My sister is always better than me

My sister is always better than me

Dear Alex,

Help! When I think of my older sister, I feel inferior, especially since my mother talks about her all the time and compares me to her. I cry about this. She has always been an A+ student. She now works for a famous firm since graduating from the University of Hong Kong. I get excellent academic results but am not as smart as her. She also scolds me when I ask for help with maths and may order me to do something for her, such as fetch her a drink, in exchange. My parents just love my sister more. When we argue, they think she's right and I am wrong. I'm also their daughter. I deserve trust and love. I lack confidence even though I get very good results and teachers praise me. Having such a successful sister places tremendous pressure on me. I can't win - I am not her!

Sad sibling


Dear Sad sibling,

It is so difficult having a sibling who shines academically, because without really meaning to, people often shower extra love and attention on high achievers. Their success is like a mirror - parents see the achievement as a reflection of their own worth and success in parenting.

You are strong academically and teachers confirm this. You are also willing to ask for help to improve your maths grades - it is not your fault that your sister behaves negatively when you do this.

How can you handle this complex situation without hurting your family or yourself? Here are a few tips:

  • Acknowledge your sister's success and tell her that you're proud of her. She is your sister, after all, and recent studies show that having a smart older sibling actually encourages younger siblings to work harder and do better in life.
  • Be honest with your parents: tell them that you work hard, are grateful for giving you a safe home and good schooling, and will keep doing your best.
  • Think about your own special talents - not just academic ones. You may be an excellent friend, which will benefit your career later on, as you will have solid interpersonal relationships with co-workers; or you may be athletic, which makes you a well-balanced and healthy person.

There is more to life than getting good grades. Yes, they help in our competitive society, but there are millions of smart people in the world who are depressed, lonely and unhappy.

Keep working hard, be a kind and active member of your family and try to remember that your sister may be short-tempered or annoyed with you simply because she is under a lot of pressure - a common problem for high achievers.

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