Find connection and support. You don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. Make sure you have a strong support system around you from friends or family who are there for you when things get tough. Even though you have to find the strength to continue from within yourself, feeling support from others can really help you to get through with it. If you don’t have that type of support system or you’re looking for more professional support to help you build your resilience you can also work with a coach, who can help you overcome your limiting beliefs so that you have clarity on your goals and can take action towards them.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Veerle Beelen.
Veerle Beelen is a certified Living Abroad Expert & Coach, who helps people create their desired lifestyle abroad that makes them feel at home wherever they are. Veerle Beelen’s work has been honoured by the Brainz Crea Global Award in 2021, she has been featured in many (online) magazines and podcasts, and she is a global ambassador for the Travel Coach Network. Through her own experiences travelling and living in various countries, and by working with her 1:1 clients, she understands the importance of finding your home from the inside out and how to create this feeling of home when living abroad. You can learn more about Veerle’s work and her coaching services here
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thank you so much for this invite! Yes of course!
I was born and raised in the Netherlands. As of a young age, travelling has always been an important part of my life. Growing up I have always wanted to expand more and therefore at the age of 20, I moved to Barcelona, Spain as an international exchange student and learned the Spanish language. After I graduated with my Masters degree in International & European Law, I had an internship in Cambodia with the United Nations. In 2015 I started my career in the corporate world as an Immigration and Global Mobility Consultant, assisting expats, business travelers and their families with their moves around the world. Inspired by my clients and their global perspectives on life and work, I started looking for a new adventure abroad. I decided to move to Australia where I have worked for 3 years both in Sydney and Melbourne. Unfortunately, with the global Pandemic I had to move back to the Netherlands in 2020, where I’m currently residing while planning my next move.
When I moved back to the Netherlands, I dealt with reverse culture shock. That became a defining for me to realize that home is not a place, but a feeling. With this in mind, paralleled with the struggles I faced to adjust and feel at home in the place I grew up, made me decide to change my career. Becoming an entrepreneur also meant creating the freedom-based lifestyle that I have always desired. I then got certified as a coach and built a business which allows me to do what I love most: helping others create their desired lifestyle abroad and make sure that they feel at home wherever they are.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I became a certified Living Abroad coach because I was inspired and motivated to do things differently. This was fueled not only by the lack of support that I felt in my experiences as an expat and then moving back home, but also what I saw when I had been working in the expat industry for years. I felt that there was a huge gap in the market and I knew that I wasn’t the only one who was navigating through the challenges of moving countries. I knew that many people were going through similar experiences, whether they are expats, remote workers, digital nomads, or people who had to involuntarily move somewhere during the pandemic. However, it’s something that isn’t often discussed. Through my own experiences I learned that there was not much information and support out there and I decided to change this.
Through my determination and by standing out from the other service offerings that were out there in the market, I was able to provide a unique experience to my clients and become a successful business owner.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My company is built on the idea that you can find your ‘home’ wherever you are when you start building this from the inside out instead of trying to find it in external circumstances, like a place or other people.
When I was an expat and my employer at that time arranged everything for me during my move abroad, I found out that one very important piece of support was missing. Yes, it was great to receive support for all the logistics (visas, taxes, shipment, housing etc.), but adjusting to my new life abroad was something I had to figure out on my own. After a while I felt completely overwhelmed and I knew that I had to take steps to create a sustainable lifestyle for myself with a better work/life balance and more focus on my wellbeing. Fast forward a few years later, I found out about this lack of support in a hard way again. When I unexpectedly had to move back to the Netherlands after spending some years in Australia, I realized how unsettled I felt and how great it would have been to have a coach to support me with this transition phase.
