Borderline Personality Disorder Chameleon Effect

Updated: Mar 24

Sometimes we act like a different person than we actually are to impress another. We subconsciously build mechanisms inside our minds for other people to like us. If this happens too much, we can lose our sense of self, and the chameleon personality is created. The chameleon trait is often part of Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD) due to their low self-esteem and fear of abandonment.

If you're struggling with signs of a chameleon personality, this article should in no case be used to self-diagnose. This article is to show awareness, inform and identify the problems that come with this personality trait, which is often associated with Borderline Personality Disorder.


Chameleon effect with Borderline Personality Disorder

Low self-esteem is common among people with BPD. As a result, they frequently rely on the approval of others to make them feel good. If they are disliked by someone it can make the person with BPD feel worthless. To prevent this, people with BPD pay close attention to social cues and will mimic other people their behaviors, since this is a psychological trick for other people to like you. People with BPD often aren't aware of this trick since it happens subconsciously. Additionally, they struggle with fear of abandonment, so they want to make sure nobody leaves them.


People with borderline personality disorder frequently exhibit chameleon behaviors, which causes them to lose their sense of self. They act like a completely different person depending on the individual in front of them. When a group of individuals gets together, it might be tough to know how to behave for someone with a chameleon personality. The person with BPD must first read the room to react appropriately.

What does a Chameleon personality look like?

Copying other people's gestures, facial expressions, speech patterns, and even their clothing is a great tool to make people like you. In a lot of psychological studies, it is shown that people tend to like other people who copy their behaviors. During a job interview or a date, this can be very effective. It can also become a subconscious psychological trait that manifests with a positive feedback loop.


''If it worked on that person I might as well try it on someone else.''

It might seem as if there is a choice to copy someone else's behavior. In fact, someone with a chameleon personality, most of the time, doesn´t realize they are copying the other person. This can be a form of self-deception. It happens subconsciously and there is a lot of self-awareness needed to be able to spot this trait for yourself.


It can feel as if you're the only one having this type of personality. The feeling of being different is present, which can transform into loneliness even when other people are around.


For someone with the chameleon trait, social activities are especially hard and could even become scary. Not being able to be yourself and always copying the person in front of you is challenging and exhausting. You can pick up other people their hobby, for the reason to be liked, without liking the hobby yourself.


Over the years, of subconsciously making people like you, you will become an expert social chameleon. Jumping from one social situation to another being a completely different person.



What is the cause for a chameleon personality?

2 underlying problems can develop into a chameleon personality, no sense of stable identity, and fear of abandonment.


No sense of stable identity

Having low self-esteem, thinking you are worthless, and placing others' needs above your own is the start of a non-stable identity. Feeling that you're not good enough and the needing to be someone else.


After a while, the lack of understanding of who you are as a person will become a problem. Someone with no stable identity forgets to take care of themselves. They are living for the people around them and the approval from others is their only source of happiness.


The thought of needing other people to achieve anything in life is demoralizing. Losing your identity is a mental battle between you and yourself.


Fear of abandonment

Fear of abandonment can influence your behavior. Thinking if you copy someone else's behavior they will like you and more important not leave you.


Meeting different groups of people at the same time can be difficult. The brain has to figure out a new personality to suit both groups. At these moments others will probably find out you are acting differently than what was normal to them.


5 tips to deal with the chameleon personality trait


1. Learn to say no and be firm in your opinion. The best thing you can do is, to be honest with yourself. Other people's point of view is not going to make you happy. Your true authentic self is where true happiness is found. Find hobbies that really sparkle something inside of you. You will meet people with the same interests. It will be easier to find yourself and act it out to people who share this with you.


2. Build honest relationships

Start working on relationships with people being your honest self. Relationships are hard to uphold if someone likes you for someone that you are not. When you become closer, the relationship you build together will fall into ruins.


3. You are unique

Remember that other people their styles will never fully suit you. We are all unique. Set your own boundaries and let others respect them.


4. Professional help

It's not easy to deal with this type of personality. Overcome this by going to therapy, seek professional help if needed.


5. Build self-confidence

Increase your self-confidence. Being really self-conscious about what you look like or what you talk about is a bad sign. Talk to people without caring what they think of you.


The chameleon personality trait can still help you in a job interview or to make new friends. Although you shouldn't do all of this to the cost of your own personality. Use this skill but don't let it use you.


You are the place where you can take everything off your shoulders, that is where you should call it home. No one else can take you there, only you.


How long does it take to overcome a chameleon personality as a BPD?

The chameleon personality trait is a human personality trait, not a disordered trait. Someone is wired like this to receive love, to blend in, and to move on from pain. We all do it to some extent. The distinction between disordered and non-disordered people is that individuals with Cluster B features want to turn this "protective" trait into an "offensive" one to escape shame or abandonment at all costs.


A chameleon personality in someone with BPD is a deep pattern that is not easily remedied. It takes several years of therapy, hard work, and dedication to build a strong sense of self and to overcome the fear of abandonment.


Read more on Can Borderline Personality Disorder be Cured?