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Saturday , 2 July 2022

Taking it one step at a time

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Cybelle Diones
Cybelle Diones
Cybelle is currently a member of one of the registration bodies for counsellors in the country. She does volunteer counselling both in the Philippines and Australia. She is passionate about writing and learning more about philosophy, psychological theories and critical theories in social work to apply in her work.

It is a dream come true for many Filipinos to start a new life in Australia. There seems to be a promise of a better future for oneself and family. Life is greener, as they say, on the land down under. This appears to have been a dominant socially constructed discourse within our community. Over the years, many have seen it as an extrinsic motivation to endure all the pitfalls and hardships of being a newly arrived migrant. It may have worked for most to focus on the goal of earning well. Still, it also comes with the risk of unacknowledged affliction on one’s psychological and emotional health whilst in the process of being on top of every situation to meet the goal.

Moving to a foreign land does not guarantee instant gratification or success. Some losses will make you long for home. One is your established identity; you may have held a glamorous job in the Philippines that made you feel secure or increased your sense of self-worth, but it may not be the same case here at the beginning of your migration journey. You may end up in a blue-collar job and think you deserve so much more (which you do!) that you end up feeling powerless in your situation, reinforcing thoughts to abandon what you have already started here.

The cultural difference may also shock you. Before, you may have been used to having work colleagues who are looking after and are reliant on each other. But now, you need to stand on your own and make efforts yourself to join your co-workers from the dominant culture. Indeed, there is a loss of belongingness and warmth in this dynamic, which someone from a collectivist culture – like where we came from – values. These are the typical losses of a new migrant. As such, it is important to redefine one’s own identity by recognizing there are other identities in you than solely your previous job title/s. Indeed, what you have accomplished in the past is a part of you and will always be. However, you must also acknowledge that Australia is a country with a different societal hierarchy and will present you with new patterns of living. You must discover this and learn as you go. It will be more than dipping your toes in the water; at times, you must swim and even dive into understanding many of the aspects that make up this country.

104+ First Step Quotes
104+ First Step Quotes

Adjusting to Australia’s culture will take time. It is quite often that the process of acculturation can cause stress to an individual as one tries to find the balance between one’s own culture (inclusive of language, values, and social behaviours) and the new cultural environment, whilst also adapting to the latter. This is not an easy task; if you are hard on yourself in this process (e.g., setting a shorter timeframe for yourself to be acculturated), you may experience anxiety, depression, or even resort to substance abuse. It is best to try to be compassionate towards yourself at this stage; you can have your own personal mantra like, “My current circumstances are a gift to help me grow. I will take one step, for now, then another, then another until I reach my goals.” If you practice this often, you are teaching yourself to be kind to someone who deserves it most – “you”.

It is also important to acknowledge your expectations. Many assume that it is easy to get a job and achieve financial stability in a short time upon arriving in Australia. It is not often discussed that, at times, this is an ‘unrealistic expectation’ new migrants set for themselves. The outcome of this usually leads to overwhelming thoughts and feelings that can lead to anxiety, then depression (the former’s highest comorbidity). If there are a lot of major goals in your mind, why not try to write them down and break them into smaller tasks and realistic timeframe (taking into consideration that big goals are always time-consuming). If you dream of having a business in Australia, complete a vocational business qualification for a year, then gain local work experience for two years, and so forth. Just take the next achievable step to get you closer to your goal; this will make matters more manageable and less stressful for you.

In a biblical perspective, a verse from Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” which in my meaning-making tells that we are exactly where we should be even if we are in a good, bad, or ugly circumstance. There are things by nature out of our control where only acceptance can help us have a more optimistic perspective about our situation. Be at the present moment, learn what you can, and allow yourself to grow from the suffering. This is living life fully as a new migrant; as time progresses, you will be proud of what you have accomplished for yourself and have your own narrative of courage to share with others who chose to embark on the same journey you have chosen. Welcome, and may the rest of the adventure ahead be meaningful for you.


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Cybelle Diones
Cybelle Diones
Cybelle is currently a member of one of the registration bodies for counsellors in the country. She does volunteer counselling both in the Philippines and Australia. She is passionate about writing and learning more about philosophy, psychological theories and critical theories in social work to apply in her work.

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