Tag Archives: self-esteem

Grateful or in debt – what does it feel like to you? An accompanying expat spouse’s dilemma.

by Margarita

Much has been said about the role of financial dependence in expat marriages. FeeCultureOne spouse gets the transfer to work abroad, the other decides to follow thereby giving up his/her job and with that — the ability to contribute monetarily to the household.

Although situations vary, most non-working accompanying spouses contribute to the family in many other ways: they organize households in the chaotic “before” and “after” of a move; they take care of children and pets; they figure how things work in a new environment and smoothen transition for everyone else; they run the house and errands; and they play a very important supportive part that allows the other partner to work.

We all know they contribute – and they know it too – however, concerns of being financially dependent and spending “not my own money” has always been high on the expat spouse’s list of feeling unhappy. So why is it that perfectly accomplished people with a large list of things they do for the family still feel like they don’t deserve the money they spend? Why do they feel guilty not to make a paycheck?

Thinking about it a little more after a conversation I recently had with some fellow expat women, I came up with three reasons:

(1) In today’s society (the Western kind), you are only as good as the size of your paycheck and the title on your business card. Money you make elicits more admiration than the impact you make as a parent, a partner, or simply a human being.

(2) The reason above contributes directly to how accompanying spouses feel about their self-worth. Many a client with whom I’ve worked told me how they cringe when asked “what do you do?” – one of the first questions that you get in a gathering of any kind. Or how they notice that people’s eyes glaze over as soon as they mention that they are not working.

(3) And then there is the third reason – the most poisonous of them all. There are actually spouses that will hint or point out that they are the ones bringing home the bacon – and that no amount of support, or of household chores, or of parenting impact, or of simply moving around on a whim of someone else will ever be as important as their paycheck. And unless you make the same amount or more while doing everything else you are already doing, you should stop feeling smug about yourself and your contribution and start feeling very grateful.

My question is: grateful or in debt?

The answer is, of course, your choice! We can always choose the way we feel about our surroundings and the way we react to them. And perhaps it’ll work the first, the second, and the third time around. But then the fourth time, it’ll be harder. And the fifth time – even harder. Why? Because if you live near the toxic plant, you won’t be healthy no matter how many vitamins you take and how many vegetables you juice. The plant has to stop emitting toxins or you have to move.

Your thoughts on this “grateful” or “in debt” dilemma?

Five tips for expat women to use during a move

Summer is upon us (well, at least in the northern hemisphere) and summer is the time when most expats move countries.  We pack our entire households, say good-byes, organize our arrival the best we can, and spend hours, if not days, wondering if we are forgetting something.  And since the vast majority of accompanying spouses are still women, it is the expat women that weather the brunt of each move.

And, boy, do we step up to the plate.  If a superwoman cape were given out to each expat woman at every move, all of us would have by now accumulated a closet-full of those capes.  Yet how useful are they, those capes? And how much do we actually lose by choosing to become super-women during each and every move?

Judging by my own experiences, we lose a lot of sleep. And a lot of smiles.  And quite a few laughs. We lose connections – connection with ourselves and connection with those at whom we snap.  We lose patience… a lot more often then usually. And we lose both a peace of mind – and piece of our mind.

So in service to ourselves and to those around us, I’d like to offer a few suggestions:

Quit thinking yourself a superwoman.  Yes, it is nice to know that you are smart enough and strong enough and resourceful enough to move your family across the world without a glitch. But you don’t have to do it alone. Delegate. Get others to pitch in and do their fair share.

Remember you are a mother/spouse/partner – not a saint. Don’t make it a habit to take upon other people’s responsibilities during the move. Don’t feel bad that they are working/studying/traveling/etc. You have to give yourself just as much credit as you give the others. Your time, energy and effort are very valuable.

Send your saboteur packing. Stop listening to that nonsense in your ear that you are not doing enough. Even if you are organizing a move, running a small business, taking care of homework, running a household, etc, your saboteur will tell you that it’s not enough.  According to your saboteur, everyone under the sun will always do more than you.  Ignore that voice and fully recognize your contribution.

Make time and space for being lazy.  Yes, you heard me right – be lazy.  There will certainly be times during your pack out period, when you’ll feel like you don’t want to do a thing. You’ll feel like your cup is overflowing – and has been for sometime – and there is not enough space in there to add anything else. So give yourself permission, perhaps for a couple of hours, for a day, for a few days, to do nothing at all.  Read a book. Watch a movie.  Re-charge.  And remember, if you give your body and mind the time to re-charge, you’ll feel the energy come back soon enough.

