“If you think I'm high maintenance, you should see my sister.” - Kate Miller-Wilson.
Growing up, everyone would always make jokes about how difficult it must be for my father as the only man in the house. He had been ‘blessed’ with three daughters, all of whom had loud personalities and even louder voices. Even when we finally added a dog to our household, it was female and didn’t help to balance the ratio.
Everyone was so fixated on how difficult it must be for him as the only man in the house that they forgot how difficult it is to be a woman around so many other women. Growing up as one of three girls, and the youngest, provided a myriad of experiences. Sneaking a considerable dollop of someone’s Dream matte mousse foundation and then denying it as you wore an orange face of guilt. Stealing one of their tops and trying to avoid photographic evidence at the party. There were screaming matches and synced cycles, finishing all the snacks and snitching when you didn’t get your way. It was loud; growing up with two sisters was loud.
But it was also hilarious. It was my big sisters eating mushed digestives that I served them from my plastic kitchen set. It was ganging up against my parents about what we wanted to do on holiday. It was always having someone to play or gossip with. Half the time, we absolutely detested each other, but the other half, we were inseparable. And growing up with sisters taught me so many important lessons.
One of the biggest jokes about having sisters is that you’re always stealing each other’s stuff, which is so accurate. I grew up on my sisters’ hand-me-downs, which used to be a source of great frustration as it could be quite worn out by the time it reached me. Perhaps this is why I grew so comfortable wearing their clothing, as when the three of us had reached adolescence, clothes flowed smoothly. You would think three decently-behaved girls would just share, as they each had enough clothing. Unfortunately, this was never the case. Borrowing clothes involved tiptoeing into their room when they were out, quickly finding the item, avoiding being photographed in it, and then attempting to put it back in the exact place before they noticed.
Because if they noticed, all hell would break loose. There would be accusations that you stretched or stained the item. There would be shrieks to involve your parents, who usually couldn’t have cared less. Just share, you’d be urged, just share your clothing.
If you did ask, it was usually met with a firm ‘no’. Or that sibling would suddenly realise that they wanted to wear it. So from a young age, I learned how to tiptoe silently into their room, fold clothing precisely like my sister, and avoid any potentially staining substances. I also learned not to get attached to possessions because they could be ruined or taken in seconds. We often had to share as well, which should’ve taught us a lot of lessons, but merely showed what happens when you care for things poorly.
Now we’ve finally reached the age where we gladly share items, but there is always that narrowed glance when they hold their glass of red wine too casually near your white top...
As I mentioned, I am the youngest of three girls. But more than that, I am the youngest of three girls, all of whom are intelligent, ambitious and motivated. My sisters both excelled in their chosen fields. My oldest sister was almost always the main part in theatre productions, or behind the scenes directing it, and was Head Girl. She is always very well-liked. My other sister is a literal genius - like winning awards genius. Her brain is an incredible thing and continues to amaze me. She has her own creative streak and would make unique jewellery from a young age; she always loved to be busy.
Those are big shoes to fill. So when I came along, five and six years below them, it felt like nothing I could do was new. I was their spitting image and that served only to remind people of their great legacies. This was really difficult for me, as it felt like nothing I did was special enough. I was involved in theatre productions, but that only reminded them of my sister’s starring roles. I directed a musical that only reminded people of when my sister did that first and ask if that inspired me. I worked hard at school to get good grades, but no grades could exceed my sister’s. So when I got my GCSE’S, when I finished High School, when I went to university, it always felt like that was in the shadow of my sisters. I wanted to be the first to do something, anything, but the options had been taken up by my incredible sisters.
But looking back, I’m thankful for that fact. In my privileged upbringing, it’s easy to think that you’re special and unique. I had two talented sisters to remind me that I wasn’t, so going to university wasn’t as much of a shock as it was to my intelligent peers. I already knew that I was a little fish in a big pond so that I could take no longer being near the top of my class. I knew that it was all about hard work, as they showed me that. I don’t need to be the best because I won’t be. Just take my writing; I’m not trying to be the best writer, merely using this platform to do what I love.
Aside from squabbles over stolen clothing, plenty of conflicts come with three siblings of the same gender. Issues arise quickly, and we all are fierce personalities that will defend our position. Whether the argument was what we would watch, where we would go, or who had to do which chore, we could always find causes for irritation. But I had it to a lesser extent, as there was an age gap between my sisters and me. They’re only a year apart, which raised the tension on conflicts. They were always a year apart in school and often compared by teachers, around similar friend groups, and sometimes at the same parties. This led to fierce competition. They’re also so different in their personalities, both wonderful in their own way, which leads them to clash.
Being the youngest and removed from this placed me in the role of the mediator. I was the final vote; I was the deciding factor. It’s a lot of pressure, particularly when I’d be trying to encourage an open conversation on the matter and faced by two people hurling insults at each other. But the psychology skills I picked up certainly helped, and I like to think I use my mediation for more conflicts. I understand how to take a step back from something and to take each perspective.
I’m not always the best at standing up for myself, maybe because I played the role of mediator so often, which focused on keeping the peace, not ruffling feathers. Coupled with my mental health struggles, it means I don’t fight for what I deserve, as I often don’t even think I deserve more. But my sisters are always there to remind me that I do. They are my biggest cheerleaders and my biggest protectors. They have got my back, no matter what I’ve done. They don’t always understand me or my struggles, but they always try.
When someone once betrayed me and then came back into my life, I was honestly terrified to leave them alone with either of my sisters. As I knew they were about to get an earful. They respected my decision to have him back in my life, but they had to make sure he knew that they had not forgotten or forgiven him as quickly. They take someone hurting me more seriously than I do.
The fact that my sisters believe and care for me so much reminds me that I owe myself the same. If they don’t let anyone treat me like shit, why do I? My sisters remind me that I’m important and deserve to be treated as such. I know they’ve always got my back and wouldn’t hesitate to toilet paper someone’s house or give them hell.
From the arguments and jealousy, it could come across as if I dislike my sisters. There were times where I did, particularly when I was younger. But throughout all of it was love, simple undiluted love. We didn’t have the easiest childhood, and our home didn’t feel stable throughout a lot of it, but we were each other’s anchors. I knew that I could always crawl into their bed or call them if I needed them. And I still know that today. They both live in different countries now, but if I call, they are there.
My sisters taught me unconditional love. Because sometimes I hate them, but even then I love them. Sometimes they probably hate me too, and that’s okay. With sisters, you’re never really alone. That used to be so frustrating as they seem incapable of knocking and insisted on just hanging around my room asking questions. But now it’s a wonderful feeling, as no matter where they are, they’re one phone call away.
Your siblings are the first relationships that you navigate, and they become the lens through which you see the world. I meet people and think that they’re not as smart as my sister, or that someone isn’t as funny as my other sister. Once you finally reach the age where you stop hating them constantly and instead cling to them as you navigate through adult life, it’s important to take a moment and recognise the lessons they’ve taught you, the gifts they’ve given.
What did you learn from your siblings?
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
Would you like to receive my top monthly articles right to your inbox?
For any comments/questions/enquiries, please get in touch at:
I'd love to hear from you!