Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! – Dr. Seuss
We often let our families, teachers, and neighbors define who we are. The smart one. The funny one. The bad one. Then fall into playing that role without realizing why.
“You remind me of your mother. You’re funny.”
“You’re so smart. You remind me of your dad.”
These remarks are confusing for young adoptees. My daughter who is adopted hears people tell my biological son that he looks like his father, and she knows they both share a love of football. She will ask me about her birth mother, whom I don’t know. “Do you think she’s a good singer like me?” “Do you think her hair is curly like mine?”
“Who am I?” is the question she’s really asking.
You are you! I want to say. Like Dr. Seuss, I know that every person is a unique individual with strengths to build on and weaknesses to work on. Children, especially adoptees, need to develop a strong self-awareness that will help them navigate relationships, understand their reactions to others’ actions, and stand up for themselves when necessary.
Self-awareness is a skill that can be learned and practiced. It enables children to understand that how they see themselves may be different from how others see them, and to recognize themselves as individuals separate from their surroundings.
Here are five reasons that self-awareness is essential for adoptees:
1) A child who is self-aware is motivated from within. He doesn’t require approval for his every action or respond negatively to disapproval. He can direct himself toward goals and work through self-doubt.
2) Self-awareness enables creates an independent sense of self. It enables a child to recognize that how they see themselves may be different from how others see them. By recognizing how others are responding to her, a child can respond appropriately in different social situations.
3) Self-awareness allows a child to recognize that he is an individual, separate from his environment and the people who surround him. Once he understands the idea that he has the opportunity and freedom to change things about himself, he is no longer trapped in the identity that others have chosen for him.
4) Self-control is a result of self-awareness. Recognizing that actions affect yourself and others is the first step in deciding how to respond to any given situation. When a child realizes that she is independent of the situation that she is in, it is easier to control her emotions.
5) A developed sense of self-awareness allows a child to advocate for himself. The ability to say, “No, what you’re saying about me is not true,” followed by the ability to help others to understand their actions and their needs, can change a child’s life.