What Growing Up With An Overachieving Sibling Has Been Like For Me

Posted on July 4, 2016 in My Story

By Sakshi Srivastava:

Siblings! The bane and boon of every kid’s existence. Their keepers, their nemesis, their first friends. So many roles. Such a profound bond. A relationship that cannot be explained in a few syllables or a handful of sentences.

While growing up, I had the stereotypical relationship with my elder brother. Never had a proper civil conversation without any kind of banter. Playful insults, blackmailing through secrets are all a part of a healthy sibling bond. Being an elder brother he had to bear the brunt of being responsible and most of the time, I was let off easily. We navigated the waters of our relationship pulling, pushing, supporting each other. Our parents taught us to be protectors of each other.

But, what always soured the relationship to a little extent was the blatant comparison between the two of us; he the overachiever, I the underdog. Always asked to look up to him, take him as a role model. He was good in academics, good at extra-curricular activities and most of all an extrovert. I was the reserved nerd who seemingly had no other interests out of the world of books. Never participated in any activity, wasn’t outspoken at all. He made friends everywhere, I hardly had a few. He was the school prefect, I was barely existent. He was the mature and responsible kid who never talked back. I was known as the bratty temperamental kid prone to caprice. The rebel. It was intolerable for the society to see those traits in a girl. It put me in a very difficult and emotional situation. Always having to prove myself in front of everyone only to be brushed off in the blinding light of my brother’s achievements. Everyone around me just assumed that because my course of life isn’t the same, I would end up only moderately successful.

Wherever I used to go, whether a social event or a family function, all I got to hear was how my brother excelled. As I would sit alone in a corner, a well-meaning aunt or uncle would come and ask in an overly concerned tone, “You should come out and talk to others more, dear. Do you need help? Look at your brother. He has struggled so much. Your parents are so proud of him. Don’t you want to be the same?” I feigned interest in their words while they made an inventory of his successes and poked at me at the same time. Had I not been bound by familial obligations, I might have given them a befitting reply.

Most people would refer to me as, “Aren’t you [insert sibling name]’s sister? Must feel really good, huh? What have you learnt from him?” As if I was an inanimate object or his property with no identity of my own. People tried to befriend me in order to know him. When I politely refused they called me rude and jealous. Hushed whispers, taunts and sugar-coated disdain never failed to remind me that my life was supposed to be a replica of his.

Mediocrity is so under-rated in a society that literally worships dominance through actions. Quiet is weak. Everyone wants their kid to have an innate flair for every single thing and still be good in academics. Everyone thinks that the other is imperfect even when the definition of perfection is vastly different for each. If one kid in a family is ‘good’, then all expect his/her siblings to follow in their footsteps. No room for choice and consent. So many kids succumb to this pressure and become what they were never meant to be. I have seen so many of my friends studying engineering or medicine or management just because their elder or younger brother is in the same line. They are struggling with their course, with themselves every single day. They bury themselves in machines and medicines when they want to travel and capture emotions through art. It is what is expected of them, not what they would want for themselves.

I have no qualms about being a mediocre kid. I know, maybe I haven’t seen his kinds of struggles or achieved anything of his stature, but that doesn’t mean I am a nobody. He might be a genius, a super geek but he can’t do things I can and vice-versa. For each code my brother writes, I give way to a new feeling on paper. Somehow people conveniently overlook this thing called individuality and expect me to be the same as him. Sometimes even parents tend to favouritise despite vehemently denying all such
allegations. Mine kept on saying that both of us are different but they never lowered their expectations of me. Whenever I did something on my own or even made a mistake, I was reminded that I had to meet the benchmarks set by my brother, be like him. If he studied 10 hours, I had to meet the same expectation. He took up science, so I had to do the same. He is allowed to make mistakes, me not so much. I remember being excited to show my English essay for which I had obtained an A, but the attention shifted from me to the shiny debate competition trophy my brother held. His failures were taken in stride, the true mark of a warrior; mine were a stain on my career, meant that I didn’t try enough. This pattern continued for most of my teenage life and even now. Not that I was never appreciated but with appreciation came
the dreaded comparison with him.

We often don’t realise what this does for the sibling whose talents are constantly undermined. How much pressure that puts on them.

For a long time, I was resentful and outright insecure, thinking that I would never be enough. My parents thought that I was envious of my brother’s success, but I wasn’t. I hated the behaviour of everyone around me that tried to guilt trip me into becoming something I could never relate to. I wanted to feel loved for what I was, not for what my brother was. We aren’t xerox copies. I wasn’t meant to be his shadow. I wouldn’t have a fancy job or travel around the world like him, but I would carve my own path where I would be happy. I also realised that some people stealthily try to take advantage by trying to exploit my insecurities and create a rift between us, but luckily I never let that happen. Nor did my brother. He made me realise that I was fine as I am. No need for the constant self-doubt or angst.

It is important to never lose your stance on things like these and appreciate what you are, your potential, the talents belong to you and not anyone else. You know how to make the most of them. I know that I don’t need anybody’s validation for what I am. There is not much I can do about the way this society functions, I would be subjected to such insensitive and illogical behaviour, but that doesn’t mean that I have to put up with it or even change. I just hope that people realise it too.

Featured image is a still from ‘Deewaar’. For representation only.