This post is the third in a short series about Third Culture Kids and Territory. In this series we explore the ways in which Third Culture Kids can create safe places for themselves.
A safe place is one where we are known. A safe place is one where we have investment and a voice. A safe place is one where we know how things work. A safe place nourishes us. A safe place reminds us of who we are. A safe place allows growth as well as protection.
We have explored safe homes and safe communities, and now I want to turn to the safe Self. And this is hard. How many of us feel as though exploring our own Self is something akin to walking in quicksand? Ever shifting, slipping through our fingers even as we try to grapple with it, our sense of Self can feel unstable, shapeless and as ephemeral as the lives we have lived have been transitory.
And maybe we like it that way. Maybe we like being able to belong here, fit in there, and relate to diverse groups of people and places. Maybe we like being able to change our form to meet the needs of whatever social situation we are in at the moment.
Or maybe we are finding our quicksand selves tiring. Frightening even. Maybe we long for a secure frame for our selves, a coherent story of self that we can present as whole. Maybe we long for a bolt-hole self, a self that we know, a self that has a predictable operating system. Maybe we long for a nourishing self, one that knows its own needs and how to meet these needs in ways that promotes its own growth.
First, props. Do we have objects, symbols, images, quotes, smells that we associate with our story? If your story feels too blurry to find props for, consider dividing it up into sections – by age perhaps – and describing the character of you (feelings, hopes, skills, challenges faced) at each of these sections. Think concise and impressionist at this point. You are trying to capture the essence and frame of your past Self. Build your foundations on where you have come from, how you got to the You that you are now. Then find props, tools/representations of this part of your story.
Next, who are you now? Explore your Self as you would a new culture or place, ask questions: What do I like (think in terms of the five senses – touch, taste, sounds, sights, smells)? How do I spend my time? How do I WANT to spend my time? What do I believe about myself? What do I believe about the world around me? What holidays matter to me most? How do I know I’m happy/sad/scared/excited? What makes me feel safe/nurtured? What do I need right now? Be curious and turn your gaze inwards. This can take practise as Third Culture Kids can feel more accustomed to turning their observational gaze outwards. After all, how do we get so chameleon-like? But if you want to become your own safe haven, then your observation skills need turning inward for a time – give yourself the same attention as you have become used to gifting others.
We all need a safe haven, and what could be better than making ourselves that safe place? I‘d love to know how you get on; and if you want support along the way just get in touch here. I’d be honoured to walk with you along your journey towards a building a Safe Self.