Self-doubt is the anchor that keeps our ships from sailing.
You’ve put in the work to build your professional career and then – for one reason or the other – you take a break while living abroad. Along the way, expat life without your career takes its toll. Suddenly you’re asking yourself, “Now what?”
In the silence self-doubt comes pouring in. You are not alone, listen in on one woman’s story as she works to reclaim her profession and confidence.
What You’ll Discover in this Episode:
- The first step to reclaiming your confidence
- What is really standing in the way when you have self-doubt
- How to stand in your competence
- The difference between endurance and resilience
- And more
Self doubt can seem like a huge obstacle when working to reenter your career after a break, especially when you navigate the complexities of living abroad. Identifying where that self doubt comes from begins with reconnecting with yourself and your competencies. When you do, you begin to free yourself from this form of expat quicksand.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Join the four-part workshop series on freeing yourself from the expat quicksand right here.
- Episode 104: From Military Sergeant Mom To Mary Poppins Overnight
- Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
“Self-doubt is the anchor that keeps our ships from sailing.”
I don’t know exactly who said this but it’s something I see all the time and it’s quite ironic.
The people that I work with are really accomplished professionals, leaders pharmacists, certified massage therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers, you name it.
They’ve all gone through rigorous training, did the hard work to find a job and put in years of experience receiving accolades from their peers.
But then something happens, their partner comes home from work one day and says, “Hey I got this great opportunity abroad.” And after some hesitation they get on board, excited about the adventure, kind of looking forward to taking a break from the rat race, pick up their family and move abroad.
And somewhere along the way they asked themselves, ”Now what?” Maybe it was a year that went by, two, three, four, maybe even eight. Their children are grown and the exotic system of living abroad and learning a new language has worn off and they’re tired and aching to get back to what their passion led them to.
So what I see all the time is that people who have taken a break from their career, their profession are fraught with self-doubt.
What we’ve done in the last couple weeks is focused on the four areas of expat quicksand, and the first area that we’ve been focusing on is connection and that means connection with yourself.
So if you’ve taken a career break or your loved one has listen closely because you are not alone, you might even feel shame for feeling doubtful about this along the way.
What I’m going to do for you today instead of giving you my top tips, is I’m giving you the chance to be sort of a fly on the wall with myself and Emily as she shares her struggles with getting back into her profession.
Emily has shown up for you today because she knows that when she tells her story you might see yours. So I’m going to let you listen to our conversation so that you can pick out where you’re seeing yourself and even try some of the things we’ve done to see how it can support you with your next steps.
Now stay tuned to the end because I want you to know what’s coming up next so you can get through the expat quicksand.
Sundae: Emily, thank you for showing up today, tell me what has to happen in the next 25 minutes for you to say this was worth your time?
Emily: I’d like to get some skills or some resources to calm my nerves and rid myself of some of this self-doubt that I’ve been struggling with for the last five plus, eight, nine years regarding my career.
Sundae: Okay, tell us more, what are you nervous about? What’s the situation?
Emily: I am starting a new job in September as a as a midwife here in Norway where I have been living for the last 9 years. I haven’t worked as a midwife since we left the United States nine years ago, and it was a hell of a process to get my licenses recognized here, including going out in the media and contacting members of parliament and you know, it was a huge bureaucratic fight which we overcame and won five years ago.
And so I sort of thought everything was going to just be hunky-dory at that point, but then I was just met with a complete unwillingness with basically one person, the one person who mattered, the woman who would hire me as a midwife at the local hospital who was completely unwilling to lift me up, you know help me bring me back into the fold and give me just a little bit of extra little bit of extra training after being out of the field for five years, you know, that would have been all I needed to get back on my feet.
My constant negative interactions with this one particular person has really just left me very full of self-doubt and bitter and really questioning my self-worth and my competency.
Sundae: You are so self-aware right now, I’m super impressed with how clear you can see how you’re sabotaging yourself.
Emily: Yeah, I’m aware of that.
Sundae: And what I’m also seeing is, I mean this without the negative situation, without the fight with the media and the Parliament all that. I see women all the time who take a break from their profession and somehow over like three, four, five years when they’re out they start to doubt whether they’re even capable of doing it. And they get all these other subtle messages from the outside, Like you go to a party and people say “What are you here for?” And it may be connected to your partner and they just turn away from you at the party and don’t talk to you anymore. So it’s like this subtle messages you get over the years that has an impact.
So you’re feeling self-doubt, you’re questioning things, your self worth is taking a hit.
How do you want to feel instead?
Emily: I want to feel competent and I want to trust myself and believe in myself, I want to feel lifted up instead of smashed down.
Sundae: Right, so I see from what you’ve mentioned, three you can control yourself and the other one is from the outside. So you have power over your competence, your trust and belief in yourself. Whether or not your lifted up by others is something that is outside of our direct control.
We can brainstorm ideas on how to make that happen but let’s start with where you do have control.
