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Being adopted can mean constant fears of inadequacy

Updated on April 29, 2016

I'm glad that I am adopted. I enjoy the special feelings I get from simple, everyday things; I like that I have two names, that I was virtually the only Asian-American in my town, that I don't look like my parents (I have a feeling my parents aren't as into the last point, but I guess that's something they had to get over to adopt).

What I don't like, however, is battling feelings of inadequacy. As an adopted child, you do tend to feel more ashamed - even guilty - about losses, failures, or fights. You think deep down inside that your adopted parents might regret having chosen you for a child, that maybe things would have ended up better if they could have had their own children. Maybe they would have been more intelligent and successful, more beautiful or popular.

One thing that my mother tends to do is designate other girls as "daughters." I know she doesn't do it to intentionally hurt me, but how would you expect it would make me feel? I can't help but feel somewhat inadequate and jealous when my mom introduces me to her "blond daughter" or "brunette daughter." She talks about how smart she is or how beautiful she is. She tries to make it lighthearted, like a little joke. If she connects well with another girl, then that girl becomes her "daughter." And I can't help but think, "You know, I think they get along better than we do."

What's worse is that the ones she "chooses" for her pseudo-daughters tend to look a lot like her. I wonder how much she has fantasized about what her biological children might have looked like. I wonder if other girls feel my jealousy and disappointment to the same degree I do when their mothers talk about other girls.

There have been several occasions in which I knew I didn't fit in with my family, including aunts, cousins, and other members. At holidays, they would joke around, but I wouldn't think they were being funny. They would poke a little fun at me for sport, but I wouldn't laugh. They would gossip, but I wouldn't be interested in what they were talking about, or even have a clue about it. It's gotten better over the years as I learned more about how people interact and how to do so better myself with others, but I still compare the relationship I have with my mother to those of my cousin and her mother, or even my friends and their moms.

Is that weird?

I don't really have any other issues related to being adopted. I've never felt angry about it. In fact, I seem to thrive off of my individuality. It is difficult to ponder and work through something, however, when there's no one around to help.

I let my mom have her replacement daughters because I'm sure it's not easy for her to look her daughter in the face and see nothing of herself. It's a little frustrating to do so well in school, sports, social life, and still need to be replaced, or at least supplemented, for something I could never achieve.

"It's not fair"


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    • profile image

      Clay Coppage 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on being adopted. My wife and I are planning on adopting in the next few years and I want to know as much as I can so that I help my kid really feel like he/she is my child. Thanks again, God Bless!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for your honesty and candidness. I was adopted when I was nine months old and I can testify to the odd feelings of inadequacy and abandonment that an adoptee feels for many, many years. Thank you for giving a voice to feelings many adopted kids feel but can't vocalize. Good job on your article.

    • Escobana profile image


      7 years ago from Valencia

      Hi there Glassvisage!

      To some extend I can relate to your story. My adoptive mother once told me: "Whatever you do, don't adopt. It can be very difficult."

      I don't think she realized she was talking to the girl she adopted, although I do agree with her to some extend. Even so, it was very hurtful of her to say.

      Overall I am very happy for being adopted, I don't suffer from it at all and I often think, the loneliness I've always felt for being so different, in the end made me a very strong and independent woman.

      I linked your Hub to my latest one about adoption, because I really find your story very touching. Maybe you'll find the time to read mine. I'm sure you'll get some comfort out of it.

      Voted up, beautiful and interesting!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northern California

      Angela, your words mean a lot to me because they sound like the words my mom would say. I think she feels the same as you in many aspects. It makes me feel good thinking that my mom feels the same about me as you do your daughter. For me, it's comforting to know that we're not alone. Thank you.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      i sometimes worry these feelings will manifest in my own daughter who does not look like me. Truth is, even though I was infertile before I decided to adopt, I am glad for my infertility because otherwise I would not have been led to her. I am proud of her, not because she's smart, beautiful, good at sports, funny, although she is, but because she is herself. I am proud of her even on days she cries, complains, yells, blames me for the world's atrocities, fight, or refuses to listen. I am proud of her beecause she is my daughter. Nothing she could do, would take that love that pride away.

      I know someday she will have feelings of inadequacy, becase truth is we all do. Those who have been adopted are unique, because these feelings manifest around the adoption, because it's what makes you different. My inadequacies lie around the fact that I am a red head, I am forgetful, I am shy, I am different from everyone else in my family because of the choices I make, I am not as successful as my brother, and more invisiblee than my other brother. I have had feelings like I do not belong, but it's different than those who are adopted, because when those feelings surface in a person who was adopted, it almost feels like it's justified, because there is something that truly does set you apart from your family. The truth is, you are where you are, because that's where you are supposed to be. You may not have been born into, but you were chosen to be there. If your mother was given the chance to live her life again, but this time be able to have her own children, I can guarantee, she would take those years of infertility all over again, just to have you. Truth is, speaking from a mother who knows, she doesn't want those other "daughters," She wants you. She may feel closer to you by befriending your friends, especailly ones she feels she has a natural connection with, because by being close to them, she is closer to you.

