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The Expat Identity Crisis & How to Overcome It

Our identity is formed through all sorts of experiences throughout our lifetime. The experience of being an expat can solidify your views of yourself, or it can cause an identity crisis. Losing your sense of self can be a very difficult journey but it can also be an opportunity to explore and grow. Read about what expat identity crisis is and how you can overcome it!

Many people experience an identity crisis when entering a new phase in life. It can happen when you have left education and are progressing into adulthood, when you change your career, or because of any other significant changes. For an expat, an identity crisis can occur after moving to a different location and feeling as if you don’t belong while also losing traits of your original nationality.

Being adaptable, learning and exploring your new home abroad is important to understand a different culture and social norms. But trying to fit in can make your feel like you’re losing personality traits that gave you a sense of who you truly are. You may find that your extroverted personality is not appreciated in your new environment or that you’re not as resilient as you were in your hometown.

It’s important to recognize if you are going through an identity crisis so that you can overcome this challenge and have a great time wherever you are! An identity crisis usually comes with questions about your place in the world and sense of self. For example, you may ask yourself, “what are my values?”, “what is my purpose in life?”, and “who am I?”  

How to Overcome Your Identity Crisis

One way to overcome an identity crisis is by seeing it from a different perspective. As humans, we are constantly evolving and growing with every new experience and the people we meet. Letting go of old views and beliefs is part of this development. Although having an identity crisis may feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself, it can open doors to exploring or recognizing parts of yourself that you never even knew existed! You can embrace it as a pivotal point for personal growth.

Reflecting on how far you’ve come is a significant step to help you acknowledge the changes you’re experiencing. What has happened since you’ve moved? What are some of the things that you enjoy, and have you been taking part in those activities? Which views or beliefs don’t align with your new environment? What qualities best represent you and have they changed? What are some of your new goals in life?

Not being able to answer all these questions is completely fine especially when you’re going through an identity crisis. But reflection can help you feel realigned or progress to finding yourself again.

Share Your Experiences & Be Yourself

Reaching out to those that may share the same experiences as you can help lift some weight off your shoulders. Finding social support, for instance by meeting other expats through InterNations will help you express and bond over similar changes that you might be going through. This will increase your confidence and help you feel less lonely — a feeling that is common when going through an identity crisis.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that not fitting in with other people’s expectations is okay. Your sense of self is more important than feeling like you belong, and no matter where you go and who you meet, there will always be different perceptions of what someone should be like or do. Give yourself space to reconnect with yourself by being mindful and aware of what might be causing negative emotions. Sometimes leaving a job or an environment where you don’t feel welcome can help you overcome an identity crisis.

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