Susan says, “My mother is constantly putting me down and comparing me to my sister, the golden child. In almost every conversation, she brings up my failures.” Read more to find out what Licensed Therapist Josh Spurlock says about the damaging effects of when parents compare children to their siblings, and how to heal from comparison.
About the Author
Josh Spurlock, MA, LPC, CST is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Therapists with over 10,000 hours of clinical experience. Josh specializes in Marriage Counseling and Sex Therapy. You can schedule an appointment with Josh for online counseling.
(Transcript is generated by a software and may have discrepancies from the video.)
Welcome to MyCounselor Online. I’m Tori, and this is Asking for a Friend. In this video, we’re sitting down with Licensed Counselor Josh Spurlock to talk about the comparison that can often happen among siblings. Stay tuned.
Josh Spurlock on the Harmful Effects of When Parents Compare Children to Their Siblings
That’s a really difficult place to be; to feel like you don’t ever measure up, that you’re always in this point of comparison where you fall short, and somehow getting the message that you’re less valuable, or that you are less lovable than a sibling is super painful.
Tori on Sibling Comparison
In my own life, I’ve experienced comparison with being the oldest of six kids. There’s so many different people, personalities, skills and gifts. I don’t know if the role of being the oldest, middle, youngest child plays into it at all, but I definitely have seen that also. It is a really hard situation to be in.
Personality Differences & Sibling Comparison
Oftentimes there are personality differences between siblings. There are those typical personality differences with the firstborn, because they were the first on the scene and the first to have a relationship with the parents. They can have a sense of responsibility towards siblings, and the dynamics are a little bit different than middle and younger siblings experience. This could become the benchmark by which other kids are measured, in a way that can feel like other siblings are in their shadow.
It’s really painful if your individual nature, personality, and skills aren’t as valued as others in the family.
Talking to Your Parents About Being Compared to Your Siblings
Being able to come to your mom and to have a conversation around that can feel confrontational. There might be an implicit message to mom that, you know, you’re failing as a mom, or you’re failing me, or you’re not doing good enough.
Every parent hates to think that would be the case, and can create some defensiveness for us. Parents don’t always respond perfectly, because all parents are imperfect people. And so sometimes, our response to hearing those things can be less than ideal, in a way that can unintentionally discourage open dialogue about those things. It can also unintentionally send the message that maybe what you’re feeling doesn’t matter to me, or isn’t important to me.
Hopefully we’re able to have conversations that enable us to share our experience with a parent, without coming across as attacking, blaming, finger pointing, or saying, ‘You’re a terrible parent.’ These things can cause defensiveness and break down communication.
Instead, maybe we can give the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘You probably are not intending to make me feel this way, but when you say this, here’s how I experience it.’
Hopefully you mom is open to that.
How to Heal from Being Compared to Your Siblings
Is there any practical way for Susan to process how that could be impacting how she views her identity, if she feels like she wasn’t the golden child, or like she’s failing? What would you advise her to do to process through that, and ultimately, find her identity where it should be?
The Danger of Comparison
I would encourage her to recognize that comparison, whether it’s us comparing ourselves to others, or others comparing us to them, ultimately breaks down the ability to embrace the unique design that God has given us.
Embracing How God Made You
God has created us in His image and likeness, and with a unique personality, thumbprint, skills, gifting, and a unique purpose in His kingdom that we are shaped for. We need to recognize that, even if others don’t see it.
Our Creator sees us, and we’re precious in His sight. He’s designed us with a unique purpose. We’re valuable and precious to Him.
Even if the primary people in our life, like our parents, aren’t able to see that, it doesn’t change the reality of it. There are going to be people who are able to see that in you, and see the value of that and affirm that. I would encourage you to seek out those individuals, and try to find those people within the body that God would want to use as a conduit of grace into your life and situation, and who would maybe be a partner with you in both encouraging you, affirming you, and being a sounding board for you. Maybe they can also help to facilitate some dialogue between you and your parents, and your mom specifically, about what it is that you’re experiencing in a way that maybe could help that conversation go better.
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