Do you struggle with belonging as an expat and have you ever said any of the following during your expat experience?
“I have never felt like I belong, I don’t know what that means”
“I crave connection and community, but I don’t know how to get that”
“I feel crippling loneliness, like I don’t fit in anywhere”
I hear variations of these raw and personal admissions quite frequently from expats. On the one hand, the expat experience creates a perfect breeding ground for feeling lost, lonely and adrift. Mainly because it takes a long time to find “your people”, with whom you can feel comfortable and at ease.
The difficulty lies in the fact that finding your people is a numbers game and requires opportunities to meet with the right people frequently, on a regular basis to form a genuine, fulfilling bond.
So if you’re not meeting enough people and not meeting the right ones frequently enough, the more finding your people becomes a draining chore on your to-do list rather than something that naturally leads to fulfilling relationships.
For me, true belonging is not a destination, it’s a process, a journey of peeling back the layers to my true self (although we are all works in progress at the same time).
True belonging starts with getting to know every nook and cranny of what you’ve been through, what you need, what you truly desire, independent of society’s or even your friends’ and family’s expectations.
True belonging also means getting to know your shadow side, acknowledging your weaknesses, accepting the things you don’t like about yourself, the things you’re still working on in yourself, the things that get you into trouble.
True belonging starts with healing those parts of you that you have suppressed as a result of difficult life experiences or overwhelming external pressure.
I’m not saying you need to be healed so that you can be worthy of belonging with others. Not at all.
What I’m saying is that when you continue to learn, heal and reveal more of your true self *to yourself* as a first step, you naturally begin to attract the people who you will find easy to belong with as well.
When you do that, that is when fitting in gets replaced with naturally gravitating towards people who enjoy being with you and make you feel loved and accepted.
That is when painful questions around belonging get replaced with curiosity about what else can you discover about yourself so that you may move even closer to true belonging to yourself and to others.
That is when periods of loneliness in a new country, or as a fresh repat, get replaced with acceptance and trust that your people are out there, even if it takes some time to find them.
In relation to belonging to yourself, here are some questions for you to reflect on:
- In what aspects do you reject who you are?
- In what aspects do others reject who you are?
- How could you come to love and accept those parts of you?
- What kind of healing needs to happen for you to move towards greater belonging to yourself?
If you feel called to share what came up for you in response to these questions, please reach out.