DEAR HARRIETTE: I have an older brother who is only two years older than I am. Ever since we were kids, I feel as if I have followed in his footsteps and lived in his shadow. Throughout school, whenever we had the same teachers, they would constantly compare us and ask if I was his younger sister. Although my parents never specifically said this, they have always expected me to be just like him. Sometimes this pressure motivated me to strive and be my best, but most times I felt as if I were the inferior child. How should I go about trying to be my own person and not be compared to my brother? -- In the Shadows, Syracuse, New York
DEAR IN THE SHADOWS: I have a sister who is two years older than I am, and I remember as a child competing with her in just about everything -- usually losing miserably and feeling frustrated. Never mind the fact that she rarely stoked the flames of my competition, at least not to the extent that I felt them. But there was always some challenge up until I moved away.
As adults we get along fine, although we have had to work through some issues over the years, as many families do. From my personal perspective, I can strongly recommend that whenever you can, make choices that put you in a unique environment where your brother has not yet traveled. That could mean going to a different college or choosing a career path that interests you rather than following in his footsteps. Take time to meditate on you: What do you want in life, independent of anyone else? What makes you happy? Figure these things out, and then plot a life course based on YOU. Then, amazingly, it will be easier for you to be around your brother without feeling anything but familial love.