Adoptee. It is a title that will stick with you for your entire life. Depending on your situation, it may be a title you embrace and celebrate, or it may be the title you never wanted. For some, it is surrounded with love and joy, while for others, this title will be a lifelong source of contention. Regardless of what adoptee means to you, there are a few things you should remember to help keep the title and its weight in perspective.

1. It’s Your Story

When people find out you are adopted, it is often followed by a million questions. Some adoptees will be used to and sometimes even welcome these questions. However, if these questions are not wanted and you do not want to answer, you are under no obligation to answer them. It does not make you rude. It does not make you angry. It’s your story. You get to choose if you tell your story, to whom you tell it, and when you feel like telling it. In most other situations, people do not demand so much personal information from others, especially from complete strangers. You control your story. Being an adoptee does not negate your right to privacy.

2. Their Pride is Not Your Problem

It is very common for adoptees to struggle with the fear of hurting the feelings of someone in their birth or adoptive family, especially a parent. They often worry that one will be hurt if they refer to the other as “mom” or “dad” or ask to seek a relationship with their birth family. This is a fear of the repercussions of pride. While it is understandable, it is not your problem or obligation to bear this burden. That may sound harsh, but it goes along with the understanding that your story is your very own. Even if you were adopted as a newborn, your story began before your adopted family. If you were adopted as a child, your story continued after your birth family. There has to be a level of mutual understanding and respect of your right to choose your relationships and nurture those you choose when you choose.

3. Your Worth Is In The Present

You are not just an “adoptee.” Just as children we were not adopted aren’t only “bio kids.” You worth is found in so much more of who you are. It is ok to take off the “adoptee hat” and celebrate yourself for everything else you are. You may be a mother, father, sister, brother, artist, musician, business person, politician, athlete and so on. You may be a wonderful friend or a lover of comic books. While it is ok to embrace life as an “adoptee,” don’t let it define you. While my daughter is adopted, she is a hilarious and gorgeous firecracker of a threenager. We don’t make it a point to make her adoption her identity. Your story is wherever you are now. Your story is constantly in motion and your worth growing daily. You may have come from adoption, but that was just the beginning chapter of your story. It is ok to move on to the next chapter.

4. Own Your Past

Even in moving forward, it is important to remember that no matter your past, it is a huge part of who you are today. If your adoption came from a positive place, you may find yourself an adoption advocate or thankful for the path which adoption has taken you. If your adoption is filled with bad memories, they may have made you an incredibly strong person and a force to be reckoned with. You do not need to let your past define you, but you can own it. Choose to find the great in the good and the strength in the bad.