I am often asked, “What was your favorite thing about living in Africa?” To which I respond, “The gift of open-mindedness.” When living abroad, one is constantly confronted with an onslaught of diverse values, perspectives, cultures, and opinions. They challenge one’s own world-view, leaving one more accepting, loving, and open to others and their ways of thinking. It is a beautiful gift for which I will forever be grateful.
And then… I return to my home country. That wonderful “gift” seems ever illusive now, as if I left it overseas. I find I resist the ideas of others around me. The part of my brain that is critical and analytical is amped up to the highest volume. I hear myself saying things like, “Don’t let them influence the way you think! Don’t become like “THEM”! Hide, ignore, stay away!!!!!” My body begin turning inward as if to guard my vital organs because this feels so unsafe and interpreted by my body as likely resulting in death. (Dramatic, I know. But the case, nonetheless.)
When I do try and be present- empathetic, open, and accepting- it takes so much energy to turn down the volume of the Critic in my head, that I find I rather just stay in my house and hope that one day I will become myself again.
What happened to that gift? What happened to years of practicing that skill? Did I somehow forget to pack it in my bags?
Today, I really struggled with this.
I first reminded myself of what I think is key to transition- Compassion!
With my hand on my heart, I reminded myself, “Of course you are feeling like this. This is part of it. You won’t be here forever.” I took a deep breath, signaling to my body to drop its shields. I practiced the thought, “You always get to choose what to think and feel. No ideas are a threat. They are simply an opportunity.”
With time, I will find that amazing gift begin to flourish again. I know how to do it. I just need to invite it to be a part of this transition too. “Open-mindedness. You are most welcome to join.”
What are some of the ways you have dealt with this sense of resistance to your own home culture? Share some of your tips and thoughts below.
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