20 Something Crisis Survival Expert’s Tip of the Month – April

Exercise: Chameleon Identity

If you find yourself struggling a bit with the question of who you are, perhaps some of your confusion might come from moments when you stepped away from or masked your core identity. You might have started doing this so frequently at such a young age that the mask became a part of you.

For instance, I was a very outgoing kid, but after being teased repeatedly, I hid behind an introverted mask. Acting withdrawn and quiet became part of my identity even though it was never who I really was. It wasn’t until I asked myself the questions that generated this exercise that I realized shyness was not part of my identity.

Now, think of a time — or times — in your life when you tried to fit in and acted a certain way to get the result you wanted (such as acceptance, a promotion, a date, or to avoid an argument or appease someone). When and how have you turned into a chameleon? Consider these questions:

1. What was the event (or events), and how old were you when it happened?
2. Who was involved, and why did their opinion/reaction matter to you?
3. What did you think you should do, have, or be in that situation? Why?
4. What result did you want? Did you get it?

After completing this exercise, notice how you have adapted to situations or changed in the presence of others. Do you think those changes have for the most part been in line with who you are? Are there any masks that you might need to remove? A good way to answer these questions is to ask yourself if the role you took on felt right. Consider whether any modifications you made to your identity have suited you or stuck with you. For instance, if you were always passive in order to avoid conflict in your home, you might find you are still rather reserved and unassertive in your life. Ask yourself if you are truly docile or whether it’s a characteristic driven by external circumstances that became a part of your identity

~Christine Hassler
20 Something Crisis Survival Expert, Campus Calm

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