      I don't want a child who is smarter, more talented, more loving, funnier, nicer, even with less of a temper. Who I want is my daughter. She is the one who when I leave work, I first think about, when I call my friends, I first talk about, who when I'm angry I complain about to my husband (her dad). I want her, imperfections and all, and I think your mom would one hundred and ten percent agree. I do wish my daughter was more confident in who she is, and yes, I do in fact wish my daughter had less of a temper, but I want her to have less of a temper not another child who has less of a temper. There's a difference.

      I wish I knew my words erased all your feelings of inadequacies, but since I have not yet overcome all of my feelings of inadequacies desite knowledge to know they are ridiculous, I know these are feelings you will just have to work through. Good luck to you. I'm glad to hear that you are happy with you and your family, for the most part!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you! It sounds like you've had an amazing journey, and I thank you for sharing your story. You have done so well, and I'm sure your children are lucky to have you.

    • profile image

      c liquorci 

      8 years ago

      Everyones journey is different. I can say there is the one option that makes the difference. Once an adoptee is old enough to notice the negative feelings and confusion about self and self worth. Reach out to an adoption support group. Realize that a parents choice to adopt a child out and the ones that adopted you...are not who you are.

      I have been through so much internal turmoil, even to this day dealing with an elderly adopted parent. I don't like her and she abused me mentally. You are I are myself and disconnect from the abandonment issues and realize that you or myself of someone else that is adopted is worth loving self without all the answers we want or need. It is hard and I even found my birth mom. Life is full of stuff adopted or not. Each person is valuable and worth everything in their lifetime. Treat yourself as the best and treat others like they are worth all that; again treat yourself awesomely. Its okay to have negative feelings about others and their choices; make choices that make you fel good and that are good, not selfish tho. I hate my adopted mom, but I make sure she is taken care of and realize she was mentally ill....and I have been a great kids get all the live I was never given.....and I treat myself well without a lot of money. Pick only those that love you

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northern California

      Confused, be careful when it comes to seeking out estranged family members. I know a few instances where this hasn't ended well; the family member was a little disturbed. However, all instances aren't the same, so feel out the situation and use your judgment.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have just found a cousin of mine that I never knew, she was adopted by my godfather/uncle. She is practically my twin! I find it very probable that we are in fact related by way of sisters, as my family often adopted each others children, I have no idea why. How would I go about finding out a few basics to see if we could be related, I don't want to scare her off but I felt an instant bond as soon as I saw her photo, and all my life I have had the feeling of missing something and all the feelings described above! I was wondering if birth dates could be altered also. I know im asking questions when I probably shouldn't but I see someone else has been here with family and my feeling of inadequecy could stem from this.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northern California


      Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your experiences and your story. It is always encouraging and comforting to read, personally.

    • profile image


      8 years ago


      Being an adopted man, now with two adult stepsons and a beautiful teenage daughter, I have spent years coming to terms with my adoption, I had a very happy childhood, I was adopted as a baby and was told from a very young age that I was a chosen baby.

      But little by little from the age of about seven, little feelings and thoughts would come up and trouble me, I would feel lost and alone, sometimes confused and guilty for what I was thinking or wishing, which was to know who my natural mother was.

      All the feelings that came up at that time were just feelings without words; it’s only as an adult that I can identify them.

      Of course everyone has feelings of vulnerability and inadequacy in their lives from time to time, it’s all part of maturing into an adult, but with adopted people there is something at the core of the emotional centre, like a seed (meaning something with the potential to help us blossom into a content and happy person) this seed/feeling or question seems to say “I don’t know where I fit in, who am I, why am I here” all of which most people might experience, but for us, it’s almost like the adoption is a microscope that focuses our attention continually on this feeling, it is this continuity of focus upon the reality of being adopted and this inner feeling that is the difficulty (not a problem) just a difficulty.

      And this core feeling seems to have lots of different aspects to it which relate to our individual life experiences and personality.

      Unravelling and understanding these is a lifetime’s journey, but one that can lead to becoming a happy and content person

      This is what I am discovering from my experience

      My mother, who is in her eighties also has ‘Daughters’ as you described, I just put it down to her personality, it sometimes does make me feel as if I was not good enough, perhaps she should have adopted a girl instead, well done for sharing your experience.

    • debwalker profile image


      8 years ago from New England USA

      Thank you. Your post and the video were very powerfully touching. My husband and I have 2 biological and 2 adopted kids. I have to wonder if my adopted daughter (that we have had since 8 months old - she's 14 now) feels like the woman's daughter who was in the video. I will have to ask. By the way, our family is transracial also, which is another thing itself for some to deal with.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      Such a book would be fantastic and would provide some wonderful insight for other adoptive parents. Thank you for your comment and your sharing... Your family may seem "imperfect" but really sounds like there is a lot of love.