Stop blaming yourself and others. Be easy on yourself and those around you.  Relocating is a difficult undertaking. You can be assured that your move won’t happen with the precision of a Swiss train, so let go of the expectation that everything and everyone will be perfect. Allow for some screw-ups along the way and laugh at them.  That’s a lot more fun than assigning blame.

What other thinking would you suggest we do away with when we move?

Need some extra support during the difficult transition time?  Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on the last Friday of each month!  Get some inspiration through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes here.

Watch what you say! How your language drives your experiences

Thoughts become words.  Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character.  Character becomes destiny.” (Source Unknown)

If you have any doubts about the statement above, think back to the times when you met people who were always complaining or people who were always critical or people who were always frustrated or … etc, etc, etc.  Inevitably these people got more of what was in their language – more to complain about, more to criticize, more to be frustrated about.  Their reality kept conforming to their behavior.

What you focus on expands.

Bear that in mind when you are moving to another country, experiencing culture shock, repatriating, or simply having a not-so-good streak.  Language is a powerful tool when it comes to defining your perspective and that perspective will either make or break your experience.  Perspective will define the outcome.

Watch yourself and your conversations over the next few days.  Notice what you talk about and how you are feeling.  Write it all down and then review what you wrote.  Does your language lead you to focus on problems or possibilities; on lack or on abundance; on apologizing or on standing tall.  Once you see your patterns, commit to some or all of the following:

  • Talk about what you are committed to and not what you are worried about.
  • Stop apologizing for being you and instead stand tall in who you are.
  • Speak about your dreams, not about your disappointments.
  • Forget about how phony it may feel at first to speak in an empowered manner, you’ll get used to it.
  • Stop complaining about the lack of money, start recognizing what the money is buying you and feel grateful for that.

Think your dreams.  Speak your dreams. Watch them come true.

Planning to move to another country this year? Or repatriating home? Join us for a FREE webinar on strategies for adjustment and repatriation on May 14th at 2pm EST US. Sign up here: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/534844358

Three excuses expats like to use not to go after their dreams

by Margarita

So you’ve moved abroad.  The constraints of the culture you grew up in with all its “be realistic”, “be careful”, “you’ll never make any money doing this”, “you cannot possibly do this” seem to be gone yet you still find yourself unable to move towards your dream.  So what is it that you are telling yourself that keeps you firmly planted where you were even though you moved?

Here are three common excuses expats use not to take the leap:

1.  It’s too late.  I am too old.  I am too slow.  I am never going to be able to do it.

How can you know this for sure if you never try?

The only things you can know is that you definitely cannot fly on your own, walk on water, or live on the Moon (for now anyway).  But everything else is up for grabs.

2.  There are so many others doing this thing I want and I am never going to catch up to them.  I am never going to be successful.

How can you know this for sure if you never try?

Yes, there is only one Steve Jobs, only one Mikhail Baryshnikov, and only one Joshua Bell in the world.  But here is a secret – you don’t need or want to be them.  You want to be yourself and approach your passion in your own individual way.  You want success on your terms, not their terms.  If everyone were the same, how fun would it be?  Success is in the eyes of the beholder.  The beholder is you.  And you can change your definition of success.

3.  I don’t have any formal education in this field and cannot really claim to be part of it.

This excuse is the one that will either stop you in your tracks completely or get you to study ad nauseum.  Whatever you learn will never seem enough and you’ll keep going from one degree to the next, from one certification to the next.  You’ll never even start on your dream because you’ll be too busy trying hard to become worthy of it.

If you want to learn – by all means, learn!  But learn for the sake of learning, and not for the sake of satisfying your doubt saboteur.

These excuses put you on the road to your default future — is that where you want to go?  Or do you want to create your future out of your passions and dreams?

Have any other excuses?  Share them below!

And if you are tired of these and want to move forward, join the Expat Women Academy that starts on May 1, 2012.  Join us for a FREE webinar to learn more about it here.

Warning! The luggage you want to leave behind when moving abroad

by Margarita

In the previous post I talked about the secret advantage of leaving your home country that no one seems to know about (read here).  As a follow up on that post I’d like to address the pesky things that prevent you from fully stepping into that advantage.

And the honor goes toyour saboteur.  Your inner critic.  Your committee. Your shadow.  Your… you pick the word/phrase to describe the annoying negative voice in your head that scares you half to death with the prospect of future calamities should you dare change.

