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In the shadow of my sister.

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Laura asks:

I feel like I'm always in my sisters shadow, and it's driving me nuts! I'm really happy the way I am, and I wouldn't change it, but whenever I'm around people I know, and she's there, I'm always second best. When I mean "people I know" it goes down to friends, boys, everyone who we're acquainted with! I know VERY well that I don't need a boy, but it feels nice to have attention sometimes. Maybe it's because me and my sister are very close in everything we do.

My sister also is a very thin individual, and weighs less than me, even if she is older and taller. I sometimes feel some pressure from her and my friends because I am more careful of what I eat. I am very curvy (it's my body type), and the rest of the people I know are very thin. Their constant nagging drives me crazy, and beside them I feel like a big lumbering pig, even if I am the average weight for an adult my height. I am very happy with my weight and body/breast size, but this is really getting annoying. Thanks for listening.

Heather Corinna replies:

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Smart words from a smart lady, and one who certainly also didn't fit the beauty ideals nor a lot of people's ideas about how women should be in her day.

Of course it feels nice to have some attention sometimes: that's just human on your part. And of course, when how you look isn't as close to a given beauty ideal your sister might meet, it's going to be a bit tough.

But you know, beauty ideals change constantly. The older you get, the more you'll watch that. Fifty years ago, those ideals were all about big curves. Twenty years ago, it was about muscles. Right now, it's about being thin. Those ideals have about as much relevance and staying power as the height of fashionable hemlines. Maybe some of the folks you're talking about aren't wise enough to know that, but you can be. How beautiful you are doesn't change based on what's fashionable at a given time, nor does in change in comparison to someone else.

You're not second best, and I'd encourage you to really feel that and do your level best to make it something real that you just plain know. Goony as it may sound, if you don't really feel that and don't really project that, people are going to pick up on the subtle signals you send which speak to how you feel about yourself, and incorporate those into how they see you. If you know, without a doubt, that you're just as fabulous -- albeit differently -- as your sister, you'll find that others are going to be in agreement with you.

Do you already eat healthfully? If so, then stop having what and how you eat influenced by other people. being able to eat well is a marvelous luxury, and controlling how we eat not for our health, but out of insecurity or anxiety isn't healthy physically or emotionally. You don't want to have to deal with crawling out of disordered eating in your life: that's a challenge nobody needs.

Are they really nagging you? Then you need to gather up some gumption and tell them to cut it out, pronto. Stand up for yourself, gal. There you are with some marvelous curves of your body, so how about integrating them into your personality? Be bodacious in your mind as well as your body. If you can find it in yourself to be assertive and tell the naggers to bug off, they're likely to do just that. Again, letting people make you feel this way is something you do have some control over, and you want to be sure you project, loud and clear, that you're nobody's whipping girl. heck, for all you know, some of that nagging is coming from a place of their insecurities about you: when people diss on other people's bodies, that is usually where it's coming from.

Since you say you and your sister are close, you might even want to have a heartfelt conversation with her about all of this. Let her know you're feeling pressure from her and that it's really getting you down. Let her know you'd like to enjoy your differences rather than resent them. You might even ask for a little distance in your social lives if it's feeling claustrophobic to you.

Also know that it can be a lot tougher to be sister in adolescence than it can be later in life. As you both get older, your lives and social lives will be less connected. You'll have your own thing, she'll have hers, and you'll both be compared to one another a lot less often. You'll likely be able to better appreciate your differences, rather than having them be painful. By all means, you can forge some of that independence now, too: get involved in some things that are just for you, just about what you enjoy and are talented in and inspired by. Take steps towards that independent life now by throwing in a curve ball.

Start asking yourself: what would Eleanor do?

Here are a couple links to help cheer you on further:

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