How to Deal with Family Pressure Between Siblings
Having siblings can bring so much joy and fun to your life. Many siblings grow very close as they grow older and learn how to work through the ups and downs of life together. But sometimes, family pressures can creep into sibling relationships.
Take a look at this message I got recently:
"I love my sister and we rarely fight. But lately I've been frustrated by how my parents seem to see us differently. My sister gets a lot of praise from my parents, and it seems like I either disappoint my parents, or they don't notice the things I do accomplish. Why does it seem like my sibling is always doing better than me? Is there anything I can change to help our relationship, or the relationship with my parents?"
If you can relate to the tension between loving your sibling and wishing your parents were as affirming to you as they were to your brother or sister, I hope these suggestions can help you work through things and gain peace of mind.
Think About Why You Feel Your Sibling is "Better"
When you say or think your sibling "always does better" than you, what does that mean?
- Does it mean your sibling makes better grades, is better at sports or a hobby?
- Does it mean your parents are unkind to you, but that they treat your sibling differently?
- Or perhaps people are always complimenting their personality or appearance, while you don't notice people complimenting you as much?
Your answer to these questions can point to how to deal with feeling like your sibling is better than you. Sometimes, what your parents' value is different from what you think is important. That can lead to feeling like they don't care about or value your interests as much, if your sibling achieves something they value, or pursues something they have a greater interest in.
If that's the case, then you're not doing anything wrong, and you can work on changing your perspective, so you don't feel so much pressure to pursue the same things, or have the same strengths, as your sibling.
Recognize Toxic Behavior for What it Is
Many sibling relationships are very supportive in spite of their differences, and I hope that's the case for you. However, sometimes toxic relationships spring up in our family, and cause the family pressures we feel from day to day.
I'm truly sorry if you've been harassed by your parents about mistakes, failures, or things you're not as good at as your sibling. And if your sibling has been cruel to you, or your parents are unkind, I'm pained for you. But I hope you are encouraged by these truths:
- Their toxic behavior is not your fault. It is a reflection of what is missing from their life, not yours.
- There are many friendships and family relationships that are healthy and happy. You are not obligated to confide in people who mistreat you, no matter what their relationship to you is.
- If you've been harmed by a parent or sibling relationship, focus your time and energy on friendships and family relationships that are more nourishing and affirming to you.
Find and Focus on Your Strengths
It may be that your sibling's strengths seem more prominent to you, but you likely have strengths that they don't have. It can be gratifying to release the pressure of perfectionism (which no one can achieve anyway!) to focus on what you already enjoy and are good at. If you think that would make you feel happy and more fulfilled, try exploring those interests and sharing them with others.
Maybe you're good at playing music, while your sibling is good at sports, You can spend time playing and performing music for your family. Or, if you don't feel your family is as supportive as you'd like them to be, you can share video and audio clips with friends and family who are supportive of your pursuits.
If you don't know what your strengths are, it makes sense that you would feel the tension between you and your sibling, if their strengths are more at the forefront.
Do you need help knowing what your strengths are? You can ask a trusted friend, family member, or mentor who knows you well. You can take a personality assessment or strengths-finder test. There are lots of ways to search for your strengths and trying new things can be a fun way to shift your mind away from the pressure to be perfect and help you focus on having fun and enjoying life.
Think About Your Purpose
As you explore your strengths, it might get you thinking about bigger questions:
- What is my purpose?
- Why am I interested in what I'm pursuing?
- How do I see myself growing and changing over time?
- Where do I hope to be 5 years from now?
Thinking about your purpose can be exciting, especially when you think about how you were created with a unique purpose that only you can fulfill in the world. If it helps to think about God, I hope you remember He loves you and has great hopes and plans for your life. Your life can be full of joy, hope, and potential, and the struggles and tensions you're facing won't last forever.
Help Others When You Can
Helping others and encouraging friends is a great way to step back from family pressures and look outward. What are some ways you can give back to others that are unique to your interests?
- Love animals? You can volunteer at a shelter or your local humane association.
- Good writer? Send a letter to a friend, or a card to someone in the hospital.
- Good cook? Share a meal you made with someone who is overwhelmed or not feeling well.
If you don't feel comfortable talking to family yet, you can talk to a HopeCoach here at TheHopeLine. They're trained to offer mentoring and advice about things like sibling rivalry, tough family relationships, and the pressure to be perfect. They can help you get to the bottom of your feelings, and start working toward a healthier, kinder view of yourself and your accomplishments. Talk to a HopeCoach today about the family pressures you feel. We're here to help and ready to listen.
Serving others is a hopeful, joyful way to live according to your strengths and your purpose. And the sense of satisfaction you get from acts of service can help you feel more confident and at peace in your relationships with your family and your siblings.
Talk Through It
Talking through relationships can often help us work through tension if we feel like the relationship is otherwise happy and supportive. For example, you could tell your sibling, "Sometimes I feel like mom and dad make a bigger deal out of things you accomplish. Does it seem that way to you, or am I missing something?"
Or you could let your parents know you need support by saying something like "Hey, mom and dad. I've been feeling like you focus on my brother/sister's achievements more. Can we talk more about my interests? I could really use some encouragement right now." Sometimes just putting words to your feelings and your need for support can make a big difference.
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