Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Your Life as an Expat in the U.S. | Are you Limiting Yourself?

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Fri, Jun 01, 2012 @ 08:36 AM

life as an expat in the US, don't put yourself in a boxIn what ways do you put limits on your life as an expat in the US?

Do you make up stories about yourself? Do you put yourself in a box and limit your actions based on the type of person you think you are? Do you decide that you are not the "language learning" type or that because you weren't good at English back in your home country, you will never be able to improve your English while you are in the US? What assumptions do you make about the type of person you are? 

We tend to put ourselves in boxes, based on what we have been capable of or what we have attempted to do in the past and we believe that our assumptions are reality. We try to protect ourselves from failure by passing up opportunities like taking a language class or volunteering to lead a project at work because we are afraid of failing.

Today I am going to tell you that this is insane! Don't worry, I do it too, but I am starting to notice when I do it and I am starting to question and investigate my thoughts when I hear myself say, "I'm not the type to____."


Stop limiting your own success in your life as an expat!

Four things you can start doing today:


expat life in the US, quote from Ghandi

1. Surround yourself with the right people: It is amazing how much influence the people in our lives have over the way that we think. Everyone that I know who has had a successful experience as an expat, has been very wise about their choice of friends. Who do you spend time with? Do you hang out with other expats or people from your own country? What is their attitude toward getting to know local people or learning English? Your friends' mindset will often become your mindset so find people who inspire you!


2. Use fear as a tool for success: Fear is something that most people run from but if you stick around for a moment when you feel fear, you will realize that fear is energy. If you understand how to use that energy in the right way, it can actually help you move closer to your goal of succeeding in English or taking the risks that you need to take in order to really grow from your experience as an expatriate. Most importantly, remember that fear is a motivator, make it your tool.



3. Imagine the worst case scenario: If you are thinking of stepping out of your box and trying something that you have never tried (which I highly recommend for expats), you should imagine what the worst possible outcome could be. What would you do? What if you joined an English conversation club and you couldn't understand anyone there? How bad would it really be? Would you start studying more on your own so that you could return each week and get better and better at communicating in English? Check out this article for more information on how to do this: Relocating to the US as an expatriate? Terrified?


4. Think of every new activity as an experiment: The truth is, while you are living in the US as an expat, you have an amazing opportunity to grow as a person, to learn new things and to find a new version of you!  That growth can only happen if you allow yourself to try new things and get out of your "box". You need to experiment. The biggest enemy to experimentation is perfectionism. Are you a perfectionist? If so, you need to find a way out of this mentality. I have worked with tons of English students over the past eight years and the ones who seem to encounter the most obstacles are the perfectionists! This is because they get in their own way! They put up obstacles in their mind. They aren't happy with gradual improvement with their English. They want to be perfect, from day one. They often become their own worst enemy. If this sounds like you, make it a priority to work on this and start thinking about each new activity as an adventure and an experiment!


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 Photo credit: fisserman, trpnblies7

Topics: Advice for English Students, Expatriate Support, Cross Cultural Coaching

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