“What’s the fuss?”
I heard a speech the other day about “stepping outside of our comfort zone”. It is said that we need to do that in order to learn and grow. I do agree with that. It just struck me that some people do it only once in a while. Expats do it all the time, every day!
Moving to another country, entering another culture, is naturally outside our comfort zone for most of us. But it’s not just that. For example, one of my friends asked me: “Surely, once you’ve found a place to live, and found the nearest supermarket, you’re just living like everybody else, so what’s the fuss?” I see his point. To him it looks like it’s just a matter of finding your way around, getting to know where the shops are and that’s it. Yet, being an expat involves much more than that.
Every day as an expat is a series of experiences that takes us well outside our comfort zone. It’s not necessarily because we have to deal with a lot of things that other people living in the country won’t have to deal with (importing your belongings, official documents, etc.). Sometimes, expats have that additional load as well, but that’s not the point I want to make. The point is, that as an expat I will have to step outside of my comfort zone no matter what I do, because it’s all “unknown territory” to me. Not just the physical space, but the psychological space too.
Physical space – and psychological space
In the physical space, in my new surroundings, I can find my way around with the help of a good map. But the psychological space is not so easy to navigate. It involves learning the psyche of the new surroundings, its people and its culture. And learning to navigate the psychological space requires us to leave our comfort zone all the time. As an expat, we have no choice – engaging in the surroundings and their unknown psyche is the only way to learn. And that can be frightening, even intimidating.
So as expats, we are constantly faced with overcoming our fears. We may believe that we overcame it when we moved and settled in our new country. But the battle continues every day. Every day, we are stepping outside of our comfort zone, into the unknown. The beauty of it – and I truly believe this – is that we will emerge stronger and wiser from every day. Every expat day is not only an opportunity, but an obligation, to learn and to grow. I feel very grateful for having learned so much that I would never have learned, had I not repeatedly and willfully stepped outside of my own comfort zone.
How have you stepped outside your comfort zone in your expat experience? Any advice on how to overcome the fear of “stepping out”? Please share in the comments below.