I hope that you can be of help. Lately, I have been feeling very low. Since being a child, I have always been compared to my elder brother. In the eyes of my parents, he has always been the smart one, the best at sports and the most confident. My father in particular has always voiced his pride of my sibling during family gatherings.
I on the other hand, have always been the failure and made to feel like a constant source of disappointment. I have never felt good enough in their eyes. Despite being older and well into my twenties, this is still the case. As a result, my brother and I still share a relationship that is highly competitive and strained. I find it increasingly difficult to be around my parents and as such, I have avoided numerous occasions this year.
Over recent years, I have struggled with my confidence. I worry that things between my family and I will never change. What can I do to feel stronger within myself? Is it better to separate from my family altogether?
Sibling rivalry can be a common experience during childhood. In itself, it can be a direct source of low confidence and damaged self-worth. The relationship that we share with our parents is also a significant contender with regard to how we value, or indeed fail to value, ourselves. It is an incredibly challenging process to even begin to confront the issues and hard feelings that have resulted as a consequence of fraught bonds with siblings or parents, especially if your transition into adulthood has not shifted this dynamic.
Whilst it is unfortunate that your role within the family feels stagnated, you do have the power to change it. Letting go of the past is the first step to recovering from any emotional impact that lingers from your childhood years. It may be that you wish to take the direct approach and be open about how the actions of your brother and parents have affected you and continue to do so. Speaking candidly about how low you feel as a result of their behaviour may illuminate to them that their conduct needs to change. That said, be mindful that the functioning of a family system is complex and challenging to alter, chiefly if it is only one sibling that is suffering within it.
An important thing to remember is that now that you are an adult, you harbour much more control as to how you manage any negative feelings that have arisen from the actions of your family members. Cultivating a strong awareness as to how their behaviours have impacted the way in which you see yourself is paramount, for how you see yourself is everything. Use this moment in your life to re-shape your perception of self. Prioritise you at this time until you begin to feel stronger. Remind yourself whenever you feel low and impacted with a sense of failure or disappointment, that these feelings do not apply to you, nor define you as a person. If this proves too difficult on your own, therapy can support you through this journey. Depression is often a direct result of impaired self-worth, so do be mindful as to how low you are feeling Etienne and do not hesitate to seek support from a medical professional should you feel the need to.
Only you can determine whether the connection that you share with your family is toxic to your health. It may be worthwhile to maintain your distance for the short term whilst you build upon your inner confidence and self-worth. However, walking away completely is a huge decision. It is possible that the relationship that you share with your family can be re-established on your terms over time. For the moment, compromising by attending fifty percent of family gatherings is an effective way of maintaining a connection with your family members whilst also setting a positive boundary that allows you a sense of control. No longer permitting the negative comments or attitudes of your family members to pass by without acknowledgement is another means of self-protection. The point being, you have an opportunity here to gently enforce changes that shield yourself from any further emotional damage moving forwards.
Regardless of how your family respond Etienne, remain focused on your own well-being, for that is your ultimate goal.
Wishing you strength,
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