5 Tips to step out of your sibling’s shadow

March_12So, how do you blaze your own trail when your brother or sister has gone before you? Check out the following tips:

1. Pursue your own interests.

Jeremy’s older brother was the quarterback for his high school football team and led them through two winning seasons. So, when Jeremy came in as a freshman, the coach repeatedly approached him about playing for the team. But Jeremy wasn’t remotely interested in sports. He had played in middle school and really didn’t enjoy it. Rather than give into the coach’s requests to join the team, Jeremy explained that football just wasn’t his thing. Not having practice for sports freed him up to join the debate team, where he excelled. Soon, he was making his own mark.
Instead of trying to make yourself into version 2.0 of your sibling, figure out what interests you and invest your time and effort there.

2. Focus on your strengths.

Sarah always dreaded the first day of school in math class. The minute her teacher figured out she was related to her older sister, the teacher would make a comment like, “Your sister was one of my favorites! I’m looking forward to having another A student!” The problem? Sarah struggled in math and felt resentful that things had come so easily for her sister. But, during her sophomore year of high school, Sarah discovered a passion for writing and started to focus on that instead. Focusing on her strength helped her to feel better about herself, even in the classes where she wasn’t as successful as her sister.
Don’t beat yourself up for not being as good at something as your sibling. You’re each unique—and that’s a good thing!

3. Think outside the box.

Troy’s older sister was really involved in the drama program at his school, and she’d gotten the lead in the school play several times. She was also really outgoing and had a lot of friends. But Troy was fairly shy and always felt like his parents expected him to have a different personality, that they wanted him to be more like his more outgoing sister. They worried when he would hang out with the same friend every weekend or turn down an invitation to a party. Then, during his junior year, Troy found a job at a comic book shop, where he made friends with similar interests. When his parents recognized that he was content, they backed off.
We’re not all wired the same way. Your siblings may be extroverts who thrive on crowds of people and lots of friends, while you’re an introvert who cherishes a few, deep friendships with people who really get you. Instead of hating your differences, learn to celebrate them!

4. Let go of bitterness.

Jason’s brother never liked to play by the rules. In high school, he constantly got into trouble and barely graduated. That legacy left a long shadow. Jason always felt like teachers would blame things on him in class because they expected him to behave like his brother. This caused him to grow bitter and angry. One of Jason’s friends noticed Jason’s anger and encouraged Jason to forgive his brother and let it go. Once Jason did, his whole mood and attitude changed. He also politely told his teachers about how their assumptions made him feel. Once they were aware of his experience, they adjusted their expectations of him. It’s hard to live in a sibling’s shadow, especially when he or she didn’t have a very good reputation. The easiest thing to do would be to hold on to those bitter feelings and let them define who you are. But as a Christian, bitterness shouldn’t be one of your defining characteristics. Learn to forgive and focus your worth on who you are in Christ.

5. Identify what’s really important.

Stacy’s sister was a cheerleader who won homecoming queen and was voted most attractive in senior superlatives. Stacy envied her and would constantly compare herself to her. But the summer before her junior year, Stacy went on a mission trip to an orphanage in Honduras. The children there were so full of joy, even in the midst of poverty. Suddenly popularity and social status seemed less important to Stacy. That fall, Stacy started a service club at her school; she had replaced her priorities with something more meaningful. If you spend all your time trying to outshine your sibling, it may be time to realign your values. Jealousy and constant comparison are not the way God has called you to live. Focus your purpose and your worth in Christ, then let Him define what’s really important. And don’t be surprised if your priorities shift!
It can be hard to follow in the footsteps of an older sibling. Sometimes the expectations can be overwhelming, but try to enjoy your differences. Ultimately, God is the one writing your story, and it’s yours alone—no one else’s.

This article was written for the March 2013 issue of ec by Gretchen Williams. Get your subscription here: .

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