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Expat identity, how to be yourself again
Identity is what makes us unique. It’s the sum of our physical, cultural and emotional traits, of our values and our experiences.
Identity is the result of our interaction with others, our past and the environment and family in which we grew up.
Being ourselves is what gives stability and balance.
When we move abroad our identity follows us, along with everything that makes us who we are. At the same time, it changes and adapts, influenced by the new environment and circumstances.
This process of adaptation is inevitable. Just as inevitable are the emotions that go with it: uncertainty, instability and a strong sense of confusion.
Finding ourselves in a new world, with dynamics unfamiliar to us, a language that does not belong to us and a set of social rules we do not associate with, can leave us slightly disoriented and questioning the different aspect of our identity.
Here are some thoughts you might be having:
- I had a good social life, now I am spending my evenings in front of the tv;
- I thought I had a sense of humor, now nobody laughs at my jokes;
- My accent is strange, I feel different and inadequate;
- I feel invisible;
- I do not recognise myself
Do any of these sound familiar?
If they do, let me reassure you, you are not alone!
Remember that we are human and as such we have moments of vulnerability. It is essential to be kind to ourselves, acknowledging our suffering and reacting with kindness and understanding, as we would with anyone we love.
Strengthened by this loving care, we can get to work to develop our identity. An identity that matches our new needs but remains consistent with who we are and what we want.
Where do we start from?
Let’s start from our values, those qualities that are important to us and encourage us to behave in a certain way, moving towards the person we want to be.
Values are a big part of our identity and we take them with us on every move, even though, at times, we might need to make a little effort to remember them.
If, for instance, we value “connection with others”, our behaviour will direct us toward finding this connection.
At this stage it is necessary to keep in mind that there are thing beyond our control (eg. different social dynamics) and we need to focus on those actions that are within our control and will bring us closer to our goal (eg. enrolling in a dance class).
Moving abroad shakes our balance but offers us an opportunity to remember who we are and develop a new awareness that will help us to find stability and allow us to keep growing.
Have you recently moved to a new country and you don’t feel integrated? You have lived abroad for many years and always felt lost? Are you about to face your umpteenth transfer? Have you moved back to your country of origin after years abroad?
Whatever stage you are finding yourself in, if you have difficulties fully expressing your identity, contact me.
Together we can understand if I can give you the impact you need to feel like yourself, wherever you are.