WHY VULNERABILITY CHANGES THE GAME
AN UPDATE TO MY POST ‘IN A CROWD, BUT I STILL FEEL ALONE’
I went away this half-term with some beauties and a few kiddos. It was such a great break, that I never knew I needed. I had been going at a hundred miles an hour and hadn’t realised that I just needed a selfish minute. Not to be a mum or a teacher but just to be me, Carole. The first day I didn't relax, the second still a bit tense but then by the afternoon I had a really good cry.
I decided that I needed to be honest with myself, that I was having a tough time in some ways and it was okay to feel emotional. I spoke to my son about this also, as he had been 'misbehaving'. Sometimes our kids need to know we are human. It was a well-needed reset for me and for my expectation of him, in our new environment.
During the break, I was able to spend much more quality time with the ladies I had traveled with and we connected more deeply than our surface conversations at school. It was nice to slowly let my guard down on how I was feeling and what I was struggling with. Everyone seemed so established in their friendship groups at work, I often felt like a third limb. I came to realise that so many people had also had a difficult time at some point emotionally, navigating their new surroundings when they first arrived. Through conversation and openness, I felt a little more connected to their human experiences and no longer felt that crazy level of isolation. Although I still returned to work feeling a little lost, hence my ‘IN A CROWD, BUT I STILL FEEL ALONE’ post, it wasn't because I wasn't connecting. I just needed more time to process my vulnerability, insecurities, and emotions.
THE POWER OF VULNERABILITY -
Back in 2018, I listened to this amazing audiobook on Audible by Brené Brown discussing The Power of Vulnerability. It was the first time I had heard it presented in such a way, as to simplify the concept and its impact. Brené discussed the fact that vulnerability makes you ‘authentic and allows you to feel love, belonging and joy’. She also states that the ‘willingness to own and engage your vulnerability determines the depth of your courage’. Thinking back to these points, I also recalled the concept of living wholeheartedly and how we need to engage our lives from a place of worthiness. That authenticity is brave, and that we need to challenge the concept that vulnerability is weakness. I realised that I needed to show up! Show up in this new community and embrace my vulnerability.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY SHOW UP?
I realised that what I was feeling was natural but what I was doing was shrinking. I was not being as proactive as I could be to make friends and find those intimate moments. I was waiting to be invited and when I was not, I was taking it personally. It is not personal and you need to invite yourself, someone advised me, when I decided it was a safe space to discuss my vulnerability. When I reflect on what Brené says in her talk, I recalled the importance of taking the mask off, regardless of what people think of me. It is funny how we can be internalising emotions that are impacting our behaviours but yet we are not always aware! As someone that is pretty confident, this was an ‘aha’ moment.
I WAS making friends I realised. Some people had been so nice to me and welcomed me and my son into their fold and lives. I realised that because of some uncertainty about whether some of my new friends would be staying next year (the transient life of expating), it had subconsciously turned me into a recluse. I also realised I had to get comfortable with the use of the word friend. Friendships are formed quickly and intensely in the word of expats. For me, my friendships back home have been built over years, yet here they are formed within weeks and months. Being open to this concept has changed the way I now interact with people. I feel warmer and more open and it feels good to say, my friend. I have now formed what feels like a good selection of people, that I can say are my friends and they reflect different parts of my personality and lifestyle. This brings me to the next subheading, expating and making friends.
'EXPATING' AND MAKING FRIENDS
I guess my advice would be to first get comfortable in your circumstances. Your work, your home situation, and your set-up. Once these are all okay, get out there. Speak to a range of people and be vocal about wanting to do stuff. Hang out with a variety of people that have different interests. Back home I have friends for different activities and interests. Expating is no different, apart from you will have to make an effort to meet these different people and figure out which friends fit within your lifestyle. Listen to your energy and don't be afraid to be on your own or feel on your own for a short period, this will pass. Embrace the emotions, you will have numerous.
Find your triggers or what is and is not making you happy. Expating can be a fast pace life, there are always meet-ups or events happening. Enquire and invite yourself, the worst thing someone can say is no! Yes, you might feel a little dented, but it will pass. Most people however won't and are very welcoming. If you don’t click with someone, that's okay. There are others to make friends with, don’t force an uncomfortable relationship. Be authentic to yourself and don’t change who you care for others. That is exhausting. I have come to accept in this tight-knit work environment that not everyone will like me, and that's okay! I know I like myself. I have felt like this for many years now, but surprisingly being so far from my comforts the ‘gremlins’ as Brené calls them, try to come out and play. Acknowledge them, but do not play into ‘their’ hands. You got this!
Love Carole xoxo
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