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“I sometimes feel like a puzzle piece trying to fit in”

Published: January 17, 2017

Like many adoptees, Claire has often felt like “an outsider”. Her she shares her story and some advice for her younger brother. 

I was adopted at a very early age. For me, adoption was not a full stop as some people misconstrue it, but the start of a brand new story. Fast forward 20 years and I am a fully-functioning, high-flying, capital “A”, Adult. At least from the outside.

My memories of family begin with my adoptive parents and I think this makes me lucky. However, as an adopted person, you know that there are people out there who were supposed to do everything your parents have done for you. But, for whatever reasons, they couldn’t or wouldn’t do those things. This can make you feel awkward and responsible. As though what happened to you was your fault. It’s like there is some creature in your brain with the sole purpose of making you feel like you don’t belong. Something that’s reaffirmed a million times a day by a feeling that you don’t fit in. Of course this is irrational. But it doesn’t make it any less upsetting.

I have a younger brother who we adopted 5 years ago. Being 15 years older than him I want to use everything I have learnt to make his life easier. I think I have imparted several important life lessons to him; I told him that Harry Potter books are amazing, to always remember to take underwear when you go for swimming lessons and to always be kind to your older siblings (because they are bigger and stronger than you are!).

Thinking about what to tell him about fitting in, I decided to say that it sometimes feels like you are a puzzle piece trying to fit into a hole that’s a different shape. You can’t make yourself fit, no matter how hard you try. The point being, that this is okay. For people-pleasers, myself included, this is a curious concept. I would like to be accepted and fit in to all friendship groups, work environments and any other situation I find myself in.

I know a lot of people will share similar feelings to me. But, I think they can be more intense  for adopted people. I often feel like an emotional whirlwind switching from one feeling to the next in roughly 30 seconds. I have, over the years, come up with helpful hints about how to knock the wind out of an emotional hurricane. So here they are Top tips from a capital “A” Adult to help the feeling you don’t fit in:

Stop wondering whether people would notice if you weren’t there – This bit of self-sabotage often makes me feel like I don’t fit within social settings, work environments or sometimes even my family. It can send moods spiraling down and turns me into the world’s prickliest variety of pear.

Let people help – People often say you can’t choose your family. Your parents, and mine, actually did just that. They didn’t do it because they wanted someone in the car so they could use the 2+ car lane. They did it because they wanted to be the person or people that could support you through everything life throws at you.
Your parents are your biggest asset. They are bound (although not genetically) to listen to you moan about everything.  Siblings, especially older ones, have been through everything you are going through. Yes, they quite often steal your clothing and your grape scented lip-balm but they will listen to you if you ask them to. Sometimes that’s all it takes, someone to listen to you. It can make you feel grounded, and valued.

Forgive others – This may seem a little strange as I am trying to impart wisdom about fitting in yourself however, I found that when I managed to forgive others when they made me feel uncomfortable that I was able to feel more comfortable in myself. What a strange circle that is!

Celebrate difference – Finally, if you have managed to make it this far, it is what makes us all different that makes us special. That sounds like it should be embroidered on a cushion but I stand by it. It is okay not to fit in.

By Claire Eastwood.

Claire is 22 years  old and a former ambassador for the Coram Adoptables programme for young adoptees.


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