When entering a classroom or joining a sports team for the first time, some kids feel that no matter how good or how bad they perform, they are always living in the shadow of an elder sibling. This unyielding pressure is wrong in so many ways.
From the moment we enter the world, we are rendered unique from everyone else in the universe. We have strengths, weaknesses, passions, interests, and preferences that are completely separate from those around us… even our older siblings.
My brother, who is an eighth-grader this school year, has most of the same teachers I had two years ago Those teachers were some of my favorites ever, and they know that. They appreciated my work ethic and love for learning, both of which are still prevalent today.
My brother, however, doesn’t appreciate following in my footsteps… which I completely understand. At meet-the-teacher day — not even the first day of school — most of these teachers recognized my parents and talked about how excited they were to teach the brother of Jenny. They didn’t say, “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m excited to be able to teach YOU this year.”
Instead, they decided to compare, as if my brother had to be just like me “or else.” Even now, my brother tells me when he is assigned a project at school, teachers will ask “Are you going to make yours as good as your sister’s project was?” My brother responds with a laugh and a playful “No.” But he then worries. He worries about living up to his teacher’s expectations.
The teachers who say these things might think it’s all just a joke; they say they don’t really mean anything by these side comments. What they don’t realize is these repetitive comments begin to diminish my brother’s confidence and add unnecessary stress to his day.
Some people think that these comments should turn negative energy into positive energy and fuel a student to work harder. But more often than not, this causes indifference and unhealthy competition with an older sibling.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison causes one person to seem better than the other, and conversely, to make the second person seem less valuable and less worthy.
When coaches and teachers do this to students/players, it is easy to understand why many feel they are living in another’s shadow. And while I know it isn’t my fault, I still feel terrible that my brother feels he isn’t seen as an individual, but instead as a sibling.
There are so many amazing things that make my brother who he is—his interest in science, his love for mountain biking, his kindness towards his friends, and all of the things that make him who he is. None of these things have to do with me or what I did or didn’t do.
This unhealthy pressure that superiors implicitly impose upon younger siblings contributes to self-esteem issues and problems with interpersonal relationships. We must celebrate our individual strengths and weaknesses. No two people are alike, so they shouldn’t be compared.