So as you can see Emily has identified what she really wants to create and we took a pause at this point and we explored what she could do to negotiate her external environment, just so that was clear and out of the way so she could focus on what she could really control. Listen in and hear what happened next.
Sundae: So that’s around your external environment, that’s what we said before things you wanted to feel that was the fourth one, the things that we can’t directly control them, but you can make requests.
You said by the time we’re done you want to be clear on some skills or resources to calm your nerves and the other thing you said was instead of feeling self doubt and your self worth taking a hit even bitter crushing things. You want to feel competent, believe and trust in yourself. So what I’m hearing is there’s been something that’s been going on for years, right is that you’ve been taking a battery and obviously your brain is like trying to protect itself. With so much negativity your poor amygdala is in fight, flight or freeze right now. Of course, it is after all that you’ve experienced, if anybody has worked or lived in a toxic environment we understand that the only way forward is like a survival strategy, right? So your body probably still thinks it’s not safe.
And so what we can do right now is we can help your brain, your synapses fire in a way that it understands that it is safe.
So let’s just play with me, just play and we’ll see what happens.
You said you want to feel competent, right? Is this true or false? “I’m competent for the job as a midwife.” True or false?
Sundae: True, okay, In your body language, I see like your kind of like reluctantly admitting it right?
Emily: That’s absolutely true.
Sundae: Okay, so there’s something there, but what’s their real life evidence? What’s real evidence that supports the fact that “I am a competent midwife.”
Emily: I mean I worked for six years and you know and have attended several hundred births, so it’s you know, it’s like there are a lot of babies out there with my name on their birth certificate.
Sundae: Wow, yeah several hundred births, six years of experience. What more? what else? Other pieces of evidence which suggests that you’re competent at what you do?
Emily: I have a master’s degree in both the United States and the Norwegian government have recognized that.
Sundae: Right, and it wasn’t like, “Okay, no problem.” You had to fight tooth and nail, they’re a hard hard board to convince right?
Sundae: So you went through high levels of scrutiny for them to say this is good enough?
Sundae: All right, that’s pretty convincing, what else?
Emily: What else?
Sundae: Evidence that you’re competent?
Emily: Well, I guess I got hired for the job.
Sundae: Don’t you see how beautiful this is? It’s so beautiful how our brain tells us a story that we’re not competent and we believe it.
And then just for a moment we suspend that story and we look at reality, not like optimism not a hyperbole. We’re looking at just facts, and you’ve said you have six years of experience, you’ve attended several hundred births, you just got hired by a hospital which has extremely rigid guidelines in Norway and you have a master’s degree from the US that has passed the level of rigor and scrutiny in Norway.
How does it feel in your body when you allow that evidence in?
Emily: It does give me a sense of confidence.
Sundae: Yeah, can you just play with me a second? I want you to say the sentence, “I’m a confident midwife.”
Emily: Confident or competent?
Sundae: I’m sorry, actually yes, “I’m a competent midwife.”
Emily: “I am a competent midwife.”
Sundae: Can you say it one more time like you mean it?
Emily: “I am a competent midwife.”
Sundae: The first time you said it, it was interesting, your eyes lowered and you kind of blinked a couple times, like it was almost hard to say. Tell me where I’m wrong?
Emily: No, you’re not wrong, you’re right.
Sundae: And the second time? How’d it feel?
Emily: I mean, I felt like I was kind of trying it on, you know, like sort of a costume or a role of sorts, but you know the costume fit, you know, I knew it was the right thing to say and I could say it with conviction but there’s still that little glimmer inside.
Sundae: Right because you’ve been practicing a different story for the last five to eight years. Literally your synapses were firing in a story of “I’m not good enough.”
So here’s something I can offer, you wanted to have some strategies or some skills to deal with this. Here’s what we can play with, and this is what’s funny is it went back to my Freudian slip of confident midwife. What I can offer you is to practice this “I am becoming confident, that I’m a competent midwife.” Because your competence is not in question, however, your confidence in that fact is. Tell me where I’m wrong?
Emily: Yeah, that is very accurate.
Sundae: I am going to say it again, “I am becoming confident that I’m a competent midwife.” So what we’re really working at, your competence again is not in question by anyone, not by the Norwegian government, not by the US government, not by the head of Hospital, not by the hundreds of babies that were born, not by their parents, right? But what we’re looking at is your confidence and that is okay. You don’t have to hop off this call and then be confident. And I say that like pretend like you’re confident because your brain knows you should be but it’s not in your body. This is not how it works, but this idea of “I am becoming.” It’s who you are becoming, “I’m becoming confident.” And it might just be today, it might be just a tiny miniscule of confidence more and then the next day might be a little bit more right?
Can you say that sentence for me? “I’m becoming confident that I’m a competent midwife.”
Emily: I don’t know if I can get it out. “I am becoming confident that I am a competent midwife.”
Sundae: Yeah, that really triggered something for you didn’t it?
