TCKs: How Cultural Chameleons Can Positively Embrace Change

Updated: Mar 1


“Change is the only constant in life.
One’s ability to adapt to those changes will
determine your success in life” – Benjamin Franklin

The long told tale of adaptability, change and survival has been studied across philosophy, sciences and politics for millennia, leaving behind a mystery behind its meaning.


The nature of change has been explained extensively in history, even since the ancient Greek times.


In fact, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, observing a river, once claimed, “τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει”.


This roughly translates to, “everything flows, and nothing stays."

The river’s water is eternally refreshed as it flows, and so change too, is in a constant state of being.


The water’s flow is not the only thing that changes, however.


Science has shown us that water changes form too, evaporating into intangible vapor under hot temperatures or freezing into ice, becoming solid under a cool climate.


Water and the elements, nevertheless, are not the only things subject to change.


An observation of animal life proves that animals, too, must adapt both behaviorally and physically, in order to better survive in their environment.


Chameleons, for example, are remarkable ‘Old World’ lizards.


They possess a prehensile tail, long extensible tongue, eyes that rotate independently, and a highly developed ability to change color in order to camouflage with their surroundings.


Like animals, humans too have undergone centuries of adaptation and change.


Under today’s globalization, there is a reason why Third Culture Kids are sometimes referred to as “cultural chameleons”.


Third Culture Kids, like chameleons, often find themselves having to camouflage into a new culture, host country, or lifestyle.


Although it can be challenging to adapt to constant geographical and behavioral change, this article will highlight how TCKs - today’s modern-day cultural chameleons - can positively embrace their identity and manifest their best lives.


Internalize - Accepting your emotions, identity, and environment


Internalizing emotions is acceptance

Accepting Your Emotions


For the TCKs who have also grown up in the Western world, you may be familiar with how ‘accepting your weaknesses and negative emotions’ is considered a collective cultural taboo.

Although it is unfortunate that this side of the world has stigmatized sadness, fear, or grief, it is ok to realize that these are human emotions just like the rest are.


You deserve to be aware of your full spectrum of emotions so that you can accept them, and on your own time, heal and grow from the pain you are experiencing.


Accepting Your TCK Identity


Accepting a mosaic-like identity

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation.


She’s spent her career studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times best sellers.


Although she hasn’t written works directly addressed to TCKs, the following advice extracted from her book can be found very useful in dealing with TCK related issues as well.


Dr. Brené Brown explains in her book “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone,” that having a close relationship with yourself is a tool of empowerment.


She argues,

“I might negotiate a contract, maybe even a topic with you… but not who I am.”

The tone of this statement isn’t a rude one.


Brown underlines the importance of the moment in which you realize that (who you are and what you are) are non-negotiable with other people.


That moment is pivotal because then you can care less what others think of you and pay more attention to building your best self.


Self knowledge brings self evolution

In an interview regarding her aforementioned book, Brown quotes part of a discourse by the famous Maya Angelou:

“you are free when you realize you belong in no place – you belong in every place – no place at all.”

Said in more simple terms it is more or less like saying “I belong every.now.here” or “I belong every.no.where.”


They are really two halves of one whole, and by experiencing both, you are balanced.


Belonging & Balance

Another important aspect of internalizing your identity is highlighted in various sociological studies.


These studies, according to Brown, reveal that many people may think, based on instinct, that our sense of belonging is determined by external circumstances like belonging to a posse, to a country, to a school or to a career.


And although external circumstances do in fact, define us, maybe we can find our sense of belonging in something much deeper - in something internal instead of external.


As Dr. Brené Brown wisely concludes by saying,

“true belonging is a spiritual practice, and it’s about the ability to find sacredness in both being a part of something, but also the courage to stand alone”.

Accepting Your Environment, Knowing Your Environment, Changing Your Environment


Singapore Skyline

Accepting your Environment:


Environment is a crucial aspect that influences how our personalities develop and where our life path goes, including the direction of our career development.


