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The Cost of Being a Chameleon

Are you cameleon?Due to the incorrect notion that being liked will expand one’s practice, many chiropractors find their practices hobbled by their attempts to show up in ways they think others will find attractive.

Granted, there are social conventions that enhance the interaction with others, particularly in a professional relationship. But what I wish to explore here is far more personal. This is where the chiropractor has formed the habit of not showing up as themselves and instead, closely monitors the patient (or others they interact with) and conforms themselves to what they imagine will be a more acceptable version of themselves.

Remember going on a dinner date with someone you wanted to impress and being hyperconscious of every word, every use of your fork and every opinion you expressed?

Imagine doing that all day, every day for your entire life! If you have these tendencies, not only are you likely compromising your patient care, you’re reducing the number of people you can help.

Those who suffer this personality disorder are often fearful. Fearful of failure, fearful of rejection and ironically, fearful of success. (Because the fear of success is often rooted in the doubts of being able to measure up to the additional responsibilities and burdens that come with being successful.) This manifests in a practice that survives, but never really thrives. Like a thermostat, when the practice heats up, there’s a slow, unconscious tapping on the brakes. And when things cool off, there’s just enough energy put into the practice to bring it up to the emotionally safe “set” point.

Many chameleons will pay dearly for a solution, imagining they can learn a script or institute a procedure or acquire some new skillset or technique to unleash the potential of their practice. However, like most problems, looking outside oneself for the solution doesn’t work and the resulting disappointment simply prompts the chiropractor to become increasingly cynical and resigned.

Pointing out the price you pay for surrendering yourself to the illusion that being all things to all people, is unlikely to change you. (I’ll offer a suggestion that can, in a moment.) Consider what this chameleon strategy is doing to you:

Lack of certainty—Attempting to always please others puts you in a constant state of imbalance. Like walking on the heaving deck of a boat in rough waters, you're constantly trying to gain your balance, unsure of what position to take because things are always shifting. Without the grounding of a North Star, the solid footing you desire continues to escape you.

Indecisiveness—Lacking certainty, decisions are painful and put off until the last possible moment. You’re bewildered by others who seem able to make important business decisions with split-second ease. (Coming home from a weekend seminar and knocking down walls and changing procedures.) Meanwhile, you take forever just to order lunch! Your constant deliberation seems wise, even thorough. But you’re simply stalling.

Slows things down—Adapting to the environment becomes painfully slow. Moving too quickly might upset the delicate balance. How would the staff react? What will patients say? What if it doesn’t work? It’s impossible to run fast when your stride is compromised by constantly looking over your shoulder.

Wasted energy—Your low energy level is a form of emotional fatigue. Because you can’t afford to let down your guard, you’re in a constant state of fight or, or more likely flight. It’s impossible to have ease and a sense of peace when you’re always sizing up situations and have to consciously react to others rather than unconsciously being authentically you.

Surrenders your identity—This is the real tragedy. You’ve been given this wonderful gift of life, yet you’ve chosen to trade it for a mere existence. Instead of living your destiny, you’ve surrendered to someone else’s vision of who you are supposed to be. In the process you’re committing emotional and spiritual suicide.

Being a chameleon is a survival strategy. True, it’s helped you get this far, but you’ll want to abandon it if you truly desire to become the parent, partner or practitioner you are capable of being.

Part of putting this behind you is to recognize that you deserve your life; you deserve your own point of view and deserve the opportunity to fully express yourself. Regardless of what others think. Turns out, the cost of doing so is far exceeded by the cost living small.

Take comfort in knowing that if you ever hope to have disciples, you will automatically have detractors. (It’s impossible to escape this duality.) Perhaps more surprising is the fact that even with all the energy you’ve devoted to being liked, there are people who don’t like you! Shocking, I know. Nice try, but your strategy didn’t work. So, don’t prolong this little miscalculation any longer.

Begin by improving what you think of yourself. We are our harshest critic and if you show up as a chameleon, you have turned self-criticism into an art form. That’s got to go. Scripture admonishes us to “hold every thought captive.” So, when you find yourself talking trash to yourself, stop it. Immediately follow up by saying something nice to yourself. (Even if it’s merely a self-congratulation for noticing how you were able to catch your self-abuse.) You can beat this unhelpful habit.

Like healing, raising your self-esteem is an inside job. No one can praise you into self-esteem. And repeating a mantra or reciting an affirmation statement won’t work either.

I know of only one way to enhance one’s estimation of oneself: take on something difficult and succeed at it.

Whether losing the weight, having the difficult conversation, standing up for yourself, mastering public speaking or taking on some audaciously difficult assignment, that’s how you prove to yourself that you’re worthy. Start small. Make decisions more quickly. When presented with the steep, narrow path or the path of least resistance, take the steep, narrow path.

You can shake this chameleon thing. I did.

Comments (1)

Bill, you hit another one out of the park. As I was coming home from church today, I was convicted about being a people pleaser. It is exhausting. I am so afraid of having people not like me but as I mature I know that some do- and knowing that they do, I've started to be ok with it. We just went back and forth about letting a CA go, with one of the things holding us back being "will the patients bug us, and the difficulty of training someone new." Once we pulled the trigger, our patient visits have gone up 15% in 2 weeks. So thank you, friend, for continuing to write the truth, whether we want to hear it or not. I call it "care-frontation."

-Scotty

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From October 15, 2012 11:06 AM

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