One of the most terrifying things about moving countries is looking foolish and feeling awkward. But this is actually the best opportunity to look as foolish and feel as awkward as possible.
Looking foolish is a common cause of anxiety in any new experience or situation. But as a foreigner in a new place, I have been using this mindset shift to help –
I’m not weird, this is totally normal in my country!
This has been such a game changer!
Normally, I wouldn’t go out of my way to talk to people or say things I’m unsure of or put myself in any situation where I could potentially feel foolish or awkward. I can spend days thinking about all the cringe moments in my life, from when I was a child to just 5 minutes ago.
But when I realised that I could use my foreign-ness as an excuse, I felt more confident.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually say it out loud to anyone. It’s not even usually true! But I can say that to myself, laugh at myself for saying it, laugh at that awkward moment, and move on.
The thought is more of a safety blanket that has allowed me to do and say things I otherwise wouldn’t have. This has opened so many more opportunities for me – being open to new friendships (deep ones and not so deep ones), gaining confidence in general, and most importantly for me, being comfortable in my own skin.
I realised that a lot of the things that make me feel foolish or awkward had more to do with what I thought of myself rather than what other people were really thinking. This mindset shift taught me not to judge myself and, consequently, others. Even if I know I shouldn’t judge people, it was a hard muscle to stop using. But now that I’ve learned not to use it so much, I just feel a lot sunnier and freer.
I’ve also learned that everyone is awkward and weird in their own way. No one good or worth having a connection with will judge you for it.
So to all fellow immigrants and travellers, I hope this is useful and will help you smash the anxiety of being in a new city.