Recognizing and Managing Impostor Syndrome while Moving Abroad
Moving abroad can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but for many people, it can also be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and self-doubt.
For some making this leap of faith, impostor syndrome can creep into your mindset and distract your planning. It may be true for those who experience impostor syndrome, a phenomenon where individuals feel like they are not good enough or don’t belong, despite having accomplished or achieved something.
As we know, new experiences, especially in places where you might not be fluent in the language, cultural norms are different than your own, and even your taste buds need to change, can seem a bit more daunting where you are unsure about the outcomes.
If you are moving abroad and are feeling apprehensive or like a fraud, you may be experiencing impostor syndrome. Here are some signs or behaviors to recognize in yourself or those moving with you.
Feeling like an outsider
- One of the key signs of impostor syndrome is feeling like an outsider in your new location.
- You can manifest these feelings through isolation, loneliness, and not belonging.
- You may feel like everyone else is more competent or knowledgeable and that you are in the wrong setting, especially at work among other expats.
- It could seem like you are the only one who does not fit in.
- You may also find yourself making comparisons to others and feeling like you are not measuring up.
Self-doubt and insecurity
- Another sign of impostor syndrome is self-doubt and insecurity.
- You may question your ability to succeed in your new surroundings. You could have the feeling that you are not capable of making a positive impact.
- These feelings can diminish your sense of confidence and introduce fear of failure into your mindset. Such thoughts can prevent you from fully embracing your new expat life and the living abroad experience.
Avoiding new experiences
- Another sign of impostor syndrome is avoiding new experiences and opportunities.
- You avoid socializing with others or going beyond your local location to other parts of your city or country. You may feel like you do not have the skills or knowledge to take on new challenges and may be afraid of failure in your new job.
- Avoidance is the type of behavior that can prevent you from fully immersing yourself in your new culture, making new friends, and experiencing all that your new home has to offer.
Denying your accomplishments
- Another hallmark of impostor syndrome is denying your accomplishments and downplaying your achievements.
- The mere fact that you moved with a job opportunity or as a digital nomad is an achievement you might be minimizing without realizing it. You may feel like you don’t deserve the success you have achieved and that it was just luck or a fluke. Well, it was not by happenstance; you planned and prepared and made it happen.
- Denying, downplaying, and minimizing can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Such behaviors can prevent you from fully embracing your new life and expat journey.
Impostor syndrome can be a debilitating experience, but it is important to remember that it is a common phenomenon and that you are not alone in feeling this way. Moving abroad can be a challenging experience, and impostor syndrome can make it even more difficult.
(Concept created in Canva by Roseapple Global and inspired by https://www.thedataincubator.com/blog/2022/02/23/6-steps-to-break-the-imposter-syndrome-cycle/)
However, it is possible to overcome impostor syndrome and find success in your new country. Here are some steps you can take to overcome impostor syndrome and fully embrace your new life abroad:
Acknowledge your feelings
- The first step to overcoming impostor syndrome is to acknowledge your feelings.
- Recognize that what you are experiencing is normal and that many people feel like they do not belong or are not good enough in a new location, such as a new country. By acknowledging your feelings, you can start to work through them and overcome them.
Connect with others
- Surround yourself with supportive people who understand what you are going through.
- Find and join a group with other new expats, as you might experience some of the same changes and can support each other. Meet some seasoned expats, as they can help guide you in understanding the adaption process.
- Bonding with others who have gone through similar experiences can help you feel less alone and more confident in your new surroundings and transition process.
Embrace your strengths
- Remember who you are, the talents you have, and your strengths. Focus on what you are good at and what you have to offer rather than what you cannot do.
- Rely on your previous transition skills from previous moves or travels.
- Focus on learning and growing in your new environment and new experiences.
- Tap into your hobby and start enjoying it in your new location.
- Find ways to create small wins using your skills, then celebrate your accomplishments and acknowledge your successes.
- Self-care is essential for the longevity of your living abroad experience. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is essential for managing impostor syndrome.
- It sounds simple, right, but it is one of the most challenging things to do when you are experiencing stress or anxiety. So make sure you are eating well, sleeping enough, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
- Don’t forget the all-important spending time with people that make you laugh.
Reframe negative thoughts
- When you find yourself having negative thoughts about your abilities or worthiness or even the location you selected, try to reframe them in a positive way.
- Remind yourself of the reasons why you are on this life-changing international journey and deserve to be where you are. Plus, find people who believe in you and who will encourage you as you navigate your new life abroad.
- This process could also include journaling your thoughts and success as a way to increase your self-confidence.
Seek personal and professional help
- Another effective strategy is to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.
- Talking to someone about your feelings can help you to gain a new perspective and to understand that you are not alone in your struggles. If you are doing all you can but continue to struggle with impostor syndrome, it may be helpful to seek professional help.
- A therapist can work with you to identify the underlying causes of your impostor syndrome and help you develop strategies for managing it.
- Building your self-esteem and confidence with objective support will only help you to embrace, enjoy and optimize your experiences and journey.
As we conclude, impostor syndrome can be a challenging experience for anyone in any new situation, much less a new country. It may be very pronounced, minimal, or not at all during your move abroad journey.
We have learned that experiencing self-doubt may be common for individuals living abroad, especially when adapting to a new culture, language, and lifestyle.
Understanding the signs of impostor syndrome can help you to recognize when you are experiencing these feelings.
Finding and incorporating strategies to fit your personality and needs during your expat living journey can help you overcome feelings of impostor syndrome and to help you establish a sense of self-confidence and self-worth.
Whether it is seeking support from others, challenging negative thoughts, or seeking professional help, these coping methods can help establish a sense of belonging and your ability to thrive in your new country.
Let me minimize any imposter syndrome thoughts by visiting our pages on taking your career abroad:
For career professionals in any field - Become an Expat or For higher education colleagues - HigherEd Expat.