I am a human chameleon…well, I was

Courtesy of the-wild-animals.blogspot.com

I’ve become arrogant about the fact that I don’t fit in with society. I don’t conform with several norms and tastes. It wasn’t always like this – in fact, my arrogance has caught me by surprise. Not too long ago, I was dying to fit in.

“Human tragedies:
We all want to be extraordinary
and we all just want to fit in.
Unfortunately, extraordinary people rarely fit in.”

Sebastyne Young

How people come to not fit in will continue to be a mystery. As an African woman in her 30s, I can come up with many excuses explanations. I left my continent at 10 years old, already considered somewhat “mild” by my countrymen – not quite as aggressive as everyone around me. Although, not a flaw in itself, I knew I needed to “toughen up” to fit in. But arriving in the Middle East, I was a little too forward; oblivious to sarcasm and not quite sure what anything meant. Over the years, I became a chameleon. I observed and imitated. Inwardly I was developing my own standards and recognised that I didn’t always agree with the world around me, but quickly conformed outwardly to avoid standing out. But was that really possible? I was an African girl in an American-British school in the middle of a hot Arabian country. Still I hoped. In the year I turned 16, I went back to my continent. Alas, no one recognised me. I loved rock music and The Cranberries. I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking differently and I was often shocked at how others arrived at their conclusions about a situation – about life. I was polite and courteous, and I demanded that from others. There was no way I was going to fit in. Again, I observed and imitated. I became a chameleon, seeking to change where change was needed. At the same time, I was dying to be me.

Yes, there are a lot of explanations for being different in this society. But society still prefers to look into the mirror when they look at you. I’ve spent years subconsciously adjusting myself, mirroring body language and even accents so that I could get my square existence into the round space of this world. My chameleon has been slow lately. I have lost the zeal to fit in, and I’m finding that I want to show off that I’m different more and more.

“There is always a certain peace in being what one is, in being that completely.”

Ugo Betti (From Laith’s Blog)

I’ve developed a keen interest in psychology, specifically why some people try to fit in – while some others don’t seem to care. I want to understand how people start that journey and at what point they realise that fitting is overrated or too much hassle or not worth it – if they ever realise any of this. Is fitting in – as our society defines it – truly attainable? What does it mean to be “normal”? And what is “normal” if there are millions out there who are not – it’s almost abnormal to be normal one would think.

I recently sat in a room with over 30 women each sharing their favourite colours. At least 15 said blue. Another 5 or so said red and the rest either purple or green. I looked up at the faces waiting for my declaration of colour. I wondered for a moment whether it would be better to fit in, even in this inconsequential moment. Then I smiled and said, ‘yellow’. I’m slipping in my old age ;-).


  1. Ha! Yellow has always been my favorite color!
    Love this post because everyone has thought these things in their lives. I think people find comfort in conforming…it’s like a big blanket that covers you and you don’t have to explain who you are or what you think.
    I lost my “need to fit in” after my cancer diagnosis and treatment. It just didn’t seem that important anymore to care what my neighbor thought of me. Some of us lose that as we get older…um I mean more mature. But some never do. My mom is 86 and when she had her heart attack at home, she was getting ready to go to the hospital (the one she volunteers at), had to put her lipstick on because she was afraid she would see someone she knows!


  2. Excellent post, Kemi, good topic. Some years ago my son graduated from Leeds College of Music with a degree in Jazz (he’s a sax player). I went to the graduation ceremony as proud Dad. One of th keynote (key note, I just realised I did that) speakers was Alan Barnes, well known British Jazz sax man. He wound up his speach by saying “One last thing. All of you. Go out there and IMPROVISE. You don’t want to get to your deadth bed and wish you had.” I think he was referring to music but….it struck me as a motto for life and has stayed with me as such ever since. You don’t have to fit in….improvise and those around you might improvise too, and wouldn’t the “music” all be more interesting.


  3. hello yellow Kemi 🙂


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