My Chameleon Life
I believe that I know the exactly when it all began.
I was 11 years old and had been enrolled in the fifth grade in a new school in my new southern hometown. I wasn't from the south. And my New Jersey accent let everyone know it every time I opened my mouth.
My English teacher LOVED to hear me talk. "She sounds so proper." So he repeatedly called upon me to read aloud in class. That's when the snickering and teasing began.
Eventually, it became a source of anxiety for me. I would sit at my desk DREADING the possibility that he would call on me to read aloud to the class. I could feel the butterflies fluttering in my stomach as I sat there head down just wanting to disappear.
But nothing would stop him. "I want to hear Rebecca read this out loud." My heart would sink as I closed my eyes, swallowed hard, and tried to read through as fast as I could. "Slow down," he would say.
It was at this time in my life that I made a subconscious decision. I decided to "blend in." I became a chameleon.
Today, most people don't know that I am from New Jersey. That is on purpose. I decided that I had to lose that accent so no one would ever make fun of me again.
What I discovered is that there is ALWAYS someone who will make fun of you no matter what!
Now some people say "you talk too country." Really? Watch me say this..."Oh I can barely tell you are from the South." Exactly, I am a chameleon.
But being a chameleon comes with a high cost. I traded in BELONGING for ACCEPTANCE. And it made me miserable!
Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn't require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.
Dr. Brene Brown
One of my favorite hymns is "Love Lifted Me." I love this line "when nothing else could help, love lifted me."
What lifted me out of that pit of confusion and trying to blend in and fit in was LOVE. Before I could expect others to LOVE and accept me, I had to first love and accept myself. And that meant all of who I am, not just the parts that other people liked.
Today, I can laugh at some of my quirks. It's all good. But there was a day when those same quirks made me feel ashamed and desiring deeply to just disappear into "the group."
Here are TWO things to keep in mind as you pursue belonging:
Give up on a "sure thing." When it comes to love and acceptance we want to bet on a sure thing. After being in ONE relationship for more than 30 years I can tell you this for sure: There are no SURE things in love and relationships. Live in the NOW and give up on certainty and having all of the answers.
Seek LOVE first. Love is the pathway to belonging. You must love yourself FIRST. Without love of self you cannot find the strength that it takes to navigate BELONGING. Belonging is about the pursuit of relationships. And relationships cannot be cultivated in the absence of LOVE.
Being a chameleon puts you inside of a comfort zone. Pursuing belonging will take you outside of that comfort zone but will put you into REAL community. Community means people who LOVE the imperfectly loveable you.
Wherever you are on your journey to belonging, be patient. It takes time as the story of the Velveteen Rabbit reminds us:
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.' 'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit
Finding the place of belonging is a PROCESS. But following this process takes you into a FREEDOM that finds the pathway to peace, love, and joy.
I do hope that you find it.
And at the end you will no longer "blend in." You will stand out in the glory of Your Unique.
And the world will applaud.
I am cheering for you!
P.S. I am reading Dr. Brene Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Join me on this journey to Your Unique.