Emily: Because I know that this is a journey, I know that this isn’t going to happen overnight and I know that it’s not going to be easy and you know what I’m really afraid of that. The last nine years has really taken its toll and I’m so tired of being resilient, you know, like that’s just a refrain that I’ve just heard of had in my head for the last nine years like you know, people say “You’re so resilient.” and like I’m just so tired of being resilient and so I’m kind of afraid of just the challenges that I’m going to face in the next year or two as I take on this next challenge.
Sundae: Right, because not only did you move abroad, but you completely had to renegotiate your identity by giving up your job and then you get to fight literally for your worth in that country. I’m sure you’ve had to learn a language along the way new social customs, new culture.
I mean, excuse me who wouldn’t be exhausted, talk about expat fatigue. I mean if anybody has a right to wear the badge of expat fatigue right now you do.
So here’s the thing, I’m seeing a couple things going on, I’m seeing this journey of the competence, but because you to fight so hard you started to question that, so your confidence dropped. And that’s what we’re looking at now and you’re now on a journey of becoming confident that you’re a competent Midwife.
At the same time we have expect fatigue happening as you go in to a new role, and that feels hard because if you’re fatigued and your confidence is wavering and incompetent, you’re like, “Geez I have to perform to prove my competence.”
I get that.
So I’m going to step out for a second from the coaching mode and go to the coach and sort of Intercultural strategist side, and I want to just take a moment here to look at, you talk about resilience, resilience versus endurance, and I’m wondering, you were saying resilience, but you might have been using endurance strategies. So endurance is when you, and this is great for a midwife because you give all until you’re depleted. So when you go into childbirth, you give it all there’s no holding back, like I’m sorry if you are nine centimeters, we’re not like going “No I need a break.”
So I have a hunch you’ve given it all, that is endurance and endurance leads to depletion like in a marathon when you give it all, you’re exhausted. At the university when you study for an all-nighter, you give it all, but the problem is five, six, seven, eight years abroad is not a time for endurance, it’s time for resilience. And what I mean by resilience is that you give and then you rejuvenate, you give, you rejuvenate and that’s high performance, but you spend lots of time mindfully resting, rejuvenating, replenishing, being kind to yourself.
And this is just a hunch Emily, we just met so I have no idea. Which one do you resonate with more, your strategies over the five to eight years, endurance, real endurance or real resilience?
Emily: I would say the first seven years was definitely endurance. The last couple of years when I’ve been in a job that I have not found to be highly stressful and a job that I felt competent at. I don’t want to say like I dialed it in by any means, but it gave me a chance I felt like to sort of just catch my breath and recharge and gain a little bit of self-confidence to get me to this point where I now dare to take that next challenge.
Sundae: All right, let’s recognize you were in endurance for seven years. I’m guessing there is some residual impact on your body and your energy from all of that. Like that’s giving a lot right, and what I’m hearing from you is that if you recharge, if you give yourself the space to catch your breath, that isn’t this interesting how it comes back, helps you gain confidence.
So to become the confident woman who knows she’s a competent midwife. Part of that recipe, your journey that you said it’s a little bit intimidating, is taking first class care of yourself. It’s not giving it all, it’s not proving your worth, it’s making sure that you recharge and that you catch your breath.
So that gives you a glimpse at just a small piece of what Emily’s journey has been to reclaiming her confidence and competence when it comes to entering her profession again.
Now what you can see already what she’s taken away from our time together is it’s not really her competence that’s in question, but her confidence about it.
So if this is you then do what we’ve done to today, look in black and white what is some evidence to suggest that you are a competent professional as you make this transition back to your career. You’ll be surprised at what pops up on the list, and you can hear me giggling during our session because there’s this joy of discovering such solid evidence that is there when our brain is somehow telling us the opposite.
So that’s my challenge for you is to look at the real life evidence to suggest that you have competence.
The other thing I would suggest you to do is to practice this idea of “I am becoming.”
At the beginning of this year in Expat Happy Hour we focused on up leveling and I can put it in the show notes some more resources for you that you can start up leveling your life, but one of the key phrases you’ll remember is “I am becoming.” An Emily is becoming confident in her competence.
What are you becoming as you transition to go from whatever break you took professionally to getting back in the game?
All right, so enjoy that and I am here for you in any way that I could support.
As you know, we are just the beginning of our four part series on expat quicksand. We’re at the heart of focusing on connection, as you can see we focused today on reconnecting with yourself, with your confidence and your skills.
Don’t miss the workshop that we have coming up in just days on how to stay connected with your partner even in tough transitions.
If you’re listening to this afterwards and you’ve missed it, still sign up because we’ve got for free workshops in this series and you’ll want to jump in where you can.
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Stay tuned for next week where we focus on getting unstuck.
You have been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean.
Thank you for listening.
Remember this anonymous quote “As you go through your own transition don’t ever let any setback keep you from making an incredible comeback.”