If you’re an expat spouse, you’ll probably agree with me when I say that, despite what those around you may think, it’s often very complicated to daring take time for yourself! And this is especially true if you’re not working!
And why is that?
Why is it complicate to make time for yourself, especially if you are not working?
I can think of three reasons:
- The loss of your professional identity is difficult to accept in the eyes of others (and certainly in your own eyes), because unfortunately society values the professional identity above all!
- The loss of your financial independence remains a complicated element to deal with on a day-to-day basis and for the future, even if you and your partner have found a way of working things out. It’s still difficult to go from “the woman who assumes her own identity” to “the woman of (name of your spouse)”.
- Prejudices and misunderstandings about your life as an expatriate spouse (perceived as easy and privileged) may have a strong negative impact on your self-image and self-esteem.
Because you’re labeled as an expatriate spouse, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to play this role to perfection, to prove your worth, to please and avoid criticism and judgment! As a result, as soon as you contemplate the idea of taking a little time for yourself, you feel guilty, even ashamed.
What’s more, as an expat spouse, you’ve become de facto responsible for the settlement and well-being of your family. And as such, everyone counts on you and relies on you, often with enormous expectations!
Do you agree?
3 keys to finally daring to take time for yourself.
If so, here are 3 keys to help you better manage both your own expectations and those of others!
1st key: Get rid of your injunctions (those you’ve been carrying around with you for so long and those linked to your status as an expat spouse).
They often start with “I must…”, “I should…” (just saying them is probably enough to dampen your spirits!).
They may also be injunctions like “Be perfect”, “Be strong”, “Hurry up”, “Make an effort”.
There are also many false beliefs that impact your ability to take care of yourself. I’ll give you some examples, so you may find out which ones are yours. For example, “Taking care of yourself is selfish!”, “Depending on my spouse is shameful!”, “Being a housewife has no value!” “With my privileged status, I have no right to complain.”
These are examples of injunctions; it’s up to you to identify the ones you repeat to yourself regularly.
None of your injunctions are useful and constructive. They’re not doing you any favors. They’re ruining your life and, in turn, preventing you from being a fulfilled mother and partner!
2nd key: Reconnect with your values, those that are closest to who you are today.
Over the last few years, your values have changed, which is why it’s so important to take stock by clearly identifying them. This will enable you to put them back at the heart of your life. To feel fulfilled, you need to live in accordance with your own values! This is something I systematically do with all the spouses I accompany, because your values highlight what’s important to you today! By reconnecting with your values, you’ll also be able to take care of yourself!
Here’s an example of a value that can help you take care of yourself. If your value is family, you’ll realize that to take care of your family, you need to take care of yourself, because to feel good with your family, you also need to recharge your batteries. Reconnecting with your “family” value will help you take care of yourself. Or, for example, by identifying whether your values are congruent with your role as an expatriate spouse or your professional identity, you’ll give yourself the means to reconnect with them and make the right decisions.
Your values are invaluable guides for making choices, taking decisions, and setting priorities. They are full of lessons about what you need to thrive.
3rd key: Identify your desires, the real ones, the ones that really get you going!
Take the time to explore what you like to do, experience and live! Discover what makes you feel good, what makes you happy, what makes your heart sing! It could be something small or something big: a coffee (even a virtual one) with a friend, a walk in nature, a massage, a song you like to listen to, a sport you’d like to take up again, an art you’d like to try out (even if you’re not an artist), an activity that’s always piqued your curiosity, the desire to learn something new.
If these activities aren’t clearly identified, you run the risk that when you do have time to yourself, you’ll waste it doing nothing very productive or interesting, and feeling guilty for not taking advantage of it. To recharge your batteries properly, you need to identify what you really want to do, and what gives you energy!
By listing the activities that make your heart sing, you’ll be able to understand how to recharge your batteries effectively! You’ll also realize that they’re often not that complicated to set up!
A magic phrase to help you through this change!
Here’s a simple phrase to help you through this change. It allows you to replace your injunctions with choices, and to reinforce those choices with your values or desires.
From now on, instead of saying “I must… I have to… I should…”, say instead:
“I choose to… because…”
- I choose to take care of myself (choice) because my health is important to me (value)!
- I choose to start a new sport (choice), because I like new things and I want to do a regular physical activity (desires)!
- I choose to give myself an hour of time to myself every day (choice), because I need it to blossom and to be truly available for my family (need & value).
What do you think? Will you give it a try?
Feel free to share your thoughts or strategies (or difficulties) for taking care of yourself in the comments! I’d be delighted to read you and discuss with you. See you soon.