Knowing who you are, your strengths, weaknesses and ways of learning all combine to support the maintenance of our resilience.
One of the essential attributes of a successful expat is the ability to be comfortable with their level of skills, knowledge and experience. This means having a level of confidence that means that they don't fall into the trap of unnecessarily “self-rating”. Self-rating is the practice of comparing (rating) yourself against others. Whilst this may seem like a natural thing to do, the reality is – especially in an expatriate situation – that we may not be comparing ourselves in a fair or reasonable way. An easy example is speaking a second language. It is normal to compare yourself against other expats who have been in the host country for much longer and to therefore place unnecessary pressure on yourself to speak fluently (or adapt culturally) far quicker than is normal. We also tend to compare our level of language against native speakers which is probably more irrational, and creates a constant and unnecessary pressure!
Know How You Learn
An important part of self-acceptance is therefore understanding how you learn and take on new information in the most optimal way. Are you visual person, a listener, a reader or a hands on person? Adapt your learning to suit. If you are hands on, then ask your colleagues if you can have small simple conversations over lunch. If you are visual, then carry some small cue cards, or if you are a listener, enhance your learning by downloading podcasts (there are plenty of good ones available!). Be smart about how you learn.
Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Importantly, by being comfortable ‘in your own skin’ you will be able to assimilate, influence, take and use feedback - including constructive criticism - without defensiveness. Some days it will seem like you can't get anything right and in the early days especially things can seem much bigger than they really are. Being comfortable with 'who' you are also means that you are usually able to suspend judgement, take a step back and see situations for what they really are...and this is critical!
'What' You Do is Not 'Who' You Are!
Confidence in specific abilities will enable you to use them to the maximum to achieve your personal goals and those of the company. Expats who do not need external evidence of their ‘worthwhileness’ will have less difficulty with this approach, because they will not worry that it strips them of their credibility. This is a challenge simply because we are on an assignment due to our skillset, however we are only human and it is normal for us to feel as though our identity and worthwhileness is directly wrapped in 'what' we do. You will most likely have knocks in the early days, and throughout your assignment, as ideas and actions get lost in translation; but it's important to see that for what it is and not to immediately take it personally.
For you, what is the most important element in this resource? Why?