Due to my own challenges and personal experiences abroad and back home, I am very passionate about the transformational work that I do as a certified coach. I can relate to what my clients are going through and understand how they feel on a deep level, which adds extra value to my coaching and makes me stand out in my field. I offer something unique that really makes a big impact in someone’s life abroad and that is different from other service offerings in the market.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Absolutely! To be honest, it’s hard for me to pick just one person because I feel very grateful for the amazing support I have received during my business journey from my mentors, business coaches and close friends. Who has been my absolute rock through it all is my fiancé Nilson David. He is a professional Actor and since we had to leave Australia, where we met each other, and move to the Netherlands, he had his own challenges adjusting to a new country where he doesn’t even speak the language. However, he supported me unconditionally with chasing my dreams. It has helped me a lot to know that he has my back no matter what and believes in my business ideas and that we can work through any challenges together. As you can imagine we also had to postpone our wedding during the pandemic but I’m sure we will throw a big party once we can!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I define resilience as the strength to get back up when you fall down, to never give up when things get challenging and to have an inner knowing that whatever setback comes your way you will bounce back from it and will be stronger than before. Resilience is usually triggered by events and it’s about dealing with challenges and how you get through them. It’s about overcoming obstacles, difficult situations and anything else that comes your way.
Resilient people have a strong mindset with problem-solving skills and usually a positive outlook on life. They know that things are not always easy and may not go the way they planned it, but they also know that there is no such thing as a failure. There’s only feedback and valuable lessons. Whenever something challenging happens, resilient people find a way to overcome it and come stronger out of it. Instead of getting stuck in a problem, they find a way to resolve it. Resilient people are usually leaders, they are an example for other people and an empowerment for others to show them that whatever happens you will get through it.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
How I see it is that resilience is something you build based on circumstances, events and experiences that happen. It’s more of a response that is triggered by something else. However, courage is what you build or have before something happens or during an event in order to push you to keep going. It is taking action with a form of preparation from a place of passion and safety. You wouldn’t take action when you’re fearful but the courage you have makes you push through that fear in order to take action, because you’re passionate about it and feel a sense of safety in the scenario. For me the difference between resilience and courage is therefore mainly in the timing and how it gets initiated.
However, I think that they can also intertwine. For example, your courage can help you to take action, even when something may be challenging, and because of that you’ve built resilience and improved your ability to overcome challenging situations. On the other hand, the resilience you have experienced in your life can also give you the courage to do things with confidence and without fear. Therefore, they can both go hand in hand.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
During this pandemic I think that we all, as human beings, came together and became more resilient due to the challenges the world is facing. However, one of the people that inspired me when I think of resilience is my grandmother. Even though she never wanted to share many stories about her younger years, I can only imagine how hard it must have been living through the war and living with fear and a sense of unsafety for a long time. I believe that what we’re going through now is nothing compared to a situation like that.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Yes for sure! Moving to Australia was definitely something many people didn’t think I was able to do. Not because I didn’t have the courage or anything like that, but because it took me almost one year of negotiations with my employer at the time to arrange the approval of the move. Pretty crazy if you think about it right?! However, I didn’t give up and wanted to have this opportunity so badly that I never stopped believing that I could make it work without giving up my thriving career. I always believed that if you want something bad enough you will find a way to make it work.
Another story was related to starting my own business. Most people around me didn’t really support my ideas and kept asking if I had found a new job already…! They didn’t understand my new plans and wanted to see me doing something they were familiar with. However, once they started seeing that I was successful and was determined to make it work luckily this turned around.
Sometimes people that are close to you get triggered when you try something completely new and might tell you that it’s impossible, just because they care about you and want to protect you. Sometimes your actions are a mirror for them and trigger a feeling or reminder for themselves that they haven’t been able to step out of their own comfort zones yet. Whatever the reason is when someone tells you something is impossible, don’t let it stop you but instead listen to your own intuition. If you have a strong desire to do something and you feel that that is what you’re meant to be doing, then at least give it a try and don’t give up on your dreams.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
This was not too long ago. After spending some years in Australia while building my life and career there, the pandemic came and within a few weeks I had lost my job and my visa and had to leave everything behind. Completely in shock I arrived back in the Netherlands when the world shut down, without a job or an idea of what I was going to do next. After working very hard on my career and climbing the corporate ladder pretty quickly I suddenly felt that it all fell apart and I wasn’t sure if that was really the lifestyle I still wanted for myself. It took me a few months to figure out how to deal with my reverse culture shock, disappointment of the treatment I had received and the grief of missing my home abroad and my friends who felt like extended family. After a while I knew that I had to take control back over my life and I felt that I wanted to do things differently this time. I didn’t want to feel like it was a failure or that I was stuck somewhere. That’s when I decided to turn my challenges into valuable lessons and become an entrepreneur. I did my coaching education to become certified and I started my own online business. A year later I can honestly say that this setback was a gift because it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, to realize what was really important to me and to create the lifestyle that I desire and that really aligns with my passions and purpose.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I believe it’s a combination of many moments together and I cannot really pinpoint specific experiences growing up that have specifically contributed to this. As I said before, I really believe that if you want something very badly you will find a way to achieve it. It may take time and hard work but it’s never impossible. I have had that mindset as long as I remember and whenever I came across challenges, I knew that I would come stronger out of it by not giving up on myself.
