Feel like you're living in your (golden) sibling's shadow? Learn how to ditch the envy.
Let's hope that Kylie Jenner steers clear of celebrity news sites. Not only because she'll probs get sick of the constant Kimye coverage just like the rest of us, but also because she may stumble across some harsh comments comparing her to her big sis Kendall. One such post on a Celebuzz gallery said, "Poor Kylie totally missed out in the looks department", while Daily Mail readers in the UK were particularly brutal when the girls hit the catwalk for New York Fashion Week recently, with one posting, "I think Kendall is an angel/model, while her sis should consider bear wrestling." Ouch!
Just like Kylie, 15-year-old Melissa is living in the shadow of a sibling. "From a young age my sister and I were both dancers. She was always quiet and I was the one in the spotlight," she explains. But then it all turned around. Her sister became an amazing performer who won awards for both dancing and academics, and was pretty to boot. "I couldn’t help being envious of her," says Melissa. "I just couldn't compare." When her sister won yet another award at the girls’ dance concert last year, Melissa slipped out of the hall, locked herself in the bathroom and sobbed. "Standing beside her, I felt like I was nothing," she says. "Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not even a good dancer like I used to be."
No clone zone
The pressure to measure up to a star sibling can be overwhelming at any age. "Watching constant praise heaped on your brother or sister while you sit on the sidelines can make you feel left out," says psychologist Leanne Hall (thehillsclinic.com.au). "It can hurt your self-esteem and exacerbate any negative perceptions you have about yourself." And negativity, especially about your own ability, is a downward spiral you don't want to fall into. Leanne's advice? Don't compete with your sibling. "Find your own individual strengths," she says. "If you try to contend with your super talented sibling, you might be setting yourself up for failure, so do something different." If your sister is an awesome gymnast, take up another sport like running or swimming. If she's incredibly fashionable, find your own unique sense of style and team it with a wicked sense of humour. "We need to celebrate our differences," says Leanne. "How boring would the world be if we were all exactly the same?"
Professor Phillip Slee, a psychologist and expert in human development, agrees, adding that people often unfairly expect you to be a clone of your sibling. "The challenge is to convince them that you’re your own person, with your own set of talents that are different from your brother or sister." You're not less than them, you're just different!
Your longest relationship
After the dance concert, Melissa's parents chatted to her about her reaction to her sister's achievement. "Mum and Dad explained that my sister loves what she does and I should support her; that she hates it when I get upset about her awards and would give them up to make me happy," says Melissa. "I realised I made the whole situation about me. Now when my sister achieves something, I congratulate her. We've become much closer."
As was the case for Melissa, being the shadowed sibling can provide important life skills. "You'll learn to deal with the fact that there will always be someone who is smarter, prettier or funnier than you. It teaches you to embrace your own strengths and support those of others," he says. This is one great reason to appreciate having brothers and sisters, but an even better one is because they're comrades for life. "The longest relationship we'll ever have is with our siblings," says Phillip. They're travelling beside us our whole lives, so it's worth putting in the effort to make it a good journey.
Then there's the flipside – when your sibling's wild behaviour causes your folks to tighten the leash on you.
"My older sister was a rebel at school," says Sarah, 16. "She fell in with a bad crowd and had a baby. My parents still find it hard to communicate with her and she doesn't make the wisest decisions." Fearing that Sarah will head down the same path as her sister, her mum and dad are incredibly strict and question everything she does. "They constantly call me and if I don't pick up, I'm in big trouble – even if I'm in a movie and everyone is shushing me!" Sarah finds it stressful that her parents don’t trust her, especially since she’s never acted out like her sister. "They're worried that I’m going to have a chaotic life like her, but I want to go to uni." Leanne says that in this kind of situation, you need to find a calm moment to speak to your parents. "Sit down and say, 'I understand that these are the rules, but I'm not my sister and can we negotiate?' Make a point of demonstrating how different you are to your sibling."