DEAR ABBY: Like "Chaz's Brother" (June 17), who is living in the shadow of his extremely popular younger brother, I, too, spent years feeling invisible, but finally looked for ways to differentiate myself from my "perfect" siblings. In the process of pursuing my own interests, I also found friends who liked me for who I was.
Now that I'm 32, I realize that I have something my sisters don't — strong friendships with people I never took for granted. My sisters, meanwhile, were used to everyone adoring them and never bothered cultivating relationships the way I did. People eventually got sick of being taken for granted, and time has been the true test for their relationships with those who once flocked to them.
Neither of them has friends who would drop everything to help them in time of need, provide a shoulder to cry on or help with a major move. On the other hand, by being more than just pretty on the outside, I have gained friends who love me for who I am and reciprocate the loyalty I've shown them over the years. Now it's my sisters' turn to say, "I wish I were more like you."
— LYDIA IN OHIO
DEAR LYDIA: Thank you for sharing your personal experience. Some readers took issue with my assertion that you can't run away from your history or your "place" in the family. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I was always in the shadow of my older sister. The teachers liked her better, she got higher grades, had more friends, and was just better at everything than I was.
But life has taught me that I am just as good at most things and even better at some. I have been successful beyond my wildest dreams. Once I put the focus on what I could do, rather than comparing myself with my sister, everything changed. The outcome of your life really has nothing to do with your sibling. It has everything to do with how you respond to him or her and those around you.
— SUCCESSFUL IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR ABBY: I speak from experience as someone who has moved 1,000 miles from my hometown and has spent 20 years in my new state. Before I left I was regarded as the "family baby." I was not taken seriously and didn't have much of an identity, other than the one some in my family saddled me with.
Moving away at 23 to a new home in the West was the best thing that ever happened to me. I grew up fast, handled my own affairs, learned how not to lean on family or anyone else for support, and generally accepted life on my own terms. My old life back home is gone, and I honestly love it that way.
— BETTER IN COLORADO
DEAR ABBY: "Chaz's Brother" needs to realize that what he has is far more substantial than what Chaz has. As a woman, I would much rather have a man who is the nicer, warmer one whom people can talk to, than be with a man who I have to share with two other women. What Chaz's brother has going for him will last longer than a relationship with any of those "three gorgeous women" Chaz is seeing.
The same was true for my older sister and me. She is now a divorced mother of two, while I have been happily married for 15 years. I had to learn to live my own life in the sun, not in someone else's shadow.
— LEARNED THE LESSON IN NORTH DAKOTA
DEAR ABBY: In school, my older brother was smart, talented and good-looking. I was known as "Jay's sister" and dreamed of having my own identity. When he was 21, Jay was killed in a car wreck. Suddenly I had the solo status I had long desired, but I was lost without my guiding beacon.
To "Chaz's Brother": Enjoy the light. Step out of his shadow now. Find your own talents and be thankful for your brother's shining star. Occasionally I will run into an old friend who remembers my "perfect" brother. I couldn't be prouder to be known as "Jay's sister."
— MISSING THE SHADOW
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.