Environment is intended, first and foremost, as the country in which you currently reside, the specific city where you are located, along with the impermanent address you chose as your temporary home.


A good first step, if you are an underage TCK who has no say where you can or cannot live, is acceptance and learning.


Acceptance and learning does not mean you shouldn’t grief or that you shouldn’t feel the desire to live elsewhere, if that is how you feel.


However, acceptance and learning may mean that perhaps you may try to accept your new environment and learn as much as you can about it – culturally, economically, politically, and socially.


In this way, once you are at an age where you can choose where you’d like to live, you will pick the best environment with no regrets.


If you are a TCK with decision making power regarding where you’d like to live, the following list may still be helpful for you too when trying to figure out your life plan in the next 5 years.


Knowing Your Environment


Island Life

The awareness of knowing your environment truly well can be beneficial for your upcoming years for the following reasons.


When you analyze your current environment, you can foresee career opportunities:

  • Potential career opportunities can help you better understand whether you are willing to settle for the opportunities your environment is offering, or pack the bags to start anew.

  • Opportunities more aligned with your expectations or desires are out there, it just takes the will to find them.

When you analyze your environment, you can see if your social circle is making you happy:

  • Have you adapted happily to social relations in your new environment?

  • Do your friends or romantic relationships make you currently happy?

  • Do you see yourself continuing to be happy with these relations in the next 5 years?


If they do, you might consider staying in your current environment. If they make you miserable, then you have the power to change your life for the better.


Other questions you may want to ask yourself may include:

  • What are the political and economic situations in your environment?

  • Are you living in an unstable environment where you see yourself unhappy in the next 5 years?

If you are, you have the power to change that by beginning to write down on a piece of paper other environments you dream of living in.


Finally, analyzing your environment can show you how it affects your personality

  • Is the culture you are currently in (host or passport) helping your personality evolve toward its best potential?

  • Or do you feel that your environment is pushing you to become someone you thought you would never be?

You have the power to choose who you want to be.


Changing Your Environment


Flying away to happiness

The difficult decision to change the environment that you have loved, been hurt by, got used to, bonded with and belonged in for so many years will not be an easy one to make.


However, after writing an analysis of your environment and how it affects you, you may be able to better rationalize the best decision that will maximize your happiness.


And remember. You are never alone.


The EVMO News forum was created to open dialogue and help people, if you feel like you are still undecided about what to do with your environment - reach out - there will always be someone that wants to help you.


Externalize – Write your experiences, emotions, and impressions


Write about your experience

Externalization of grief is also a big part of the healing process along with the aforementioned internalization part.


Writing down your experiences, emotions and impressions of a situation, person, or environment can help you both in the present and in the future.


Some great methods of writing down your memoirs include:

  • diaries

  • launching your own blog or podcast

  • writing poetry

  • creating art or music or

  • even just connecting with other TCKs by sharing your story and listening to theirs.


EVMO News recruits and shares all kinds of poetry on all kinds of topics, including hybrid poetry (multilingual poetry).


If you’ve written some poetry pieces and would like to share them with us as part of your externalization process, let us know, we’d love to help.


Another super important part of the externalization process includes talking to someone that can understand.


When readings are not enough, experts can jump in and give professional advice.


EVMO News’ friends at Cross Culture Therapy are always open to schedule online therapy sessions at great prices. You can contact them via: www.crossculturetherapy.com


Connect & Network


Connecting with people

Connecting and networking both online and offline with other TCKs and also non TCKs can be eye opening.


This type of socialization process is probably the last crucial aspect to building your best self.


Create


Build & create

Create something of your own – whether it is related to TCK things or not, it doesn’t matter.


The fulfilling feeling of creating and mastering something completely on your own will over joy you and motivate you to keep dreaming and manifesting your best self!


Repeat Mantra & Manifest


Meditate

Repeat your daily positive mantra so that you can manifest your best self and live your best life!


Don't be afraid of being a chameleon, nature is beautiful in all its diversity!


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“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi
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