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Let “Where are you from?” be your sage trigger

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

This article was first published on LinkedIn

I left my parents’ home in Hong Kong when I was a teenager to attend a boarding school in the UK. More than four decades later, multiple countries afterwards, I now have the opportunity to live in the UK. As I plan the move to the UK from Taiwan, my home since just before Covid, I can’t help noticing that same feeling of anxiousness, uncertainty, heart-in-the-throat when I first left Hong Kong. I’ve relocated internationally multiple times. I wonder why this upcoming move brings all that back, that sense of loss, of not belonging, of ambiguous identity.

For years now, living as an expat, as an adult third culture/cross-cultural kid (TCK/CCK), I continue to struggle with a response to Where are you from? My mind would usually go blank or scramble to decide whether I would be playful today and respond with my current address. Most of the time, I remain stuck with a silly scaffolded smile. My mind goes white noise, humming with nothing to say.

Overwhelmingly, I really don’t know what to say. To me, Where are you from? implies Where is home? and that triggers a battalion of negative emotions from multiple fronts. It seems like there’s a wind mill inside my mind cranking out thoughts from Don’t I belong? to Are they interested in me or my ethnicity? to What does it matter?

These negative emotions are actually Saboteurs, the internal enemies that Shirzad Chamine, founder and CEO of Positive Intelligence, says “are a set of automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own voice, beliefs, and assumptions that work against your best interest.” The counterpart to these internal enemies is the Sage that “represents the deeper and wiser part of you.” Chamine further suggests that the sage perspective is that any challenge one is facing can be converted into a gift and opportunity, and that there are five sage powers within you.

That tension between facts and narratives

I started this newsletter over six months ago to introduce the sage perspective and its five powers as tools to counter that sense of loss, of not belonging, as we transition through roles, cultures, and locales as expats and TCKs/CCKs. Question such as Where are you from? can be considered as a trigger for us to pause to switch to the sage perspective, trusting that here is the opportunity to unleash the sage perspective and powers to rethink that habitual beliefs and assumptions to regain our center.

The rather innocent question Where are you from? triggers the thought of not belonging, leaving me with self-doubt and sense of abandonment, a leftover pain from my childhood. This narrative that I’ve internalized without question, and somehow have not updated since adulthood. Taking the Sage path and accessing Chamine’s five sage powers—empathize, explore, innovate, navigate, and activate—allows me to see the fact that the person who asks the question just simply wants to initiate a conversation, however awkward, and nothing more. The automatic reverting to childhood survivor mindset is self-limiting. It denies us of the potential gift and opportunity. Our Sage’s powers, when unleashed, leave us with feelings of curiosity, compassion, creativity, purposefulness, joy, and grounded decisiveness during major change. There are versions of narratives. The tension between facts and narratives is that of Sage and Saboteurs.

S-curve of learning

Once again I’m moving between countries and cultures, from familiar to not-so-familiar. Facing the various tasks that I need to attend to for this move, I know I’ll be calling on my Sage, her perspective of gift and opportunity and her five powers. I become more focused and purposeful, which allows me momentarily to suppress that inner voice constantly second-guessing my decision, from the move itself to the different steps needed for the move.

As I embark on this move, I can’t help but thinking about learning and growth, and Whitney Johnsons s-curve of learning. Johnson, CEO of Disruption Advisors, envisions a three-phase learning and growth model to direct individuals and organizations to master their growth journey. There’s a sense of renewal and I look forward to scaling towards mastery. I don’t know where I’m from, but home is here. I’m entering the launch point.

What is your sage trigger?

I’m curious and would love to hear from you on what it’s like to be an expat today.

  • What is your sage trigger?

  • Where are you on your s-curve of learning?

Subscribe to Just Be with Lina to receive my next monthly newsletter, to explore how being, rather than doing, can better support us through uncertainty, living on the periphery as expats and TCKs/CCKs. The next newsletter will kickstart a series of topics modeling the s-curve of learning. If you want to dive deeper, to explore how coaching can support you, contact me.



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