When you leave your home country behind and the barriers seem to disappear, they don’t always disappear for good.  Whether you want it or not, inadvertently you bring quite a few of them with you.  Just like over the years you may have transported various bugs in your luggage from country to country (we are still trying to get rid of those silverfish!), you are most likely carrying with you the thinking from your childhood and cultural influences.

Some of those beliefs may still very much valid for you – but others may not be.  Yet, you don’t really know the difference because most of them have become automatic.  If you drive a car long enough, soon you won’t even notice how you get from place to place because the driving has entered your subconscious and you are no longer consciously directing yourself to drive.

The same with beliefs and habits.  Until you begin to question them and bring them into the surface of your conscious thinking, you won’t know if they are still serving you or if they are impeding you.

You won’t know if you are engaging in a behavior because you chose to – or because your saboteur is directing you to in order to avoid some grand disaster that’s purely an assumption.

How can you start really getting rid of that saboteur luggage you don’t want anymore?

Here are four steps to start you on your way:

Step 1.  Observe your behavior and beliefs closely.  What makes you think and do what you think and do?  Start especially with the times when you are having doubts.  Check in to see what thoughts are dominating.

Step 2. If you discover that you are engaging in “I cannot” or “I should not” or “I should” or “I should have”, take note.  A lot of these statements are the domain of the saboteur who will be working overtime to create fear of something in you.  Check in with yourself as to how valid those fears are for you NOW.

Step 3.  Try using a different language.  Instead of “I cannot”, “I should”, etc – use “I choose to” or “I choose not to”.  Take charge by exercising choice.  How does that change things?

Step 4.  Repeat at every opportunity.  Work out the muscle of knowing which of your habits and thinking need to go.

Getting rid of the saboteur luggage is one of the most important steps in engaging YOUthe YOU that you are meant to be. 

Want some support in getting rid of the saboteur’s influence?  Join the Expat Women Academy that starts on April 1, 2012.  Join us for a FREE webinar to learn more about it here.

Three tips for Expat Women

by Margarita

About a year ago I created “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” Guide (available for FREE download here) and recently I thought — why not create a series of short, 1-3 minutes videos, on A to Z Tips for Expat women?

Why women?

When I interviewed 20+ expat women on their challenges while living abroad, I learned that many of these women share very similar challenges and struggles.  Now, of course, it’s very possible that those challenges are also common among expat men — and if that’s the case, I hope these videos will also be helpful for them!

So here are the first three of the series:

Tip 1 — A is for Attention

Tip 2 — B is for Beginning

Tip 3 — C is for Connection

More videos are coming up soon!  Meanwhile this is the last week to enroll into our Expat Women Academy — a program that offers strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.  JOIN US!

A secret advantage to expatriation and immigration that no one seems to know

By now many of us have listened to Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement address and nodded in agreement.  After all who can really disagree with this:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” 

As far as advice goes, it’s inspirational, it’s moving, and it makes you want to just get up and go for it.  Right there and then.  Right away.

And then you don’t.

You don’t because life gets in the way; because old thinking – the “other people’s thinking” — surrounds you like fog on an early morning; and because overcoming years and years of conditioning by your parents, teachers, society at large and your own sabotaging voices is just too difficult.

A personal story: When I grew up, the thinking in my family, my society and my surroundings was clear – my future was decided for me.  With all the best intentions, of course, my parents ignored my natural talents (“who can make a living doing that?”) and directed me towards what they truly believed will secure me a safe life.  No one paid serious attention to what I wanted – the prevailing “truth” was simply that it was not wise, possible, or appropriate.

And then came the transformative event.  I immigrated.  I moved to a society where the culture was completely different and where the barriers of my upbringing didn’t exist.  It was like taking a tree from a nursery in a pot and then transplanting it into the ground where the pot is no longer constricting its growth.  The tree is now free to spread its roots anywhere it wants.

Looking back I now realize how much of a gift it was to shed those barriers.  But like Steve Jobs said in his speech, we are better at connecting the dots looking backwards.  It took me a good 20 years to get back to what I truly am good at, to what I love to do, and to what I am passionate about.

Immigrating and expatriating transplants you out of the pot.  You leave the familiar – and with that you leave the things you learned about yourself that may not be true.  You have an amazing gift to break out of the barriers, to reach deep down your soul and yank out the stuff that’s been either ignored or repressed or dismissed.

