How to Avoid Being the Worst Sister of the Year
“I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” ~Maya Angelou
I recently celebrated a birthday, and with each passing year, my hope is that I squeeze out all the value from my failures and use them to make me into the kind of person that the people in my life would want to be around. I noticed a greater shift in the need to change myself rather than the need to change the world. I figured if I don’t “pollute” the world with negativity, hate, violence and indifference, then I am closer to changing it.
On this birthday, I thought over the generous praises from my siblings and felt undeserving. I haven’t given much thought about what it means to be someone’s sister. I have not sat down and ask myself, “How do I become a good sister?” as seriously as I have of, “How do I become a great leader?” Or with other relationships, “How do I become a better girlfriend/wife?”
But the role of sister is no less important. (This applies to being someone’s brother as well). In fact, I can think of no greater privilege. It carries with it an awesome sense of responsibility but also joy and wonderment.
To talk about all the benefits of having a close relationship with your siblings deserves its own post. This post is for those of us who has a creeping thought that we may not win the award for “Best Sister in the World.”
I don’t know how to go about winning that particular honor but I have a few ideas on what to avoid, since in the interest of full disclosure, I have committed all the following sins.
How to Avoid Being the Worst Sister (or Brother) of the Year
Stop carrying an outdated version of who they are. I’m often amused when I meet parents who whip out a photo of their cute freckled-face kid, and to quickly learn that the toddler in the picture is now 28. Are you as guilty as these parents? Do you still carry around an outdated version of your siblings? Are you still mad at them for setting your Barbie’s hair on fire when they were five? Do you still see them as selfish and vengeful even though throughout the years they bailed you out of bad dates, bad hair (really, a perm?) and other bad choices? If your answer is yes, it’s time to update your mental photo album.
Stop feeling entitled to their respect. If you’re the oldest of your siblings, do you think it puts you in the special category of gaining automatic respect? If you are the type of person who believes that respect must be earned, then this makes no sense. If you want to earn your sibling’s respect, you must do things with your life that’s worth respecting. Or be the person of strong character whom they can admire.
Stop feeling entitled to their loyalty and love. Often times, siblings do things out of familial obligation and guilt. Especially when you forced their hand, like showing up on their doorstep and asking to crash at their place for the night and ending up staying for a month. They may take you in, but not necessarily out of loyalty or love. Wouldn’t you rather that someone does things for you out of love than obligation?
Quit forcing your values on them. Because we grow up in the same household, there is a certain level of expectation to have our siblings see the world the same way we do. When we discover that they do not, we are left hurt, angry and disappointed.
Perhaps you started out with shared values, but in the process of becoming the person they are now, your siblings had to discard hand-me-down values that no longer fit them. You must then decide if you can respect your differences.
Quit holding onto your expectations. The things that kept us from being close to our siblings really do boil down to our expectations. It is our expectations (generally unspoken and most times unrealistic) that cause hurt feelings and kept us from connecting with the very people who are most important to us, our family.