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How your identity shifts when your posting comes to an end

I remember feeling a bit lost when I moved back to the Netherlands after having lived in Brazil for 3 years.

I felt lost because my move back home not only meant a physical move, but also an identity shift.

I was no longer that young woman living her best life in Brazil. No longer the overseas diplomat. No longer someone who traveled all over Brazil every couple of weeks, who loved speaking Portuguese every day, who woke up to the sound of macaws every morning.

I had moved to Brazil for my work as a diplomat and immediately settled in. I felt so at home there. I travelled tons around the country and whenever I was back in the Netherlands, I loved introducing myself as someone who lived in Brazil.

I absolutely loved living in Brazil and I fully embraced that identity. Until it was time to go home again.

Now what?

Everything I had identified myself with, or had made part of my life, was all of a sudden over. The job. Representing my country in another country. The house. The forever travelling mode. The nature I was surrounded by. Thinking and speaking in another language all day. The group of friends I had found. The international colleagues. The relying on yourself to create a new life abroad.

We often identify ourselves with our job, it’s normal. And when that job ends, we sometimes need some time to settle into the new reality again. But as a diplomat or expat, your job is not just a job - it’s an entire life abroad you’re building around it.

So when your posting is ending, you’re also saying goodbye to that life you so carefully constructed. And that can really feel like saying goodbye to a part of your identity.

And let me tell you, it’s hard saying goodbye to a part of your identity which you so loved.

Coaching can help you to navigate those changes in your life and can be like an anchor to fall back on in turbulent times. In hindsight, I would have loved some coaching sessions to assess what I left behind in Brazil and how I could reshape my life back home.

It would have helped me to think about questions like:

  • What is it that I miss most from that life?

  • What were the things that created that part of my identity which I secretly didn’t want to let go of?

  • Why am I not completely happy and settled in my life back home again?

  • How can I include those things that I miss into my current environment?

  • Looking at the past and the current: what needs do I have and what do I need to do/feel/have/be to live my best life?

  • What small tweaks can I make on a daily basis that will make me feel happier?

As a life coach for expats and globetrotters, I now guide others in these questions. Taking the time to pause and reflect on the past and the current really helps to settle into your life back home again.

Are you an expat who has just returned and could you use some guidance in this? Let’s schedule a call! I offer free discovery calls in which we look at your situation now and where you would like to go. You’ll get my undivided attention and some coaching for 45 minutes. Looking forward to speaking with you soon!

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