But wait.  There is more.

There is the tricky part, of course.  While I am beginning to develop those repressed and ignored talents again, it is so difficult to allow myself to declare ME to the world.  Because the nay-Sayers are still there — both from my past and my present.  This is the biggest piece of that pot that’s still stuck to my tree’s roots.  Not a day passes by when I don’t hear variations of the following:

  • “How can I possibly be that?”
  • “It’s too late.”
  • “Better stick with what’s been done and with what’s safe.”
  • “I am not an _______.”

Recognize those?  It’s other people’s baggage that you are still carrying.

So here is a tip.  Start small.  Start slow.  Forget about the grander “how” of doing it and forget about the destination.  Instead concentrate in the journey.  Do something small each day and nurture the inner child in you that’s hasn’t been allowed to come out and play.  Let the roots of that tree go wherever they please.  You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition.  Stay hungry.  Stay foolish.”

I am feeling in my heart now that this is becoming a major part of my coaching practice.  This journey of re-discovery of who I am – of going back to who I was meant to be – is informing all of my programs.  So if you feel like re-discovery is what you are hungry for and if you feel like you want a hand, I’d love to help you.  You can join a group program that will focus on this (see Expat Women Academy) or you can get in touch with me for individually-tailored coaching.

I’d be honored to share your re-discovery journey with you.

And remember – not everyone gets to shed the pot by moving.  You do.  It’s an amazing gift.  Use it.

8 mistakes expats make that can leave them feeling disconnected

by Margarita

One of the biggest challenges of an expat lifestyle is feeling disconnected – from the life you leave behind, from people and events in your current place of residence, from family and old friends back home, and even from those who surround you.  If you are an expat right now, how strong is the feeling of being disconnected in you on a scale of 1 to 10?  Are you somewhere between 4 and 10?

If you are, read on and let me know if these eight mistakes resonate with you!

Mistake 1.  You have very high expectations that people back home will continue to want and initiate consistent interaction with you.   We all miss our friends/family when we move, but face it – we left.  They stayed behind and they moved on with their lives.  They’ve substituted the vacuum you left in their lives with something/someone else and they are doing just fine.  It’s harder for you, of course, because you are the new kid on the block. Sure they’ll be there for you when you need them, but for heaven’s sake – don’t expect them to get in touch with you as often as they did in the past – and don’t sulk if they don’t.  Remember that it’s now up to you to initiate and maintain contact.  You are the one who has left.

Mistake 2. Somehow, somewhere you’ve decided that making new friends isn’t your strength.  Fair enough – some of us are more outgoing than others, but make sure you realize that perspective is everything.  It colors the lens you use to look at the world.  So if your current perspective is “I suck at making new friends”, you will suck at it.  Change your perspective and you’ll be surprised to see how things change around you.

Mistake 3. You decided that you only want strong, intimate connections and you are not interested in anything else.  It’s your choice, of course, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to create lasting friendships.  But are you sure you are giving everyone a chance?  How do you know that someone who doesn’t seem “the material” now isn’t going to turn into a dear friend?  Stranger things have happened in the world.  Make sure you are open to every possibility that comes your way.

Mistake 4.  You think your to-do list is too long and you just have no time to get out and get to know people.  It’s a classic one – how many times have we used our to-do lists as an excuse not to do something that seems challenging, uncomfortable, or scary to us?

Mistake 5.  You take trips home every 3-4 weeks for a vacation, just a visit, or… just because.  Another classic – and another very strong reason for not feeling connected either at home or at your new place of residence.  Commit to one of those places and grow your connections there.

Mistake 6. You feel uncomfortable chatting up to people because your language skills are not perfect.  This may be a good place to train yourself to let go of expecting yourself to be perfect – in languages and anywhere else.  Besides, how else would you improve your speaking ability if not by speaking to people?

Mistake 7.  You engage in unfavorable comparisons of your current place of residence with home (or with the one you left).  We all heard that the “grass is always greener on the other side”, but guess what?  Yours would be green too if you only watered it enough.  So forget about how your new home doesn’t stack up to your previous home and stop the comparisons.  Instead find the beauty where you are.

Mistake 8.  You use social media like there is no tomorrow.  Lots of people adore Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, etc, etc (I don’t even come close to knowing all the social networking sites out there), but life still mostly happens on the outside and the connections you make on the outside are the ones that are going to nurture you.  Your 1000+ friends on Facebook will forgive you if you engage in the outside world.  So what are you waiting for?

