Photo by Skeeze,

Courage & Relationships: A TCK Challenge?

How many of us find relationships utterly terrifying?

My hand is up.

Third Culture Kids have grown up in flux, travelling around different identities as much as different countries and cultures. Raised by parents in a culture other than the one represented by their passport, and often embedded in an organisational context (mission, military, business), we TCKs are hard to pin down. We become cultural chameleons, adept mimickers (or perhaps rejectors of?) of localised belonging.

Some of us, of course, are drawn to relationships like magnets, for they signal ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ in a way that soothes the weary nomad soul. But this doesn’t make them easy to navigate, drawn as we are to their promises of love, and of rest. Hence the terror.

Terror of vulnerability. Third Culture Kids wear various ‘masks’ for so long that we can’t always be sure where the mask ends and we begin. Will they like the us, behind the mask? Will we disappoint if we don’t conform to expectations?

Terror of rejection. It’s hard for a TCK to walk into relationship situations that could present them with more loss. Loss, and grief of lost relationships, is a real feature of TCK lives, however well we develop skills to manage these experiences. And we don’t always feel great about volunteering for more of the same.

Terror that we’ll do it wrong. Relationships, be they friendships or romances, tend to come about in context. And as we know from old, contexts have cultural codes, rules that are either followed, or consciously breached. But we didn’t always learn the rules! Maybe enough to get by, but not enough to feel confident in new relationships where both words and actions are open to multiple interpretations.

But while fear signals danger, it does nothing to overcome it.

Have Courage. Feel the fear, and saddle up anyway.

How? By remembering we are strong. By remembering we are worthy. By remembering we are capable.

We can be courageous in the face of vulnerability by investing in our core Selves. We can invest in our own opinion of who we are – who we want to be. We become brave, by growing in confidence and knowledge of our own identity.

We can be courageous in the face of rejection because our value is intrinsic. If we feel lonely and without longed-for friends or romance, it can be easy to interpret the lack of these as personal failure. It might be that our lifestyle hitherto has impeded the development of long-term, intimate relationships. It might be that loss is not personal.

We can be courageous in the face of our own limitations by remembering our capabilities. We have already achieved so much! Of course there will be areas we feel weak in, situations were we are ‘on a back foot’. But we can learn!

Invest in your core Self, your identity. Remember that your value is unchangeable and inherent. And remember you can keep learning!

Have Courage! Scared to death? Saddle up anyway!


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