Category Archives: Sibling Rivalry

The Social Media Trap


Stuck in a long line, I whip out my phone to refresh Instagram, waiting for the all too staged “candids” to pop up on my feed that I know took half an hour to edit, filter, and craft. I am no innocent bystander to this societal norm. Every double-tap is a confirmation that my life is one worth living. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat: pick your poison. No one can escape this constant, almost impulsive desire to be seen or heard, the instant gratification of approval and acceptance captured in a little blue thumb. I don’t think this is what they meant when they said to “live your life out loud.”

I struggled enormously with different insecurities throughout my life. I have two sisters, and I am truly grateful that our relationships have only strengthened with time. But in middle school when I was chubby, had acne and braces, wore bifocal glasses, and had frizzy hair, compared to my gorgeous sister who was a cheerleader, it was difficult to look in the mirror and not wish I were someone else. Oh, and I was also in a marching band. I mean, come on! But in all seriousness, I had a tough time accepting how I looked, and much of my difficulty stemmed from my destructive tendency to compare myself to my sister, and to those around me. My self acceptance was linked to the approval of my sister. I can now look back and understand that I had an unhealthy relationship with myself throughout my adolescence because I was so consumed by what other people thought of me. I’m nowhere near perfect, and I still catch myself comparing myself to my sister sometimes, but when I find myself caught up in that, I remind myself of how different we are, that I cannot expect myself to be like her. Without those embarrassingly awkward years to figure myself out, much of who I am now would be lost. I probably wouldn’t be studying psychology, or living in a different country, or writing this.

Social media makes it almost impossible to remove yourself from the toxic trap of comparison. The “mindless” scrolling we engage in silently reinforces the belief that we are not enough as we are. We aren’t tan enough, skinny enough, fit enough. Our lives aren’t exciting enough, or bright enough, or good enough. But for who? At the end of the day, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. Are you happy with your body? Do you think you could be having more fun? Is this the life you want to live? Those same people we envy also struggle with insecurities, and their lives are probably not all beaches and sunshine, and candids in the sand. My gorgeous cheerleader sister also struggled with her own personal insecurities. The personas we present online are rarely ever the full picture of who we are. Social media wouldn’t be nearly as popular if people showed the true versions of themselves: the heartbreak and the pain, the insecurities and confusion.

So next time you’re standing in line, scrolling through Instagram, and you see that picture of your acquaintance from high school looking all cute at the beach, remind yourself: that person’s life extends way beyond that silly picture. They are human, and probably compare themselves to others, just like you. We won’t ever know the entirety of someone’s life history, their struggles and failures, from a post on social media. But we carry our own personal history with us, and this is the one that matters. Be your own benchmark. Compare yourself to yourself. Be better than you were yesterday. You are the only person on this planet that can make an accurate judgment of how “good” your life is. So make it the best you can, not for the likes, or the followers, not for the insecure middle school you who has something to prove. But for the you in the mirror today.

By: Talia Main

Talia is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue her education in psychology following graduation. She is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health through her writing and education.

Mom! He Hit Me!

Sibling fights are right up there on the list of parental pet peeves. It can be annoying to hear your kids fighting in another room, and it can be agonizing to hear how they treat each other. I remember reading somewhere that research shows that siblings between the ages of 6-12 years fight on average every 10-20 minutes. Eek. If there is a silver lining to this research, though, it is the awareness that it’s not just your kids – all parents know this struggle!

If we think about the goals of misbehavior and why kids do what they do, fighting between siblings pretty much always falls into the “attention” category.  Who can ignore WWIII breaking out in your family room? Your kids are well aware of that. Don’t think that they haven’t come to rely on your speedy response to their crazymaking. As a child, if you’re not getting your way, when Mom or Dad comes in, at least the playing field is level again. You now stand a chance of coming out on top after they make their decisions about who was in the wrong and what’s going to happen now.

One of the best ways of handling sibling fights is to simply stay out of them. Let everyone know at your next family meeting that your intention is to not interfere with their disagreements because you have faith in their ability to sort out their own problems. Then you need to follow through and allow them to actually do it, regardless of what method of conflict resolution they take.

If this approach gets particularly tense and leads to some sort of physical means of resolving the issue, there may be value in letting them sort it out themselves. For example, an effective way of learning that you shouldn’t hit your sister is getting hit right back. But if you do decide to step in, do it in a different way than you have in the past. Be calm, treat them all the same, don’t get involved, and give everyone choices. “I’ll take the toy/game/tv remote and when you guys can sort out who gets to take a turn first/who gets to roll first/what channel to watch, come and get it from me. I’ll be downstairs making dinner/folding laundry/cleaning the bathroom, and if you can’t decide, you’re welcome to come and help me.” Not only does this method encourage them to sort out their own problems through (hopefully) communication and compromise, it also sends the message that they are in this together and that you won’t get involved. With you as a common enemy, instead of the judge and jury, they are more likely to be motivated to work through their issues together and reach a middle ground everyone can live with.

If they’re really struggling to find a solution they’re both content with, put it on the agenda for your next family meeting, and work at solving it as a family. Talk through some basic problem solving and conflict resolution skills, tailored to the age of your children, and walk them through the process of solving this problem together. With practice, they’ll pick up on the steps they’ll need to apply to solve other problems between them.

While this strategy may not eliminate fighting between kids altogether, it will certainly help keep the conflict from getting beyond the point where they can resolve it themselves, and it will keep you from having to wade into the middle to rescue everyone, every time it happens.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

Andrea Ramsay Speers, M.A. is a Psychotherapist practicing in Oakville. Her entire practice is built around one purpose: helping people enjoy their families more, whether that means coaching parents in learning new parenting tools, increasing connection and harmony between couples, improving relationships with teenagers, or helping individuals overcome their feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety and start enjoying their lives again. She can be found online at www.OakvilleFamilyInstitute.com.