The battle of the siblings

Sibling rivalry and competition is very common, but how healthy really is it? We hear expert advice on the consequences, alongside how to shift our focus onto ourselves.

Whether you love them or hate them, you’re bound to your siblings forever. And before either of you flies the nest, you’re also stuck in the same four walls. You share your parents, your belongings and even your DNA, but usually remain divided in your personality and achievements. So, when we’re left watching a sibling make great achievements and receive praise from mum and dad, how can we tame the jealousy and comparison?

It’s completely normal and common to compare yourself to your brothers and sisters. According to a ‘Study Finds’ article, 1 in 2 adults still argue and compete with their siblings, demonstrating it isn’t just a thing of immaturity. Is it an ongoing fight for parental approval? Or a battle for who inherited the most successful gene? Each situation is likely to be different, but the feeling of failure when you don’t match their grades, career level or ability to drive is very real.

Therapist and mental health expert, Kristie Tse, explained that having a successful sibling can impact your confidence and self-esteem in various ways. “On one hand, it can serve as inspiration and motivation. However, it can also create feelings of inadequacy or pressure to live up to the same level of success.

“Constant comparison can lead to self-doubt and a diminished sense of accomplishment in one’s achievements. Younger siblings, in particular, may feel pressure to follow in the older one’s footsteps, which can drive a sense of competition.”

Kristie has been in a comparative sibling relationship herself and emphasises that we shouldn’t be expected to achieve the same thing. “Each individual has their own unique strengths, interests and goals. Success is subjective and can be defined in various ways beyond traditional measures.

“Expecting to achieve identical milestones as your sibling overlooks your individuality and can undermine your personal growth and happiness. This can also lead to a wide range of issues, such as rivalry, strained relationships, low self esteem and mental health issues.”

Although it’s clearly unhealthy and unnecessary, it can be hard to snap out of. With parents often gloating and boasting about what you and your siblings have achieved, it may feel like this is the only thing that matters. Kristie recommends focussing on your own strengths, passions and goals to recognise that each sibling’s journey is unique, and that success is different for everyone.

“Set realistic, attainable goals based on personal interests and values, rather than trying to live up to external expectations. Practice self-compassion and celebrate your own achievements, no matter how big or small. Also communicate openly with your sibling about your feelings and strive to support each other’s individual paths to success.”

A sibling relationship can be beautiful, so let’s not taint that with jealousy and rivalry. Despite sharing a lot with them, we should recognise our differences when it comes to values, goals and achievements. Let’s be their cheerleader, not the person who preys on their downfall for the sake of our self-esteem.

Expert insight: Kristie Tse

Kristie is the founder of ‘Uncover Mental Health Counselling’ and aims to empower others by prioritising their well-being and advocating for their needs. She is a therapist and guides high achievers to break away from ‘hustle culture’ and find balance within their lives.