Some of you may remember this quote from the movie Fight Club (1999): “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. … “ The question then becomes: who are you?
Identity and its possible loss during expatriation is one of the most recurring issues expatriates bring up in coaching sessions. And for everyone identity signifies something different: for some it’s the loss of a career they’ve experienced by moving with their spouse half way around the world; for others it’s the loss of financial independence due to a move; for yet others it’s the loss of belonging to a group of people they feel something in common with; and for others it’s the loss of their purpose/place/way/security… the list can go on and on. So, what makes us who we are and how can we preserve that when in transition and surrounded by an environment that’s seemingly taking away our identity?
Answering the question of who we are will take a lot more than just one blog and so I am going to concentrate on the second part of the question above — how do we keep our identity and how do we feel good about ourselves wherever we may end up? I think the key here is our relationship with ourselves. All too often moves and transitions produce feelings of doubt in our own abilities; feelings of guilt, feelings of low self-esteem; and feelings of “not being good enough, smart enough, etc.” No matter what we call these feelings, they are all about the same thing — we stop liking and set out to criticize ourselves. What kind of relationship is that? How much do we damage this most important relationship in our lives — the relationship of us with us?
And what good comes of it?
Certainly not much. Instead, these regular criticisms and nagging create the recurrent feelings of “I am losing myself”, “I am no longer who I was before”, “my identity is slipping away” and so on and so forth. The self-critical mode takes over and it’s no wonder that we feel that our identity is no more.
Ever felt that way? What do you think?
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