Dear Patti,

I have a twin brother who is wonderful at everything he does. We’re 15 and already Mason is accomplished at athletics, art, music and academics. Due to his academic abilities, he was put up a year ahead. I also think it was done to give us a chance to grow individually. Whenever I’d get new teachers at the beginning of the year, they’d look at me with interest, thinking they had another exceptional student. Eventually, though, their interest would fade since I’d perform at only an average level.

Not only is Mason funny and popular but he’s also kind and nice to everybody, especially me. I wasn’t going to the last school dance of the year. It’s hard to trust girls at social occasions because too often they’re only nice for the opportunity to get to know my brother. Mason surprised me by taking his money from his part-time job and buying me a new suit for the dance. Who does that? I can’t even hate him.
   

Both my parents and Mason are supportive and empathic but sometimes that makes the situation even worse. I feel like I let them all down. My grandpa, who lives with us, says I sound whiny. Lately I’ve just been trying to keep my feelings to myself. No matter what I know, Mason knows more.

Everywhere we go, everybody instantly likes him. I, on the other hand, am always invisible. I try to get people to like me but it never seems to work out. It’s not that I’m introverted. I like people but I don’t seem to get anyone to like me in return. I’m wondering if I’m getting depressed.

    

  — Logan

 

Dear Logan,

I’m concerned you might have a “story” or “false life belief” established in your mind; specifically, that people find Mason interesting and find you boring. You’ve labeled yourself as unattractive to others. Be careful. It’s psychologically dangerous to rigidly pigeonhole yourself in such a way. This can be a response to childhood trauma. Sometimes when a person repeatedly has negative experiences, she or he tends to believe it always has to be that way. It doesn’t. It must have been extremely difficult and even shaming to watch Mason excel, even to the point of skipping a grade ahead of you. I recommend individual counseling where you can get help with your possible mood disorder as well as challenge any self-destructive ideas before they become an unrelenting part of your personal belief system.
  

Let’s say, for instance, a girl your age approaches you. You don’t have to do anything special — just be fully present and available. Encourage her through warm smiles and nods that communicate you’re involved and interested in what she has to say instead of immediately assuming she has a sinister ulterior motive. Are you relaxed or defensive and tense? Are you warm and approachable or do you appear distracted, detached or indifferent? Get rid of all communication shut-downs like being aloof or unresponsive. Learn to be a good listener where people experience being understood by you. Ask others about themselves. Learning to tune into other people can be a powerful discovery.

Some people — like Mason — may have a natural talent for creating rapport with anyone they meet, but it’s also something you can learn in your own manner and fitting your personality. Instead of concentrating on him, focus on you. Become the person you want to be that has nothing to do with anyone else. I’m concerned that as long as you have Mason to compare yourself to, you have a reason to give up and not try anymore. Seek out others with common interests, similar opinions and ways of doing things. Remember, there are people out there with a desire to connect, to see you as you really are and to be seen themselves.
   

At only 15 you still have a lot to learn as well as a lifetime to discover your personal talents, interests and abilities to interact. It sounds like you have a destructive (your grandpa might even say annoying) habit of automatically comparing yourself to Mason and coming out second best. You’ve barely begun your life as an individual. You’re not just a twin or part of a family. Pursue passions that only you have an interest in and where there’ll be no comparisons. 


Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her website, patticarmalt-vener.com.