Adoptees are Wired to Please

I often think of the many years I have spent trying to be who everyone expected me to be. Don’t make mistakes. Don’t get bad grades. Be seen, not heard. Behave. Be quiet. Do as I say. Sit here. Wear this. Don’t get in trouble.  No one ever “SAID” these things to me (well, “be quiet” was said a lot) but I just KNEW I had to BE GOOD.

I sometimes lament the years that I spent in “the adoption fog.”  The years and years I spent thinking that adoption was my destiny cause me to feel sad.  So sad sometimes that my sadness turns inward to depression and my depression causes anxiety.

Many adopted people feel they have to be “perfect” to be accepted.  Many adopted people feel that if they make mistakes, they will be “returned” or rejected. The need to be accepted and acceptable is strong in the adoptee’s life.

“Often adopted children appear to be just “fine,” however research has shown that many adoptees have built walls around themselves to keep others from getting too close.They may hide behind perfectionism, achievement and even self-sufficiency. They often resist what they need and want most of all, as they feel undeserving of any bit of happiness that comes their way. Many adoptees deny their feelings or thoughts about their birth parents out of fear that they adoptive parents will feel rejected or unappreciated.” From

Maybe on the child’s birthday the child may be very quiet and if asked what he/she is thinking about the child may say nothing at all, when in fact he was thinking about his birth parents.  Birthdays are not always felt as a day to be celebrated when you are adopted.  Why would we celebrate the very day that changed our lives forever?


There is a lyric in an Amy Grant song that made me think about being “Wired to Please.”

From her song: Don’t try so hard

Another Monday comes and I just wanna breathe
Cause it’s a long,
Long week for someone wired to please
I keep taking my aim, pushing it higher
Wanna shine bright, even brighter now

Wish I would tell myself ~ Don’t try so hard

For me, I always felt like I was “given” a life to live that would have been “better” than the life I was not allowed to live.  Now that I have found my history, this may be true, in some ways. I may have been removed anyway be CPS and put into foster care, never adopted, as my older maternal siblings were. I may have been given away to an aunt to raise, as my older paternal siblings were.  But, I can’t help but to wonder who I would have been if those things would have, could have, happened. I will never know, and here is the confusing part to me, I don’t really WISH that I had been, but I do WISH that I knew my siblings growing up… cousins… aunts and uncles…. Seriously, this is confusing stuff when you are adopted.  None of it makes much sense.

question marks

One thing that does make sense is that I am tired of doing things to be acceptable to others. This past 6 months since the Beyond Adoption: You retreat, I have decided to figure out who I AM without the layers of adoption expectations.  The learning curve has been steep and the outcome is still to be determined.

Bottom line:  I have stopped doing things because of what others expect of me.  I am doing things I expect of myself.

Here are a few changes I decided to make to live my life on my terms:

First: I am not going to NOT speak up when I have a thought or an emotion.  I am now showing my emotions more freely.  I can get weepy in front of people (gasp) and I never apologize for my emotions. It is hard for some to handle.  Oh well.  This is who I am. I am real and I show my realness. I am NOT weak. I am so STRONG.

Second: I know what I want and I am going after it in my life. I made a decision to follow through on professional goals. I found a way to make it happen. I am going after things, not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well. I am laser focused on my future. The past “in the fog” me would have just been complacent and not tried too hard, because (insert blood curdling scream)what if I actually SUCCEEDED?!!? I am not allowing my fear of failure OR success get in the way of my dreams.

Third: Food does not OWN me.  I am changing my relationship with food. This process is NO JOKE. This one is a work in progress. I just had 65 days clean from cinnamon toast. I had a day that presented a lot of change in my life and just like that, I ate toast. Note to self: you are still struggling with change, address this in therapy. (self replies: gotcha)

Fourth: Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter what or who gets in your way. I gave up for a minute on writing. I didn’t think I could continue writing a book that I started as I was too truthful and my own truth hurt me so deeply. I now understand that the truth, my own truth, is so painful. And, the only way to release the pain is to go THROUGH the pain. No over. No around. No under. THROUGH. So, onward. More words and tears added to this story.

Fifth: Community is healing and everything. I have found a fierce group of tribe friends who get me and I get them; we have each other’s backs. I don’t see them daily, but I can feel them next to me. I am also building community in my home town through our new Adoptee Connect – Las Vegas group.  It is an amazing feeling to meet new people, who are also adopted, and whoa are on the same path of life as you. If you are an adoptee, and want to start an Adoptee Connect group in your town, contact Pamela Karanova and she will help you figure it all out.

I have so many other things to work on and to work out, but I am recognizing daily who I am as an FULLY out of the fog adopted person. I am no longer allowing myself to just be tossed to and fro by life. I am embracing and chasing my dreams.

One thing I know for sure:

Learn all that you can learn. Do what you choose to do. Be what you want to be.”  Janet Nordine, LMFT 


We are all in this together.  How can I support you as you support me? (this is a real and not a rhetorical question, dear reader)

ONWARD AND UPWARD – together, in community




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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW

Parenting. Adoption. And Adoptive Parenting.

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