Straight Talk: How to shine through popular sibling's shadow

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: I love my little sister but I hate being around her. We are complete opposites and she has everything I have — plus looks, friends, and sports and musical talent. (Even the songs we bought on iTunes were on her account!) When we hang out as a family, I often feel outclassed and inferior, and her sassy attitude doesn’t help. It seems I’m always odd-man-out because I “don’t make sense” or am “just plain wrong.” She doesn’t mean to hurt me and she’s even told me that. But I’m sick of standing in her shadow. Please don’t tell me to seek out people with similar interests or see a counselor. I’m doing both and it’s not working. I’m at the end of my rope and need help before our relationship really falls apart! ~ Los Angeles Ashley, 23, Auburn: What are YOU good at? Focus on your talents and you’ll never feel out of place. Also, look at yourself through others’ eyes: Nobody is thinking you are inferior! Everybody in high school worries about how others see them. Matt, 16, Villa Park: Maybe you could try to actually be her friend. You may teach each other things based on opposing strengths and weaknesses. It sounds like you have been beaten down, not by your sister, but by yourself. By feeling better about yourself, you might actually like your sister. Lennon, 24, Fair Oaks: I had a similar dilemma. During high school, my brother was stronger, more charismatic, more popular, and more “right.” He was good at seemingly everything without trying. I’m not sure how I kept my ego in check because it can be darn hard to admit when someone is naturally better than you at things — especially when that person is two years younger. Two things helped. First, I started finding what I was good at: namely thinking, observing, writing, acting, and sports (though he was more physically fit). I found niches. Second, though jealous of his popularity, I realized that I’d hate his lifestyle if I copied it. Ask yourself, do you really want what your sister has? If so, use her as your role model. But either way, stop resenting her. My brother really was more mature, confident, and upbeat than I. But he never put me down — I did that myself. So, I became allies with him and relied on him for the things he was better at. I became proud to be related to him. Katelyn, 16, Huntington Beach: LOL, this could be me! My sister and I are complete opposites, too. She is blonde with piercing hazel eyes. I’ve got coarse flat hair and wear glasses. She likes fashion, I like slapping on stuff. She doesn’t relate to politics or the books I read and tries to get me to read her books. When I crack a joke, she’ll say, “That’s not funny.” She prefers her friends over me and never cares if I’m around or not. I reach out but we only connect when I’m the last person that will listen to her. Bottom line: She’s not that much fun to be around. That’s why I advise you to do what I do: treasure the good moments and avoid her the rest of the time by concentrating on your own friends. Dear Los Angeles: It takes a big person to thrive in the shadow of a popular sibling. And really, the shadow you experience is your ego. Once you tame the ego (as Lennon models), there won’t be a shadow. After that, whether you become allies with your sister is another matter. If she is kind-hearted toward you (even while full of herself), I recommend it. If she is not, follow Katelyn’s solution and shine your light elsewhere. For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit or write POB 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628. ___________ More from Lauren Forcella The thing not written here about Lennon’s younger brother is that he was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was 18. I am taking the liberty to include it because he and Lennon are my sons. As they grew up, I marveled at Lennon’s ability to keep his ego out of the way and be friends with Jarrad, even as Jarrad stole the show in just about everything. It was interesting to hear Lennon describe how he did it and I hope others can learn from it. One thing I know for sure is how tragic it would have been had Lennon decided instead to feel inferior and let a bruised ego build a resentment between them. We truly never know how short life will be and there’s really never enough time to live like that. It may not be obvious to teenagers, but to mature adults looking in, a sibling who manages his ego like Lennon did, rejecting the whole “inferiority” thing as false, is just as stellar as the sibling in the limelight — if not more so. It takes tremendous self-esteem and generosity of spirit to do this, and these qualities shine as brightly as any talent or charisma. It’s similar to the kids who sit the bench on a sports team. What they must learn to tame the ego is as valuable as what the stars of the team learn.