What do they have in common? Well it turns out they can both get us into trouble.
Over the years I have taken pride in feeling like I can get along just about anywhere, with just about anyone and just about anything. If the situation calls for a corporate leader, a registered nurse, a coach or a friend, I truly find most experiences easy to roll in and out of. Some of us have heard this ability called being something like a “chameleon” because it allows those of us who have it, to blend into a variety of situations.
But there is a draw back to this skill of fitting in: Without clear boundaries and core driving principles, a chameleon-like human can lose the ability to know how to show up in a neutral environment. Without taking the internal journey of understanding that there is a difference between being flexible and having no identity whatsoever, we can run the risk of imposter syndrome, always trying to fit somewhere by looking around to see who we should be.
This paradox brings us to the donkey. One of Aesop’s Fables illustrates this idea beautifully with the story of a miller, his son, and their donkey. (Click here for the children’s version.) The short story begins with a man and his son, walking their donkey through their village, where they are met with harsh criticism that neither of them is riding the donkey.
As a result, the father assists his son to climb onto the the donkey. In the next village, they are chastised because the young man is riding, instead of the older father. So they switch spots.
Next, you guessed it, they are shamed for letting the old man ride, when the young boy can hardly keep up. They try carrying the donkey to further please the next set of critics, which results in the donkey’s struggle and subsequent ultimate demise.
Bringing the chameleon and the donkey stories together, the common thread is this: We cannot please all the people all of the time. We actually can’t please many people, most of the time. If we accept this foundational belief then it becomes increasingly easy to change our goal from people pleasing to serving our own core morals and mandates. If we can’t please everyone, wouldn’t it be easier to just stick to what is natural and true for us?
For me the answer is a resounding YES! And taking the theme to another level, when I started publishing my writing, I made a commitment to keep this principle “ready at hand.” I continue to be fascinated by different people and varying situations, but I also know who I am.
This makes it easy to focus on the goal of self-expression, come what may, instead of riding donkeys or trying to camouflage my appearance.