Family Ties and the Feeling of Inadequacy

Meet S. Fashionista, celebrity fan, movie maniac, business mogul, accountant, dancer, singer, selfie icon, pout queen, sulker, Gazelle. She owns more shoes and clothes than anyone I’ve ever known and packs a mean gaze for someone petite. Sometimes I’m jealous she has such a lively résumé, other times I really don’t care that she has such a lively résumé.

Then the two older boys who make it their business to spoil and bully the girls– handsome as Stags I should add. Over the years I’ve watched people gawk and describe my brothers as the most beautiful of the lot. What’s up with that anyway, pitting siblings against one another in beauty contests? It’s not like I didn’t think them passably human, but between watching the boys get down and dirty in grime as they played football, wrestled, dissected unsuspecting Lizards and just being guys, I just think it odd that anyone would expect that I’d take note of their dashing masculinity. Now that we’re older, I confess the boys are good looking.

And there’s me. Bookworm, ex-tomboy, ex-athlete, diplomat, accountant, big sister, little sister, family Duckling, Donkey, Mouse. If you ask anyone who likes to have fun, I’m the definition of frigid and boring. No, don’t try to be pacifying, it’s true. I’m the one who frowns when you make sexual jokes that’s supposed to be funny and stares blankly when you try to be smart. I turn down dates because I’m supposedly too busy to hang out and send all the nice interested guys scurrying for cover by being too serious . . . so yeah, every now and again I have to mumble to my ice cold heart: Be still. Relax.


S and I are polar opposites– unless you intend to take into account bra sizes and the occasional moments of senselessness spanning over an hour. Hopefully the differences in our brief bio was glaring. She’s also the last child of my parents and an immediate younger sibling.

If you have younger siblings, then you probably know what it’s like to live with the consciousness that your actions are partly responsible for shaping the direction of their life since—believe it or not—they are always watching. I know because despite the polarity of our mannerism, my sister swears she’s learned everything she does from me. Me! How in blazes did that happen? And there’s the matter of contentment. Despite being the Landlady of a bigger portion of the wardrobe, S insists on wearing almost everything of mine that fits, which is basically all my shirts. If I don’t let her have it, I’ll have to deal with talking to a wall the rest of the week. It’s like the young ones are wired to imitate the nearest adult.

So I have a little sister who owns too much and not enough. I am pacifying, complacent and non-confrontational most times, and now I fear I may have spoiled her too much over the years. I also worry about the kind of things she’s focused on which are pretty much opposed to what I believe she should focus on. There’s the Beauty vs. Brain argument and all the things a responsible woman who is career driven shouldn’t be bothered with; the inability to hold a conversation like I’d want her to and her habit of going mute when asked for an opinion.

And I am ashamed of these thoughts.

S is beautiful, smart, a delight to be around, with more spine than I ever imagined. But she has differing areas of interests and for some reason, despite all my preachings about people being who they want to be, I realize I am not so different from most parents out there; the ones who insist on their children becoming the doctor or the engineer when they’d rather be the movie director or the photographer. So what if S wants to be a model-on air personality-VJ-reality TV star-accountant combo? So what? There are people out there who have become happily successful on more bizarre occupational burgers.

Still underneath the surface and all these lofty desires is something I perceive and also relate with. Something innate that never seems to go away even with age. It’s the fear of living under the shadow of someone else. I know that because sometimes I look at my brothers, how much they’ve achieved, their confidence levels, my parents beaming with pride . . . And I wonder if I’ll ever be like them. I adored these young men while growing up. I was the tom-boy who kicked the ball and climbed the fences.  And S was the shadow, thumb in mouth, who tailed me with a yellow blanket in hand. She was to me what I was to the boys. They were my idols as I was hers.

And it takes a while to break free of that. Right now I don’t know if S is serious about these interests; if this is some way to carve out something different for herself . . . An identity crisis perhaps. I imagine she talks to her friends with more confidence on intellectual subjects than she does me, just like I do with mine (and even complete strangers) than I do the boys. I admit after all these years and over 45 posts on this blog, there still lurks a feeling of self-consciousness at the thought of their reading something here. I couldn’t even tell them I owned a blog, not after years of childhood angst and outbursts often punctuated by an indignant I am not stupid!  And these are really silly thoughts when you think about it because every man is quite unique.