Whether it was bullying at school, a teacher that didn’t believe in me, insecurities about my body growing up and all of these types of challenges, I never stopped believing in myself and always somehow found a way to tap into my own strength.
I think that what has helped me throughout my life as well was the fact that I’m very curious and always want to learn more and work on my growth. Growth comes from doing things out of your comfort zone, so by having this mindset I often had to push myself through challenges and try new things.
My travels and living in various countries also cultivated resilience throughout my life. I believe that when you move somewhere new, all alone, in a place where you don’t speak the language and have to adjust to a different city, culture, intercultural communication and relationships etc., you become more resilient as well. I had to work through many insecurities and challenges while I was living in different countries but looking back this also contributed to my personal growth including my resilience.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Let me share 5 different ways with you how someone can become more resilient. They don’t necessarily have to be in this order though.
- Have a clear sense of purpose or vision in your life. If you know what you want to achieve and if you have a clear vision or purpose for your future, it will become easier to work towards your goals and overcome any challenges that happen along the way. If you’re able to define what you want and why and what is still holding you back from getting there, you can create small actions steps for yourself towards that goal. If you don’t really know why you do what you do, you may not find the motivation or strength to bounce back when something doesn’t go as planned. This clarity and deeper purpose can make you more resilient during your journey towards your goals.
- Look for solutions instead of problems. I previously shared as well that problem-solving skills are one of the character traits of resilient people. If you get stuck in problems and don’t have the mindset to resolve an issue, it’s very hard to get out of it. When you’re able to develop a more solution-based approach for yourself with a more positive outlook on life you will become more creative in finding solutions, which adds to your resilience to deal with setbacks whenever they arise.
- Have compassion for yourself and others. Accepting that things don’t always go as planned, that you and others make mistakes and that setbacks are part of life, can be a huge eye-opener in order to build more resilience. Instead of rejecting what happens and pushing it away, try to shift the energy towards acceptance and compassion. This is also related to the mindset of approaching your mistakes or things that didn’t go well as a failure but instead using it as feedback and as valuable lessons that build your resilience and help you grow as a person. For example, as I previously shared, I was dealing with reverse culture shock when I moved back to my home country. Only after I started to accept that I had changed and wasn’t the same person anymore as before my move abroad, and that I could only build a feeling of home within myself from a place of compassion, things started to shift for me.
- Take action to overcome your fears. This may also be linked to courage, as we spoke about earlier. Taking action is crucial if you want to move ahead in life and overcome your fears. Whether it’s a small challenge or a big roadblock, if you don’t find a way to take action and do something about the situation, nothing will happen. By stepping out of your comfort zone by taking action and overcoming your fears, you will build your resilience. The next time when something similar happens you will feel much more confident to take action.
- Find connection and support. You don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. Make sure you have a strong support system around you from friends or family who are there for you when things get tough. Even though you have to find the strength to continue from within yourself, feeling support from others can really help you to get through with it. If you don’t have that type of support system or you’re looking for more professional support to help you build your resilience you can also work with a coach, who can help you overcome your limiting beliefs so that you have clarity on your goals and can take action towards them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Within my expertise as a Living Abroad Expert & Coach I want to create a ripple effect and empower my clients to turn the lessons that they learn during their time abroad into something positive, not only in their own personal life and career but also for the places they travel to or live in. When you feel good and at home within yourself you will be able to contribute to the people around you and to your local community. If we could all make a positive impact in the places we travel to by having a strong, resilient mindset, being open minded and by making meaningful connections with others, I believe that there would be more empathy and understanding in the world.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Jay Shetty. He is such an inspirational person and I loved reading his book ‘Think Like a Monk’ and enjoy listening to his podcast, in which he has interesting interviews about health and mindset tips. It would be very interesting to talk to him and learn more from his insights.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
It would be lovely to connect with your readers!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!