Dear Debby, I’m constantly compared to my siblings and it gets so tiring. I always feel so unmotivated because anything I do is not enough. What should I do?
Sincerely, I wish I was an only child.
Dear I wish I was an only child,
I, too, am not an only child. I understand your pain. My older brother was a straight-A student who went to a good University, has always had a solid group of friends, and rarely needed any extra attention. I, however, have multiple anxiety disorders, failed out of college (twice), am unable to go to University, and have never had a group of friends (in person) for longer than a year. The comparisons happen in my home all the time.
Why can’t you be more like Denny? It’s never said like that in my home, more subtly, I just don’t know what to do with you. Or subtle comments about how Denny was never any trouble. Or when I approach my parents about an issue I get a “what now” sort of sigh.
I used to try and impress my parents. I used to hide everything from them to make my life look perfect from their eyes. I hid my true self in the closet and tried to do my best to replicate my brother. Of course, it wasn’t good enough. Because that wasn’t me. I was sad and unmotivated trying to keep up the facade.
I wish I could come to you with an answer like “as I got older, my parents realized that who I was, was good enough.” I really wish I could tell you it dissolved with time. But it didn’t. I still get it all the time. Denny has a full-time job. I should have graduated last year. Denny has his life planned out. What is my plan?
It’s not all bad though. There was a change. The change was me. I decided to live for myself. I do what makes me happy, what I want to do. It’s taken a lot for me to get to this point. I literally had to run away ( I moved out temporarily) and take time for myself to figure out who I really am and what I want out of my life.
I hold on to that now. I know who I am. I know what my values are and vaguely where I am headed. (Well, I mean, as much as a person can). I had to learn to respect myself where I am now. I will never be Denny. I don’t want to be Denny. I am me and I don’t want to change that to please someone else.
Another quick note, family is who you start with. It can be a really good thing but is not a mandatory thing. If your family is treating you badly, you have the means to leave and are of the age of majority, do it.
That being said, most of the time, your family probably doesn’t know they are hurting you. Before you make any rash decisions, talk to them. Tell them how you feel and how the comparisons aren’t funny or helpful.
If you just say “You are being mean, I hate this.” That isn’t going to work. The best bet is an “I statement.” I statements put an emphasis on your feelings rather than the other person’s actions. They are a decent way to keep tensions from breaking during confrontational conversations.
To make an I statement, begin with how you feel, followed by the other person’s actions, and why their actions make you feel this way. For example, “I feel _____ when you _____ because _____.” I feel hurt when you compare me to Denny because I’m not Denny and I’m not able to do the same things he is able to do. Obviously, tweak it to fit your specific situation.
One final note. You don’t need parental approval to do great things. I am willing to bet you are doing some fantastic things that they will probably never know about.