The Younger Sibling Disposition

Me (age 2, left) and my sister (age 4, right) sitting in my crib -- she threw all my toys in to try to cheer me up. (Photo courtesy of Ellie Bruno)
(From left to right) My mom, myself and my sister sitting on a playset at the house we used to live in. (Photo courtesy of Ellie Bruno)

My older sister graduated from Leesville with the class of ‘18 — the same year I started my freshman year here. Both of us were in the Leesville Road school system since elementary school which had its positives and negatives that sprouted up over the years. 

The two of us took very different paths from an early age; she had a knack for swimming while I seemed to flop like a drowning fish. Luckily both of us hated dance, so there was no pressure for me to continue, but when I made the choice to stop swimming I felt as if I had failed my family somehow. 

We had split to completely different sports at that point — with her thriving in the water and me left on land to make a name for myself. To this day, my mom occasionally looks at me and sighs, saying she wished I was a swimmer, insisting that my big shoulders were perfect for butterfly. I hated that stroke, but it’s my sister’s favorite.

 This weight followed me into school. I had always felt as if I needed to  compare my grades and my performance to hers, even though there was no competition. I  was fighting a war against myself that only I could see. Sibling rivalries are bound to happen at some point, but in my case my mind took it farther than it should’ve gone. 

The biggest anxiety that followed me in school was shared teachers. With every teacher that recognized my last name my mind would crash. That meant there were expectations associated with her that I had to fulfill, even though we are two entirely different people with two entirely different mindsets. In her final year here at Leesville, she was the president of two clubs and in a strong honors society. I remember one day during officer elections in one of the clubs, she kept urging me to put myself in the race, but I refused. I couldn’t bring myself to try to even begin to fill her shoes, so I sat back and watched.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my sister and miss her every day as she thrives in college; this mindset isn’t because of my sister or even my parents but instead a biological phenomenon that’s more common than many think. 

Studies have shown that first-born siblings score higher on tests measuring self-esteem. A test conducted by Falbo — a renowned psychologist who conducted this test in 1981 — showed that out of 841 male and 944 female students, the first-borns showed higher signs of positive self-esteem and competitive behaviors compared to their younger siblings. 

Other psychologists have also conducted tests similar to Falbo’s and came up with the same results:The oldest have the most self-esteem while the younger siblings have an uphill battle to feel as though they have a place. 

So what does this mean for younger siblings in our school community? It means you aren’t alone. I know that when I struggled — and still do at times — that I felt alone because it seemed like other younger siblings didn’t understand what I was feeling. I wish I had known about the science and the numbers behind this phenomena before-hand, but now that I do I want to share with anyone else who feels like they have to compare to their siblings. You don’t. Truly, you will be able to push past this biological barrier and succeed in your own way; you will be able to break the mold that destiny seemed to lay out for you. Your siblings are here to support you through life, not grind you to the ground. 



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