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Embracing Adoption as Part of Your Identity [Your Adoption Story]

Learning how to accept your adoption story is important because adoption is a big part of what gave you the life that you have today. While adoption does not define who you are, understanding where you came from can help give you a renewed sense of identity.

If you have learned about your adoption story but aren’t sure how to embrace it as part of your identity, you are not alone. Even if you found the answers you have been looking for, integrating those answers into your sense of self can be a complex journey in and of itself. As an adoptee, adoption is a situation you are born into. There was no way for you to prepare for how to navigate this journey.

While you didn’t get a choice in your adoption, you can choose how you embrace it. This article can serve as a guide for reaching that acceptance. This is a journey that will look different for everyone, so it’s up to you how you decide to move forward.

Disclaimer: American Adoptions is not a mental health professional. If you are struggling with your adoption and self-identity, please reach out to a licensed counselor for guidance. However, if you were adopted through our agency and have questions about your adoption story, we will do our best to help when you call us at 1-800-ADOPTION.

Understanding Adoption and Self-Identity

At some point in our lives, we all go through the process of figuring out our self-identity. For some, this is a lifelong process. But for adoptees, this journey is often more difficult than it is for non-adopted individuals.

Regardless of whether your adoption was open or closed, you’ve likely had to go through a lot to get answers to questions such as:

  • Why did my birth parents choose adoption?

  • Who are my birth parents?

  • Where do I fit in in my birth family

  • How does adoption affect me?

Whether you got the answers you needed and whether or not those answers were positive or negative, learning how to accept them can be difficult. Many adoptees feel guilty for connecting with or learning more about their birth family because it seems like they’re betraying their adoptive family. Those in a closed adoption may struggle with their identity as a result of not knowing anything about their birth family or biological background.

While you are more than just your adoption story, we understand that it is a big part of your life. There is no wrong or right way to embrace being adopted. Figuring out how your adoption plays into your self-identity will be entirely up to you.

Below, we have laid out some basic steps that help you get to this point.

Step 1. Ask Questions

For many adoptees, a lack of information about their adoption can leave them feeling confused about who they are. If your adoption was open, getting the answers you need will be easier than if your adoption is closed. For those in closed adoptions, records about your adoption and your birth family may have been sealed, making it difficult to learn anything about your background.

If you can reach out to your birth parents, sitting down with them to discuss your adoption and any lingering questions you may still have can help give you peace of mind. They can tell you more about your extended birth family and your genetic history. If you’re a transracial adoptee, you can learn more about your ethnic and racial heritage and any cultural traditions that your birth family may celebrate. 

Learning more about your birth parents helps you learn more about yourself. You might find that parts of your personality are reflected in one or both of your birth parents. Sometimes, learning little things like that can have a big impact on how you relate your adoption to your self-identity.

Step 2. Let Yourself Feel Your Emotions

Learning more about your adoption journey can come with a lot of complex and potentially difficult emotions. For some adoptees, these emotions are positive and they feel at peace with the information they’ve learned. For others, they may be left with grief, anger and confusion.

No matter what you’re feeling, it’s all valid. There is no right or wrong way to feel about your adoption. Let yourself feel these emotions. Take the time to sit with how you feel and think about where these emotions stem from.

Honor your own needs and take as much time as you need to process what you’re feeling about your adoption. Embracing adoption as a part of your self-identity is a journey. How you choose to reach the destination will depend entirely on your unique situation and personal preferences.

Step 3. Ask For Help

While the journey to accepting your adoption as a part of yourself is your own, you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re struggling with self-acceptance and/or the difficult emotions that can accompany this process, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Discussing your emotions with your adoptive parents or friends can help you process what you’re feeling.

There are also blogs by and for adoptees, as well as support groups for adoptees who understand what you’re going through. Talking about your emotions with people who are in similar situations can give you solace in knowing you aren’t alone in what you’re feeling. A few adoptee support groups are:

If you’re in need of professional help, you can reach out to an adoption-trained therapist or counselor. They can be a safe space for you to talk about what you’re feeling, as well as provide advice on figuring out how adoption fits into your self-identity.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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