Yet, in or out of identity crisis, sibling rivalries and the feelings of inadequacy are some things we’ve always done well: Play hard, fight harder and become cushions for one another in times of crisis. As I stare at the Gazelle who occupied a womb two years after me dump another bag of clothes on an already growing pile, I think to myself: a little more support and a little less prejudice, right? I think I can manage that.

family is an anchor

28 thoughts on “Family Ties and the Feeling of Inadequacy

  1. ifemmanuel March 27, 2015 / 3:01 pm

    S sounds like a great person, the kind that will succeed in whatever she sets her mind on. I think the best we can offer our siblings, and other people around us, is to be true to ourselves, to be loving, kind, and make them know they’ll have us in their corner no matter what happens. All of the support, zero prejudice, and we will all be a bit better.

    It’s a pleasure to read you again today, Uju. The writing is even more excellent than the last time I was here. And from I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with boring if it is the source of writing like this. 🙂

    Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 29, 2015 / 9:38 am

      Oh she is, Ife. I like the woman she’s growing to become when she isn’t sulking like a typical child 🙂 Prejudice is a destroyer of possible good relationships amongst people.

      Thanks dear, you are far too kind. It’s nice seeing you around again.
      As for boredom LOL!


  2. Jean March 24, 2015 / 8:39 pm

    I am the eldest of 6. The youngest is a sister who is an emergency medicine doctor. She is 10 yrs. younger than I. Hence, I wasn’t around when she was in her mid-late teens, since I was at university and later working full-time. But I did adore baby-sister when she came into our family. I lifted her out the crib, etc.

    I was stunned when in her 20’s, to hear how aggressive she sounded her daily speech and language. But perhaps she had to climb her way out past her older siblings’ achievements. Other than the fact she is also a mother of 2 young children (her lst she had @ 40yrs. I’m not a mother at all.), she and I aren’t way too different in terms of seriousness, direct style.

    I have clear memory @15 yrs., when I decided suddenly not boss other siblings around. When I stopped, they responded better to me and were more open to me.

    So that’s how it’s been like since.

    Our siblings, if they are generally good like us, are friends for life.


    • uju March 25, 2015 / 5:26 pm

      The decision to stop bossing your siblings around was a good one. I remember my sister gets very upset when i pull out the ‘seniority card’ as she calls it. I hate it too when my brothers do same, and respond better when i’m treated as an equal.
      Like your sis, the need to get out of the shadows of others can be a good motivation to work hard and make something solid for oneself. It’s very admirable.
      Thanks for your input, Jean, and I hope you’re completely healed from that accident.


  3. Kate Loveton March 14, 2015 / 5:54 am

    I loved this post, especially your remark at toward the end: ‘a little more support, a little less prejudice.’

    I think we can apply that to all of our relationships and many of our circumstances in life.

    So… how did a young woman like you get so wise? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 14, 2015 / 6:20 am

      I’ve been paying attention to Scott Fitzgerald lately. In The Great Gatsby he writes, “Reserving judgement is a matter of infinite hope.” To a great extent, that’s pretty much all I’m about; an obsessive compulsion to ‘make sense’ of people and our actions. We could take the less prejudiced stand in dealing with the world, makes them less likely to raise their hackles, and more willing to engage us. Somewhere within engagement comes a story and understanding of the circumstances surrounding their actions. Oh you’re a book lover too so must have read Pride and Prejudice? It’s really old but there is so much wisdom in classical literature 🙂

      You’re too kind, Kate. Thank you.


  4. Adaeze March 13, 2015 / 2:11 pm

    I’m the first of three children and I’m often mystified by the choices my brothers make and the paths they choose to follow. When you said you understand how parents feel, I smiled because I’d often thought the same thing.
    Nice blog you have here Uju… You’ve got a new fan.


    • uju March 13, 2015 / 5:02 pm

      Well, I don’t really think I understand how parents feel lol, i just think that sometimes my perception may not be far off.
      Do your brothers frustrate you by the things they do?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Voice of Leke March 13, 2015 / 2:22 am

    Nice post. I’m in a team that has taught me a lot about leadership. I have watched those ahead of me improve in maturity and grow their leadership skills. It has made me learn fast and respect them more.

