January 5, 2011 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Scared of future, jealous of sister

Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: I have been unemployed (laid off) for a year now, and had to move back home with my mother.

Here’s my problem: I am jealous of my brother and his wife. They have a combined income of $200,000-plus. The other day my 10-year-old nephew, in so many words, called me a loser.

On some days I really do feel like a loser. My brother and his wife are looked upon like royalty in our family, and I’m the 40ish, never-married, mean spinster sister. It’s hard to put on a happy face when they and other family members come around, when I’m scared about my future. And their life is just grand. So how does one move past jealousy? – Don’t want to be jealous

It’s impossible for me to discern whether your brother and his wife have helped to marginalize you as “loser/spinster,” or whether that’s your doing alone. But if they look down on you for being single or getting laid off, or if they are raising an entitled or contemptuous child, then life for them isn’t “just grand.”

How your family treats you may seem like a subordinate issue to the jealousy, but your jealousy is just a symptom of your dying sense of self-worth. The way they treat you will tell you what demon you must slay to revive it – a personal one, where you feel inferior despite your family’s support and enlightened values, or a family-culture one, where lifting yourself up means walking away from a familial value system where trappings pass for success.

A personal battle is one best launched in your doctor’s office, with a screening for depression.

For a cultural battle, start by identifying those who would undermine your progress, and work to minimize both their presence in and impact on your life.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax.

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