adaptability made it easy for me to start new businesses and relationships but after years of picking up and starting over, I began to resent that I didn’t have something that was mine. I was this free spirit with a gypsy soul that also longed for home and a place to root.
I think of the fairytale The Princess and The Pea because of her sensitivity to the things underneath, hidden, covered up and unnoticed by most.
This is the most difficult of traits to talk about because I’ve spent much of my life running away or trying to harden my shell to protect against this depth of feeling. A friend recently said, “don’t let the mind cheat your heart” and while I knew it was good advice I felt this urge to punch him. I put a lot of time and effort in this work of developing my mind, and it isn’t easy to surrender to the heart. Slow and gentle. Being careful not to tug too hard on the strings in this big knot because that just makes it tighter.
I’m learning to feel without personalizing everything. Some days are better than others.
For most people, psychological development stops at a certain point of security. Once there’s an established identity the rest of one’s life is about protecting it. I think there’s a spiritual impulse that does awaken in everyone but not everyone wants to follow it. I’m talking about the seed of potential encoded in our being from birth. It can come as a whisper, a nudge, a call, or crises. It is a powerful force that ‘s hard to describe. It seems to have a life and intelligence of its own, yet it wells up from inside. There’s a word the Greek used to describe this innate motivation. It’s called Entelechy and is derived from the Greek word ‘entelecheia,’ from ‘enteles’ (complete), from ‘telos’ (end, completion) + ‘echein’ (to have)]. Teilhard de Chardin describes it as something encoded in you. He says,
“Entelechy is inside of you like the butterfly is inside of the caterpillar…it is the entelechy of an acorn to be an oak tree, of a baby to be a grown-up, of a popcorn kernel to be a fully popped entity, and of you and me to be God only knows what.”
The first time I saw the word entelechy my entire being leaped. I had to know what this magnificent word meant and the more I read, the happier I felt. I think I was crying with relief that this is real.
7. Non-Conformity (Outsider)
Becoming one’s intended self it the highest expression of creativity and contribution to the world.
A couple of years ago, I was riding in the backseat, and my mom and her friend were in the front. We were all having a conversation, and my mom’s friend said, “Tam, do you really think that?” I said I did and my mom looked at her friend and said, “she’s weird.” I was dumbfounded and excited because I had spent so many years wondering if people thought I was weird and I now I knew they did. I’m okay with being weird and so grateful to be done trying to fit in boxes that are the wrong shape or size.
All these characteristics are interconnected and overlap.
The feeling is that there’s something important about you – as an individual – that is hidden, even from yourself. There’s a sense of getting close to a breakthrough, but each level of understanding opens to another level. You start to realize it is the journey, not the destination, and the deeper you go, the more mysterious it becomes.
Those of us who share these traits often feel uncomfortable being in the world. It’s hard to feel connected, seen, and heard, and valued. It feels like we are being pulled in two directions or between two worlds.
Free to speak. Free to tell the truth.
My commitment is to share my journey, and as clumsy as I might be, it is better than staying in this place of shame.
In the comments tell me what you have experienced as a result of these traits.