10 Ways for Adoptees to Create a Strong Personal Identity

Advice from an adoptee.

Tom Andriola March 05, 2016

It’s hard to create a strong personal identity. Throw a curveball into the situation, like adoption, and it gets even harder. So how do you do it, in general or in spite of adversity?

Look Inside, Not Outside
1. Look Inside, Not Outside

This is easier said than done, for sure. We all love positive feedback from external sources. Our boss tells us we did a great job. A love interest responds positively. Our friends laugh at our jokes. Our spouse does something special for us. This type of feedback makes us feel good. Alternatively, negative feedback makes us feel bad. But the more we are able to regulate our responses to external feedback and just go with the flow, the better off we will be. Once we are content with ourselves on the inside, we tend to take the external feedback, positive or negative, in stride.

Find Positive Outlets
2. Find Positive Outlets

Those of us who have experienced trauma, or who are simply working through a difficult situation, need an outlet. Sometimes, that means turning to an unhealthy outlet, such as alcohol, drugs, or excessive eating. If we can channel that energy into something positive, like exercise, listening to music, or practicing mindfulness, we can become stronger.

Compare Yourself to Yourself
3. Compare Yourself to Yourself

It’s difficult not to compare yourself to others. Your neighbor makes more money. Your teammate scores more goals. Your best friend has a beautiful girlfriend. People are always going to be better than you, luckier than you, smarter than you. When we get caught up in comparing ourselves to others, we tend to get stuck. Alternatively, when we can look at ourselves and we can compare where we start with something versus where we end up, we will see that we are making a tremendous amount of progress if we are working diligently on improving.

Establish a Personal Set of Values
4. Establish a Personal Set of Values

What are your core beliefs? Do you have a set of values that you live by, or does it just depend on the situation? If we set a vision for who we want to be and we develop a set of core values to live by, it gives us inner strength. This approach will provide us with an anchor, so to speak, that will keep us grounded and allow us to succeed all around it.

Get Educated
5. Get Educated

Education is so important. It helps us to understand our place in the world and provides us with a level of sophistication that really sets us free. When we are educated, we are better informed, we make better decisions, and we are stronger.

It's Not Your Fault
6. It's Not Your Fault

Understand that when bad things happen to you, such as abuse or trauma, it’s not your fault. And while this is intuitive on so many levels, it is not widely believed or accepted by those of us who may find ourselves in such a situation. It reminds me of the scene in Good Will Hunting when the therapist tells Will over and over again, “It’s not your fault.” And it’s true. It’s not. Believe it.

Life Isn't Fair
7. Life Isn't Fair

If you think life is fair, think again. Some of us get sick inexplicably. We lose jobs. We lose loved ones. We don’t get the promotions we think we deserve. You name it, it happens. And when we are able to remember that it is not typically an attack on us personally when a setback occurs, we are better able to weather the storm.

Keep Moving
9. Keep Moving

Life is uncertain. We can never predict the outcome of an endeavor. But if we remain stagnant because of our uncertainty, we will never make progress. Take the first step; the next will follow. Before you know it, you will have achieved something you never thought possible.

Love your Failures
10. Love your Failures

There’s an old saying, and I’m not sure where it comes from, but it’s used often in athletics. “You either win or you learn.” I love that quote, and I love learning from my failures. Sometimes, the lessons are hard, but when you work diligently to understand where things went wrong instead of simply being upset that you lost, you are likely to do things better the next time around.

Act as if You Belong
11. Act as if You Belong

We are all human beings. No one of us is any better than another. Someone has to be the star athlete. Someone has to be the movie star. There are people in positions that make many of us envious. How do they get there? It takes hard work. It takes natural talent. But you also have to act as if you belong in whatever venue suits your hopes and dreams.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.

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