Don’t live in your sibling’s shadow


Photo credit: Helen Suh

Brittany Mcclintock

It seems dark and cold. It’ll feel like no one is around to help you. You almost can’t help yourself. Seems like everything you’ve done doesn’t even matter. You’re in your sibling’s shadow.

Being the younger sibling could seem great. There’s no real experiment with parenting, your parents got it down by the time you’ve come around. You get a person that is supposed to be an automatic role model to look up to. Things seem to be smooth sailing when you’re younger.

Then the pressure starts. Your older sibling seems to be absolutely brilliant at something that you feel like you have to match. Either they’re an athlete, a genius, musically gifted or whatever – your sibling is really good at it.

Everyone knows whoever goes first in a competition typically sets the bar rather high. And not to say that siblings are competing with one another, but there is that little rivalry.

If your sibling is getting praise and a bunch of attention for their high performance, you too will want that kind of praise. You want to know what it feels like to be the best – that high of succeeding.

But often there’s only one best. And typically the older sibling is the best. They’ve had more years to practice, get good at what they are doing and perfect everything by the time you will be catching them in age.

By the time you’re at the same age they started excelling, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’ll feel like if you don’t at least match their performance, you’ve failed.

It sounds dramatic, I know. And most times parents will never say anything that will compare you with your sibling, but you can read your parents pretty well.

You can tell when they’re really excited and when they play being excited. You’ll start to see how happy they are seeing first place trophies or scholarly awards lying around the house and how they’ll be happy for you when you do your best.

Your best and the best will probably be different though. You’ve seen the best, so you know what you’re capable of. But you also know you’re not your sibling. You are your own person, and as hard as it’ll be, try not to compare yourself to them.

Let their success motivate you to be a better you, but it doesn’t have to mean being better than your sibling. If they happen to be better at soccer and you really don’t want to be compared to them, play a different sport. If you know they’re really good at physics and science isn’t really your thing, become a bomb-ass writer.

Living under the sibling shadow is probably one of the loneliest places to live, but you don’t have to stay there. Your sibling can only do so much and you’re going to be able to do more. Trust me. My brother graduated from UC Berkeley with honors, and I have a learning disability. But I also know that I have talents he does not.

I’m not my brother. You are not your sibling. And that shadow is just keeping you cool before you get hot.

Brittany McClintock can be reached at [email protected] or @B_McClintock17 on Twitter.