Which mistakes resonate with you?  And what additions may you have?

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“What do people think I do” meme for accompanying expat women

by Margarita

After seeing this meme make the rounds on Facebook, I thought — why not create something that highlights the experience so many women have when they accompany their spouses on expatriate assignments.   Here is what I came up with:

Recognize yourself?

If you do – and you want a  much better experience of your expat life than the one you see in the last frame, join our Expat Women Academy.  See you there!

10 things expat women should stop doing

Moving abroad is a perfect opportunity to start something new.  Not necessarily a new job or a new business, but rather a new YOU.  Perhaps tap into talents you never had time for or explore parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there. But before you do that, there are a few things you may want to leave behind.  For starters, here are your first 10!

Stop allowing guilt to ruin your days.  Feeling guilty serves no useful purpose.  You don’t grow or evolve because you feel guilty.  Nor do you become a better mother, a better daughter, a better professional, or a better friend because of guilt.  So next time the familiar pang of guilt shows up, notice it and then choose to put your attention elsewhere – somewhere where you can feel good about yourself.

Stop being everything to everyone Being a perfect mother while also being a perfect relocation manager for your family while also being a perfect professional woman while also being a perfect daughter to your aging parents you are leaving behind while also being a perfect friend is not possible.  Repeat – NOT possible.  Recognize it and give yourself a break.

Stop putting your own needs and wants aside.  Losing yourself in the messes and stresses of the expatriate life and forgetting that you are special too is common.  Children, husbands, employers, clients, parents, and friends are all in need of being taken care of.  How much space does that leave for you?  You decide!  If there was ever the time and the place to engage in your passion and do what matters to you, it’s now.  Remember that.

Stop trying to be someone you are not.  Take the roles you want to take in life and don’t take the roles imposed on you by others.  So what if people back home think you should be able to learn a new language right away?  Maybe that’s not what you want.  So what if your friends at home are surprised that you are happy not working full time in your new country of residence?  Maybe it’s time for a sabbatical.  Bottom line – take the time to discover (or remember!) who you are and be that.

Stop blaming others.  Research has shown that only 10% of our happiness depends on life circumstances, while 40% of our happiness is intentional.  So next time you decide to blame your spouse for taking you to this God-forsaken country or you blame the company for not enough resources, think again.  Change your thinking.  Change your intention for your life there.  Change your attitude.

Stop holding on to the past.  Yes, you probably had a great job and a promising career.  And yes, you were financially independent.  And yes, you felt like you were contributing.  And yes, you have none of that here where you are living now.  But you have something else.  So stop peering longingly into the door of the past and open the door of the present.  Discover what it has to offer.

Stop hanging out with the wrong people.  You want to have a positive experience while an expat, don’t you?  So why surround yourself with unhappy complainers? Choose your alliances wisely – remember the energy of people around you has a huge influence on your own.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself and commit to change.  Perhaps your move wasn’t as smooth as that of your neighbor.  And perhaps your spouse works much longer hours, your kids are hating the new school, and you are feeling like you’ve lost sense of who you are.  Take that as a sign that change needs to happen to how you are in the world and commit to that change.  Don’t skimp on resources here – this is the time to act and get all the necessary support you need.  Buy a self-help book, join an online course, hire a coach.  Move forward.  Sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself won’t get you anywhere.

Stop explaining yourself to others.  Yes, you may have been a professional woman back home, but now you’ve chosen not to work.  And you may have decided to indulge in a history class at a local university while a nanny watches your kids.  You don’t owe any explanations to your friends back home who have been expecting you to start working as soon as you land.  And you don’t have to explain to your family why you are not spending every waking moment with your kids.  What YOU do with YOUR time and resources is no one else’s business.

Stop pretending like everything is good when it is not.  If you are not happy, voice it.  If you are missing something, speak about it.  If you need help and support, get it.  Pretending that everything is fine and that you are a brave soul who can wither all the difficulties on her own is silly.  After all you can be spending your energy on actually enjoying yourself rather than pretending that you are enjoying yourself.

Thoughts?  Additions?  Comments?  Shoot!

Find yourself doing any of these 10 things over and over again?  To help yourself stop, join our Expat Women Academy where you’ll be given the tools and the curriculum — along with the community of women going through the same thing — to be successful in stopping them!

ALSO — To benefit from the collection of tools, ideas and exercises based on experiences of expats from around the world, get your FREE “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” workbook by signing up for our Expat VIP list here.