Last week, I attended a lecture for the American Women’s Association given by a psychologist on dealing with change as an expat.
Irena Constantin, who offers therapy at Scott Psychological Centre in Orchard, talked about what change is and how expat women face it. She also talked about skills such as resilience that helps us bounce back from adversity as well as to manage change.
What was particularly helpful? When she shared her own experiences as a 10-year expat from Switzerland and addressed many questions about dealing with expat life, such as moving from a vibrant social circle in Hyderabad, India to a more-isolated social landscape in tony Singapore.
A main theme of her talk was about the different mindsets: one that focuses on change and one that focuses on staying the same.
The one supporting change – the Growth Mindset – seeks to learn from mistakes. Meanwhile, the other – the Fixed Mindset – shies away from change and new opportunities for fear of failure. Basically, how you think about and approach your life can determine whether you move forward and flourish or stay stagnant in the same old, unproductive routine.
This concept totally resonated with me as an expat in Singapore. Sometimes, I‘ve been in the Growth Mindset, where I wasn’t afraid to get out there and meet new friends, again and again, or when I started a sole proprietorship, so I could do freelance writing and yoga teaching. But, I’ve also experienced the Fixed Mindset, where I felt like a failure and didn’t want to try anything new. I retreated into old value systems and just stopped moving forward.
Going on my seventh year as an expat, I’ve oscillated between the two. And you know what? That’s OK.
I know I’ve made an impact here, when I see yoga teachers I’ve trained become friends or just go on to open studios or get teaching gigs here or when they return home. I even met Madame President Halimah Jacob. I meet people who read my articles and blog. I’ve worked hard to build a life for myself, and even when I get down about missing friends who have left and gone home, or if a yoga training gets cancelled due to low interest, I know I have the free will to choose to switch mindsets and give it another go.
Sometimes, though, I use the Fixed Mindset just to chill and regroup, as it is defined by going back to learned values. Yeah, those values can be faulty and out of date, but it is one’s safety zone. Most of the time, I grab the rope and swing back over the Growth Mindset.
I have taken my expat life here in Singapore as an opportunity to do tons of different activities, from singing in an acapella vocal group to starting a martial art called Kalari, which is like ninja stuff from Southern India.
How do I do it? I’ve been a member of many diverse groups within the American Women’s Association, including the Writers’ Group, where I wrote my first book, and the International Choir, where I was asked to audition for the acapella group outside the AWA.
With all the things I try and retry, and while moving between the Growth Mindset and the Fixed Mindset, I do not feel lost. On the contrary, all this effort has pushed me into greater personal development. Being an expat in Singapore has offered challenges, but those challenges changed me and made me a better person than when I left Chicago. And there’s so much more to come.
About Andrea McKenna Brankin
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.
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