    I think the easiest way to help your sis is to grow out of your personal insecurities. The beauty of your advantage is that she’s still emulating you. It’s a huge responsibility, though, but with God’s help you can be that big sis you dream to me to her and gently guide her to self discovery.

    Fantastic write up.


    • uju March 13, 2015 / 2:00 pm

      It helps a lot to have models whom one can look to for guidance. I’ll take your good advice, bcos you are right that some of my insecurities may be rubbing off on my sister. Thank you

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Klemz Phil March 8, 2015 / 8:38 am

    Hmm! Uju dear, I hardly had the time to view your blog even after you had ask me to see what its like by logging your link on my system. I kinda decide now to view it and can’t but commend you. Family ties was your last post on the blog so I was stock on it to read thru and see whaz up!

    The topic made me to reminiscence ma growing up days in ghetto, coz the reality was harsh and ma folks was not ready to give in to any form of excuses from me and ma siblings. Guess wat dear, I was the Chief Inspector of ma siblings and always run to ma folks to report any wrong. I had one older broda and the rest were younger to me, our girls came later in line. Me and brodas played hard and fought at every opportunity to better other peeps and infact tried to lord over our peer, not necessary to intimidate but simply to influence with ideas dat bothers on youthful drama. On the part of wardrobe there is simply no boundary as my brodas will gladly put on your new jeans as long as it fits, you be like guy na my jeans be dat nah!!! Perhaps it was worth it as we had no inkling dat growing up was our bounding phase, today we hang out like friends conversing on issues that are of relevant in form of sports, politics, entertainment etc.

    Guess wat Uju, me and brodas are fan of different teams in EPL, I support Arsenal Y ma older bro is a United fan and the other one a Chelsea fan, you can’t imagine it wen our teams are pitch against each other in EPL games. Please dear don’t even imagine it, coz its royal rumble.
    Your thought is worth sharing, keep it up…

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 10, 2015 / 5:00 pm

      Glad you finally made it Klemz, and thanks for sharing such a delightful story.
      Like a commenter below said, at the bottom of all that family bickering and play, we always want our family to succeed.


  7. glowingscenes March 6, 2015 / 9:05 pm

    I really love the way you write Uju. Did I ever tell you that? You write in such a way that brings a feeling of familiarity, almost as if we know each other from long ago…,but on different paths. Your writing is real 🙂 More like musings to me.

    As for the post, I grew up amongst boys and though I can say I’ve felt one or two things similar, I can’t really say it’s the way yours is. Sometimes I can’t even describe it. These days I don’t even let it last long in my memory because I don’t want it to.

    Liked by 2 people

    • uju March 6, 2015 / 10:00 pm

      Awww Itunu, thank you for your kind words *blushing in 50 shades lol*

      You’re an only girl? I too grew up among men, but my sister has been the major female presence around me (definitely a shadow) so it kinda sticks.
      I’m also aware that people have these feelings in varying degrees… often they come and go, but u felt writing it would help get it over with. It is quite conflicting though so yeah you were right about the musing here lol.

      Thanks for sharing 🙂


  8. livelytwist March 5, 2015 / 4:53 pm

    Aw, I like S already!
    “Play hard, fight harder and become cushions for one another in times of crisis.” That’s the bottom line isn’t it? Underneath our approval addiction and rivalries, we really want our siblings to excel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 6, 2015 / 9:54 pm

      Hah she is very likable. If it were otherwise I’d most surely have confined her to a sleeping space at the foot of our bed.
      We always want family to excel underneath it all.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Smart March 4, 2015 / 11:20 pm

    Intresting…the character each sibling played. Very reminiscent too..all about the family climate.
    Reminded me of my.favourite sitcom “The Bill Cosby Show”.Nice one.


    • uju March 5, 2015 / 10:25 am

      Glad it took you back.


  10. folakemiodoaje March 4, 2015 / 11:01 pm

    Great post…universal issue.

