Adoptees and their Sense of Self – “Where do I fit in?”

Adopted children and adults have as sense of vulnerability that many in the non-adopted world do not have.

This vulnerability comes from being removed from their biological family and then not being fully anchored in a family.

This type of vulnerability is different than the type that allows a person to be open and share their heart-space with another person.

The Adoptee’s feeling of vulnerability is like being a fawn that has strayed from it’s mother and has hungry wolves circling about.  The fawn can not see the mother and they don’t want to run from fear of immediate death. So, they remain frozen in place hoping their mother will come and rescue them. She never does and the wolves keep drooling….

“Where is my mother?”


This vulnerability in an adoptee’s life causes several different and complex issues.

  1. Adopted children and adults sometimes have difficulty assimilating into friendships, classrooms, peer groups and relating to adults. This difficulty can be from poor boundaries due to presenting as a “needy” child.  A child who craves attention and will be the class clown or the class ’emo child’ in order to meet their need for attention. Remember, negative attention, is still attention. This need can come from not feeling like they fit in and they feel different than others.
  2. Adopted children and adults can have low self esteem. Low self esteem is a lack of confidence and negative feelings about oneself that stems from feelings of being unlovable, (“My own mother didn’t want me, no one can love me…”), feelings of being awkward (“I don’t look like anyone….I feel out of place,”) and feelings of not fitting in (“I don’t know who I am….or where I came from,”).  All of these feelings and insecurities can lead to the child, who later is an adult, to feel “less than,” and if they have anything to contribute in their lives.
  3. Adopted children and adults can carry around an extremely heavy back-pack of guilt! Guilt stems form not feeling “good enough” to be in their adopted family, or feeling so resentful about being in their adopted family that they feel guilty about their feelings.  (Sometimes, they have been told they should be “grateful that they were so lucky to be chosen to be part of their family,”) and if they DO NOT feel grateful or lucky or chosen, they may feel guilty for NOT feeling this way. It is confusing and complex and so unfair to the adoptee.
  4. Adopted children and adults struggle in relationship with themselves. Every person has a self-relationship. Sometimes, adoptees have a difficult time feeling like a person in their own skin. Not looking like others. Not relating to the family with whom the adoptee lives. Not knowing where you came from. Looking at every stranger on the street to see if they resemble you.  All these behaviors, and a myriad of others cause the adoptee to struggle with their relationship with themselves as a human being.Issues 1 – 4 cause a damaged sense of self that seems devastating to the adoptee.                                                                                                                                                                  What can be done to help the adoptee feel as though they can have a place in the world and be able to assimilate into their lives, find happiness and find themselves.

Here are some ideas:

  1. If the adoptee wants to search for their story, help them. Please do not say things such as “are you not happy with your (adopted) family?”
  2. If you are an adopting parent, tell them the truth or whatever you may know, about their family of origin. Do not keep secrets.  Secrets are so damaging.
  3. Validate their feelings. Do not say things such as, “you shouldn’t feel that way,” or “you are such a good person, you can get over this adopted thing,” or “but, you were a baby when you were adopted, you can’t possibly remember anything..”
  4. DO SAY, “I will drive you to an Adoptee Connect support group and wait outside for you when you are done.”  Or, “”I will read the Primal Wound so I can understand you better,” or “I will help you figure out your DNA family tree on” or “I will sit with you and listen as long as you need me to,” or “I will never leave you” (THIS “not leaving” ONE IS HUGE).

Having a sense of self, of who you are as a human, how you walk around the planet and how you interact with others is an important part of life, one that adopted people have a difficult time defining and finding. Be patient with adoptees as the navigate the waters of “who am I?” We go about things a lot differently than the average person, and we struggle to figure out who we are. But, once we can trust you and that you are worthy of our love, you will find that an adoptee can be the most loyal person you can find.

The reason we are loyal?  We know what it is like to be given away and we do not want to do ever leave behind someone we love.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by

Up ↑

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW

Parenting. Adoption. And Adoptive Parenting.

Adopted Jem's Gems: An adoptee's journey of survival and healing

An adoptee's thoughts and feelings on adoption through poetry, personal stories, and other writings

travel + culture writer

Write or Die

It's time.

Healing Hands Farm

Adoption and Reactive Attachment Disorder

step into bravery

a story of acceptance, growth, and embracing bravery

Sherrie Eldridge Adoption Blog

Adoption Through the Eyes of Adopted and Foster Kids

Bleeding Hearts

Uprooted and transplanted. Digging deeper into adoption from the perspective of an adoptee/first mother.

Pamela Karanova

Finding Purpose in the Pain - One Adoptee's Journey from Heartbreak to Hope & Healing


A Place the Soul Can Confront, Reflect and Embrace all that they are.

Courage is the Ability to Walk Through Fear with Faith


A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: