Question : My brother is 3 years older than I am, and he is the “perfect child”. Always a class topper in school and college, he’s also the star of his school football team, and an accomplished guitarist as well. He is the apple of my parents’ eyes. On the other hand, I was never good in studies, I don’t know what I want to become, and I suck at sports too. I try, but my heart isn’t in it. Constant comparison with him is making me feel depressed and anxious, and I’ve started hating him and resenting my parents. I don’t want it to be like this, what do I do? Teentalker , 14-year-old
Thank you for writing in – so many people wait till they’re much older to face this, and the sooner we address it, the easier life will get from here! It sounds like you’ve got a classic case of doubting your unique worth! Feeling compared to anyone can happen at any point in your life – this happens to be yours. And I know how especially it sucks to be compared to your sibling – it can make you feel inadequate and inferior. Here are some active steps you can take:
- Focus on your skills, big and small – the more you develop your own likes and dislikes, the more confident you will feel which will mean that comparing yourself to your brother will fizzle out – it will be like comparing apples with oranges.
- What are some of the things you already do when you feel anxious? Do more of these things and get better at them!
Having an older brother, who seems to be more conventionally “successful” than you can be really tough because it’s much easier for others – and yourself – to make direct obvious comparisons. Parents don’t realize when they are making comparisons that can be really hurtful, and even though they know their kids are separate individuals, they sometimes unconsciously give out the message that they want them to be successful in the same way.
You say that you don’t want to feel resentful or hateful to your family – and recognizing that means you’ve got a pretty good sense of self-awareness. So let’s explore this awareness further. How have you dealt with these comparisons so far? Maybe you’ve tuned them out, or you’ve focused on what you’re good at. Sometimes what we are good at isn’t an obvious skill, like sports or music or studies. It could be something more subtle, like having a sense of humour, or being able to listen to friends when they need a friend to trust. It could be being able to think critically about art or literature and feel engaged in social or political events. What are some of your skills that you pull out when you feel anxious or resentful?
Even though it feels hard right now focus on yourself – on you being you. There is no other you! And the better you get at being you, the less compared you’ll feel because you would have built up your confidence in yourself. You could start this process by talking to your parents once – tell them how you feel when they compare you (even unintentionally) with your brother, and explain to them that you have your own personality, needs and skills. Then – go out, explore what’s meaningful to you, and own it. Remember – apples and oranges are both delicious in their own ways!I hope that this answer has at least helped you begin to process some of the struggle you’re experiencing.
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