    I used to think my sisters are just ‘pain’ especially my immediate younger sister. Being a middle child, I usually got lost, felt invisible for a long time. Then I started yelling, just to be heard, then I was mute as I was exhausted but my little sister was particularly a ‘pain’ to live with she did all her best to provoke.

    Now as adults, we get along so well. Once I was quick to remember how overbearing my little sister was, she said exact same thing right back that my mute was deafening! Really?

    Seems you are on top of it – best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 5, 2015 / 10:18 am

      Lol Folake you capture the scenario aptly! S though is the silent one and it is maddening, and crazy too.
      But I love her to heaven and back and will do almost anything for her. Still need to learn to give her what she needs and not wants though. How do parents manage? Child rearing is difficult 😦

      Can’t say I’m on top of it. Just introspecting and praying for some wisdom. Luckily it’s coming 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. George March 4, 2015 / 3:52 pm

    Wow…you touch on a subject that we can all discuss forever, the dynamics if siblings and family. There were times during the first part of your post where I felt like a therapist just listening to you relieving yourself of all these feelings and thoughts. And then it changed and you became a little more understanding of your feelings and those of your sister , primarily. There is really so much you’ve spoken about here that it’s hard to break it down, but considering the topic, it’s not surprising. Your feelings of inadequacy and pressure are not unusual and I think they are greater when sisters are involved. I have three adult daughters raised in the same house and yet they are all different in so many ways. What they share, however, are the same core values. My guess is that is the case with your siblings. You’re individuals….you choose different paths, have different thoughts are influenced by different things and will move in different ways. That’s not a bad thing. Celebrate those differences even though they may be maddening at times. There are reasons for every decision we make. Your post is thoughtful, funny and heartfelt. And as much as you might never consider doing this today, I would give some thought to showing them what you wrote one day. If you don’t want them to know about the blog, just print it out and leave it for them. You never know what it may lead to….:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • uju March 5, 2015 / 10:14 am

      Warms my heart to know that so much emotions can be gleaned from this, George 🙂 I wasn’t sure I wanted to post this, but I guess closure won the mental battle.

      You’re right about core values. I imagine your girls give you more drama than you bargain for, but then that’s also the beauty of family in hindsight. The pressure though? I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m doing too little; other times I think I’m not doing enough as a role model. Being a middle child isn’t the greatest thing I tell you.

      I’ll take your advice and celebrate these differences. I’m learning to accept them for what they are and believe we (sibling and moi) will be a lot more comfortable in our individuality once we attain a measure of success.
      And letting them read this… Perhaps in the future I will:)

      Your words are a comfort. Thank you.


  12. aimpurpose March 4, 2015 / 12:52 pm

    I am the first of four and when i think about the fact that three young people look up to me for imitation, I am scared! These days, I just play the big brother while I develop myself into being the kind of brother they deserve.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 5, 2015 / 10:01 am

      Thanks for sharing your fear. I feel that way sometimes, like I’m just not good enough to even mentor someone. Other times there’s this feeling of failure…

      There’s a wisdom in your words. We can teach and grow as well :). I suppose it’s a bit difficult for you forging your path and mentoring others too. Who’s your model?


      • aimpurpose March 5, 2015 / 10:13 am

        I have a senior friend whose siblings respect so much. I think he has been largely able to mentor them so well. I look at him and I am like, “How do you do it?”
        Jesus was the first of maybe six. When i think about the fact that two of his siblings became part of the authors of the New Testament, I learn that living my life the way i would want my siblings to live theirs is the best way to impact them…

        Liked by 1 person

      • uju March 5, 2015 / 10:28 am

        That’s inspiring 🙂
        Responsibility is a tough nut though. May God grant us the grace to be better people for ourselves and others too.


  13. smxclusive March 4, 2015 / 10:33 am

    Family ties, sometimes is the most complex to knot, but being at peace together is the joy of it all. Sometimes I wonder why I bandy freely with a total stranger, than I do with a member of my tree, perhaps the feeling of inadequacy just might have been the right term.

    Nice write up, more ink to your pen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 5, 2015 / 9:59 am

      Yes, it is a difficult knot and pretty complex. I wonder though if you ever felt (or feel) like they might disapprove of your opinions?


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