Expat Revelations – Self Esteem

The very lovely Holly at English Girl Canadian Man has come up with a range of themes for us to write about to help newbie expats, like us, get our heads around some of the issues we need to face on a daily basis. Our first topic is Self Esteem.

My self-esteem has been boosted and taken hits in equal measure since we began our expat journey but on balance my self-esteem issues seem to have worsened since we have been here in Canada.

The Hits.

Constantly being told you are saying things wrong or weird. Feeling different from everyone else, looking different and generally feeling unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable all contribute to a constant assault on my already fragile self-esteem.

Probably the worst feeling though is when I feel completely alone in a room full of people.   No one really gets me here, they don’t understand what our lives were like back in England and they don’t understand them now. I can’t join in conversations when they talk about their past, childhood experiences that I don’t share or even their work week, they assume I don’t have an opinion because I’m not working right now. As a result of feeling like I have nothing valuable to contribute to a conversation, when I’m in a group of people I barely speak at all anymore. I have become much more withdrawn since becoming an expat.

There is no normal anymore, no familiar safe place to retreat to and restore my depleted resources. I screw up all the time while I relearn everything I thought I knew. I often go to bed feeling annoyed, disappointed and frustrated. I’m an intelligent girl after all but I can be completely defeated by a simple trip to the shops.

The Boosts

There have been many times when I have confronted a fear head on and alone and survived it. I’ve put myself in situations so far out of my comfort zone I can’t see the boundary and lived to tell the tale.

The thing is when there is no one there to see my achievements or share these experiences with, somehow they don’t feel so important. Which leads me to wonder whether my self-esteem is entirely based of the opinion of others. Do I need someone to tell me that I’ve done a good job or recognize an accomplishment in order to feel it myself?   The truth is, I probably do.

The added bonus.

One major bonus about being, in effect, invisible to the outside world where no one knows me at all is that there is no one there to see me fail. I only have my own conscience to deal with when I screw up, unless I choose to share it on the World Wide Web of course! If I fall off my heels and go arse over head in a DIY store and get so bruised I look like I’ve done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson (yes…I did) who cares, no one will ever know or no one that matters anyway.

The solution

I’m still working on a solution although I have noticed that the more I put myself outside of my comfort zone the more my confidence grows, albeit slowly.

I have discovered staying at home by myself just makes me feel a whole lot worse so I need to make the effort to get out.

When it comes to being invisible in a group, I’m happy for other to take centre stage, I’ve never been one to hold court anyway and I have my blog to help me ‘speak’ about things I want to.

The blogging community has been wonderful for empathizing with me, been a fabulous group of listeners, offered advice and they are very free with their compliments, which always makes me smile.


English Girl Canadian Man

4 thoughts on “Expat Revelations – Self Esteem

  1. Mama Syder

    It must be so difficult Lou, I felt a smidging of it in Devon and thats only down the road. Dont forget we are all hugely proud of your achievements and we love you to share your experiences with us on your blog. We are all here for you, so don’t ever feel alone. I think more and more of us are spending time online socialising so it doesnt really make a difference whether you are in Canada or just down the road. I still feel a connection to you, in fact probably even more than before, so keep smiling and remember we all love you loads xxx

  2. Holly Nelson

    You are right – getting out does help for sure. I have felt the same – flummoxed by simple tasks. Once I went to the store for bread or something and it took me half an hour just to locate it, whilst Luke waited outside with the dog. I hate when people here discuss celebrities I have never heard of. I haven’t grown up with Canadian TV and I don’t now have TV to watch so it confuses me and I, like you, can feel alone in a room filled with people. Thankfully people are very patient and will explain things, but it is frustrated to be constantly asking questions about how things work!

  3. Rachael

    Oh I know how you feel. While i’ve always been shy, moving to the US has made me hide even more in the corner. I’m the British wife of … (i’ve even been called a mail order bride). Me and the husband joke about how we both say words differently, but when strangers glare at you like you’re from another planet it makes you feel tiny. Others on the other hand want to know everything and you make an instant friend.

    But I agree not having those cultural references, the food, the school life, the TV shows of growing up in the same country as someone makes it all a little harder.

  4. Canedolia

    Hi Lou, I’ve just come across your blog through Holly’s blog hop. I really identified with what you said about being so far out of your comfort zone you couldn’t see the boundary – what a great way of explaining it! That was very much my experience in my first few months as an expat and it’s true what you said – coming out unscathed (or even a little bit scathed but surviving) really is what makes you stronger. Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

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