Identity formation is something that happens throughout childhood and adolescence and continues to evolve and change throughout a person’s life. Your identity is partly defined by where you feel like you ‘fit’ within your family and peers.
For adoptees, forming a healthy self-identity can be a challenge if you don’t feel like you fit in with either your birth or adoptive families. Some adoptees feel split between the two, or they feel different from peers who were raised by their biological families.
This sense of alienation that some adoptees experience can create an adoption identity crisis, which can sometimes contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. But if you experience adoption identity issues, they can be improved with some work, support and patience.
Here are four basic ways you can cope with issues of adoption and self-identity, so that you can strengthen your understanding of your self-image as an individual:
Be patient with yourself, and listen to your own needs.
This is true for anyone who wishes to support an adoptee while they explore their adoption and identity, and it’s equally true for adoptees who need to support themselves. For example, not every adoptee will need or want to have a relationship with their birth family. For others, it’s an extremely positive way to explore their adoption and identity. Doing things at your own pace and in your own way is simply a way to respect yourself.
Explore your own interests, and recognize your own strengths.
It can be tempting to lean on an identity that’s shaped by others, but it’s important to shape a new personal identity for yourself. One good way to do this is by pursuing things you’re passionate about. Explore hobbies, learn new things, or join a group of people who share your interests. Take time to appreciate your own skills, talents and strengths that are entirely separate from your adoption experience, and spend time with people who support and encourage you in these pursuits.
Seek out a community.
It can be beneficial for adoptees with adoption identity issues to find their own healthy sense of community. This could be fellow adoptees, people who share your cultural heritage, people who share your interests or goals, or whoever you feel a sense of belonging with. For adoptees who struggle to feel as though they belong within certain groups, finding a supportive community that they share traits with can be helpful.
Reach out for help when you need it.
Whether this means talking with your birth and/or adoptive family, a friend, or a counselor who has experience with adoption identity issues, it’s always ok to ask for support. Sometimes you just need to talk through your thoughts with someone.
Adoption and identity can be complex issues to explore, but adoptees should never feel alone while sorting through any adoption and self-identity issues. Turn to the support of a professional counselor if you need help finding someone to talk to.