    • fetty profile image


      9 years ago from South Jersey

      Hi Glassvisage,

      We adopted two older children. Our kids definitely have feelings of insecurity and inadequacy as you have described. One son was a marine and appeared to be a wonderful child growing up. But he was ashamed of being adopted and has never emotionally grown past the abuse he received before he came to us. (He believes he is beautiful by the way!) Our younger son was lost on drugs for a decade but he is a successful father and a good husband, today. He wore the word adoption as if it was a badge of honor. I have a book to write about our imperfect lives. Do you believe some good could come from this? Thanks!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      Dottie and Benjamin, thanks for your comments. Adoption can be different for everyone, but I feel that every adopted person feels feelings of insecurity and/or inadequacy at some time in their lives. I think this is important to remember!

    • profile image

      Benjamin L. 

      9 years ago

      My name is Benjamin,

      Where to start. lets go to the origin. I was concived and born in El Salvador, My beloved mother gave me a gift that can overcome a lifetime of birthday and chritsmas presants. She knew the life i would life in the homeland.

      She had made the choice to have me put up for adoption. Looking back now who wants to be in a magazine? Before i was born there was a loving couple who had already adopted a son. Since they themdelves couldn't concive babies and lost pairs on the way made to decision to reach out.

      I was the the second to be adopted out of seven, and was in a foster home for two years until the paperwork was filled. As soon as possible I was "Brought Home".

      To the most extreme odds was brought up in New Hampshire. I became through socialazation your average english speaking hispanic. As i grew older the reflection of self began to hurt. My whole academic career until i graduated was filled with a not so positive additude. Because people frowned upon me for the one thing i couldn't help. I began to fall.

      In my adolesance i turned to alcahol at 16 was all kinds of bent. Would cry until i couldn't breathe it was at the time the onlt answer. I found something in myself that my father Kevin never taught me. " No one can help you more than you can help yourself".

      To everyone out there who may be lost! Listen. Everything your adopted parents gave and tought you. They nurtured you and loved you through life as far as you are now. Know there teachings. Cant you feel something else now? Telling you that this kid forgot something? What do your genitics tell you. Wha really means the most to you. Once you can SEE the worlds most important affrimations will co,e clear.

    • Dottie1 profile image


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      hi glassvisage,

      I have an adopted daughter, Tracey. She was biologically my niece, my sister's child. She has lived with me since she was 4 months old and adopted at 2 yrs. old. It took that long for us to adopt.

      Tracey gets those inadequate feelings too that you talk about and I know I got them too at times in my own family growing up. This is what I say to Tracey when she starts feeling this way. "You are not inadequate, never will be and never can be. That is a LAW!!!!" She smiles and thanks me when I say that as to remind her of who she is and that is perfect, cuz God did not make any inadequate people. ~Dottie~

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your support and your input. Day to day, things aren't bad at all, but I feel that overall, there is something missing that I just have to deal with. It does help to remember that such issues can be found in families that don't involve adoption. And yes, I always remember to be grateful for being adopted into a wonderful family and an amazing nation. :) Even though South Korea is doing pretty well in the Olympics, haha

    • Cranston profile image


      10 years ago from L.A.

      These are difficult and painful issues to contend with.  Very.  And while given your circumstances it may be natural to assume that they are, by default, connected or limited to the adoption scenario, they are not necessarily at all.  This is really about parenting skills (or lack thereof). Pure and simple.  And if it is any consolation, rest assured - there are many, MANY biological nuclear families with similar issues and, from what you are describing, worse dysfunction.  Much worse. 

      Many biological children and parents fail to identify with one another and/or look alike.  And many parents fail to see themselves in their children.  I have had friends who felt like such misfits within their families - so removed from their parents - that they questioned if they were truly related.  I know many siblings who look nothing like one another or like their parents, and who have the disparate personalities and talents to match.  I promise you, you are not alone and, if nothing else, can and always should find comfort in the fact that you were undoubtedly very wanted - actively sought!  Keep in mind too that sometimes the feeling that we don't "belong" comes from us - we project our own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy onto the circumstances. And adoption is an easy target. Who knows -chances are, if you broached the subject with your mother, she might be shocked and beside herself to learn that her conduct somehow led you to feel how you do.  In fact, I encourage you to talk to her about it!  Chances are you might discover it's about a lack of awareness or insight more than anything else - something we are all guilty of on occasion.  In the meantime, try to remember who you are and the many blessings that do exist in your life. 

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow, what a heartbreaking powerful message -- yours and the video clip! I am the oldest of 3 daughters, although my sisters have a different father than I did. My biological father was never in the picture so I always felt like my dad (who adopted me) was just my dad. He never made me feel that I wasn't his or as loved as my younger sisters. I will say, though, that I felt the distance from some of the relatives on my dad's side of the family. We had lots of cousins and at the family get togethers when we were kids, I remember feeling that I didn't belong or wasn't as loved as the "real" cousins. Hopefully, it just made me stronger and more sensitive. You are an amazing, smart, terrific person, as I can tell from all your wonderful writing and, hopefully, it just made you stronger and more sensitive as well!

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      10 years ago from The Ozarks


      Are you an only child? If not, what about your siblings? Do your parents try to find replacements for them, too?

      Sometimes a parent clicks better with a child's friend. This happens even if you aren't adopted.


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