Living abroad, it is almost inevitable that we start comparing to other expats.
In our expat journey, we may ask ourselves…
- How can she have so many friends as I’ve been trying for so long, and nothing has happened?
- Why did she get a promotion if she is a “new expat” and barely speaks the language?
- Did he learn this difficult language so fast?
- Why am I having so many troubles with my visa, and she got it almost instantly!
Those questions are daily bread at the beginning of our expat life. And because we are often feeling vulnerable, fearful and insecure, this sense of “not achieving enough” grows with the minute. We are inclined to comparing to other expats.
As human beings, we tend to compare ourselves to others. Different researches show that comparing ourselves to (from us perceived as) more accomplished and talented people can be motivating and drive us to put more effort to achieve a goal.
Nevertheless, if we are experiencing insecurity and lack of confidence, this comparison can and probably will be counterproductive.
It can have the following consequences:
– Affects your self-esteem and self-confidence, triggering self-doubt, lack of motivation, feelings of disappointment, guilt and self-punishment can lead to anxiety and depression.
– It can lead to impostor syndrome and procrastination
– Creates a vicious cycle. The more we feed this dissatisfaction, the more insecure and frustrated and unhappy we feel about ourselves and our life.
But how can we stop comparing ourselves to people we look up to, in social media, in our work or academic environment, even among our dearest friends?
3 effective ways to stop comparing to other expats
1.- Recognize comparison.
The first step to heal and address the problem is to identify it as such.
Pay attention to your behavior regarding comparison and IDENTIFY your “comparison spiral” triggers. What is provoking this dissatisfaction? What need or needs are behind this uncomfortable feeling?
Once you know the patterns, thoughts and emotions linked to the comparison, you can address it more effectively.
2.- Pretend to be an anthropologist.
Pick at least 2 of those people you are comparing with, in social media or in “real life.” Somebody you admire and seem to have everything figured out. Pretend to be an anthropologist researching what makes them successful and happy (at least the impression you get).
I can give you a preview:
These people, whom you admire for having a perfect life and being model expats, went through a lot to get where they are, AND, many days they are still finding themselves doubting and facing predicaments.
This exercise will give you a perspective of what and with whom you are comparing and will help you set more realistic expectations and be kinder to yourself.
3.- Focus on yourself and what you want.
Every person has unique tools, skills and ways to cope with challenges. Pay attention to yourself and what you want. Enhance your resources and qualities!
Instead of thinking that you are missing out or wasting time not achieving what other expats achieve, focus on your conquers! I’m sure there are plenty. And after that, set up a second list of the things that YOU want to do and add the steps you will take to reach this.
When you see what other expats are achieving, take notes, appreciate them as role models and learn! Yet focus on your goals and set priorities, organize your steps and go for it!
If you are an expat and need support in this or other challenges of living abroad, contact me. As an online psychologist specialized in expat women living abroad, I can help you work through these struggles and identify productive ways to manage this significant transition and journey.
Take the reins now and live a fulfilled and happy international life, wherever you are, wherever you are heading!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.