Lynn Saladino, PsyD, talks sibling competition and how to bow out.

By Lynn Saladino
January 17, 2019

My sister and I have always been competitive with each other, and it really takes a toll on me. How can I bow out of the cycle?

Siblings—they're the opponents who never go away. Competition between sisters often starts early and can last a lifetime. If she frequently received praise when you were kids, you worked even harder to grab the spotlight. If you were accustomed to being number one, you made sure your status was secure.

Breaking this cycle is a worthwhile goal, but be forewarned, it can be challenging. Start by taking a hard look at your reasons for competing with her. Sometimes it's just habitual. Other times it's a deeper feeling that you're "less than."

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If that's the case, identify the areas of your life where you feel inferior to your sister and assess which are actually important to you. Say you're saving to upgrade to a new home, for example. Is it because your family needs more space—or do you simply want to one-up Sis? If your motivation has more to do with her than anything else, gently acknowledge that, and move on to goals that are better suited to you.

The bottom line: Sometimes we instinctively want to follow in our sibling's footsteps, but it's important to make sure your focus is aligned with who you are, not who she is. For instance, maybe she's a naturally good gift giver and always picks out the perfect holiday presents, while you are a financial whiz and help your mom and dad do their taxes every spring. By acknowledging and accepting your different strengths, you'll begin to see your sister as her own person rather than a better or worse version of yourself.

Lynn Saladino, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist in New York City specializing in weight management, relationships, and life transitions.

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