Usually something triggers this shift in confidence - an accident, encounter, rejection etc. For expat spouses there are a number of scenarios they will experience as part of a move abroad for their partner’s career that can lead to serious lack of confidence. Leaving your home, circle of friends and family and potentially having to sacrifice your own career to allow your partner to advance theirs can affect your confidence and self-esteem and ultimately lead to Trailing Spouse Syndrome
or expat failure
What is Trailing Spouse Syndrome?
Trailing Spouse Syndrome
is a collection of symptoms experienced by the spouse of an expat. Loss of identity, feeling lonely, negative thoughts, poor mental health and losing confidence are all symptoms.
Signs of loss of confidence
1. Being socially withdrawn
Creating excuses to get out of social events and declining invites to attend something unless completely necessary to avoid social interaction.
2. Worrying about what other people think
Having self-confidence means you don’t worry about what others think and live your life in the way that is best for you. People lacking in confidence can become consumed by what others think and let this fear dictate how they live their life.
When someone’s confidence is lacking there can be a heightened feeling of self-doubt. This can affect decision making, risk taking and confidence in your ability to do things.
4. Neglecting yourself
Sometimes a loss of confidence can trigger a sense of “what’s the point” when a person is thinking about themselves. For example, “what’s the point of applying for this job, I doubt I’ll get it” or “what’s the point of getting dressed today” etc.
5. Staying within your comfort zone
In life it is good for us to step outside our comfort zones every now and then. It can lead to new friendships, career opportunities, hobbies and a more enriched life. Without the confidence to step out of your comfort zone you can end up stuck in a rut of what feels comfortable to you. This can hold you back from progression and cause you to miss out on many wonderful things.
Do any of these signs seem familiar? Many of them can be the result of an experience related to moving overseas while your partner works on assignment. New surroundings, not knowing the local language, being away from friends and family and no longer having your own career or progression plan can all affect your confidence. That being said there are ways to boost confidence and feel good in yourself too.
Ways to boost confidence
It is well known that exercising is good for your overall health and keeping fit but exercise is also a fantastic way to increase self-confidence. Whether it is weightlifting, dancing, aerobics, swimming or any other form of exercise you will feel the benefits of reduced stress, distraction from negative thoughts, the ability to step outside your comfort zone and feel more confident as a result. Joining an exercise class is also a great way to make new friends.
2. Setting goals
Setting small, achievable goals for yourself will allow you to enjoy a feeling of self-accomplishment which leads to heightened self-confidence. Believing in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals will be of great benefit to you. Start small with your goals and choose weekly or monthly targets. Perhaps you will try to attend one social event a week or attend one exercise class or take a language class. Choose a goal to suit you.
3. Caring less about what people think
Though easier said than done, when you choose to let go of worries about what others think of you, you will feel your self-confidence and happiness increase. It’s important to remember that you can be your own worst critic or your own biggest supporter and rest assured that supporting yourself will bring about a lot more good than the former.
4. Surround yourself with supportive people
Sometimes we need help building self-confidence. Confiding in your spouse, a friend or a family member to let them know that you’re working on boosting your confidence can help you to succeed. They can provide support, reassurance and giving you a gentle nudge when needed.
Speak to other expat spouses to share thoughts and experiences and learn how they overcame some of the hurdles you are dealing with now. Follow trailing spouse blogs for more advice.
5. Remind yourself of who you are
When dealing with a sense of identity and confidence loss it can be helpful to think back to a time when you last felt yourself. What were you doing at the time that helped you to feel like this? Can you create a plan to help you get back to this place? For example if your career formed a large part of your identity and you are unable to work on assignment can you volunteer or blog? If your friend group is missing can you learn the local language to help with making new friends?
Moving abroad with your expat partner can be a wonderful adventure for you both but it can also be very difficult to adjust to. Support is available with the Allianz Care Expat Assistance Programme that can provide professional advice for many of life’s challenges.