I’m a mimic. I’ve known this for years. The most obvious example of this is found in my speech.
When I traveled to different parts of the country as a kid I found myself picking up the local speech patterns within a few days. The southern state’s drawl, Boston’s refusal to pronounce r’s, and most recently, DC’s strange vowel usage turning very to “vury.”
My mimicry isn’t limited to speech. I’ve also caught myself copying mannerisms of others. Certain ways I would gesture or stand or hold my body would gently change.
I don’t realize it at first. It’s gradual, subtle, and hard to notice if you don’t know me well. It doesn’t feel like lying, it doesn’t feel like I’m not being myself. It’s human nature to want to feel accepted and part of the group, and other humans often gravitate towards someone they recognize as familiar. I don’t let it bother me too much.
Then I was thrown into the Foreign Service environment which was completely new to me in just about every way. On top of that I was thrown into a rather unique Embassy. Dushanbe is small. It’s a very tight knit community, and I felt a very sudden urge to be immediately accepted. Enter mimicry.
Finally, it bothered me. For the first time I felt like I was trying too hard with too many people using too many different mannerisms at once. It was exhausting. After about a week or so it overwhelmed me so much I nearly had a nervous breakdown.
As soon as I identified what was making me so uneasy, fixing it was the simplest thing I’ve had to do since being here. Just be myself. And shockingly no one seemed to mind.