Wednesday, August 13, 2014

For Some, Everything Is A Competition - Even Illness

Dear Tazi:

My sister-in-law "Betsy" has me wanting to scream! With her, everything is a competition. Back when she and my brother were dating Betsy saw me as a threat because he and I were so close, so she felt the need to one-up me every chance she got. If I won an award, Betsy would talk about how many more awards she had won; if I bought a new dress, Betsy would run out and buy and entire new wardrobe; when I took up photography as a hobby, Betsy invested in a professional digital camera. She even delayed her wedding to my brother because she wanted a nicer venue than the one my husband and I had! You get the picture. The worst part is, Betsy and my brother do not have the money to be making all of these expensive purchases! Because my brother is head over heels for Betsy, he lets her charge whatever she wants tot heir credit cards, with the idea that they will get paid off "eventually". Her attitude upsets not just me, but the rest of my family as well.

I am generally not petty, and have learned to ignore Betsy's insecure behaviors, but she recently went beyond the pale and I am not sure I can hold it together around her much longer. What started out as a recent, routine doctor's appointment turned into a living nightmare when a lump was discovered in my breast. The doctor did not want to worry me, but was concerned enough to order a biopsy, the results of which would take a couple of weeks.

I did not want to call a false alarm and worry my family; but I did not want them to wonder why I was suddenly so moody and short-tempered while waiting on the test results, so I told my husband and immediate family - our children, my parents, and my brother. Since I really did not need Betsy's one-upmanship during this time, I did not tell her about my biopsy, but she found out anyway from my brother, who mentioned it in conversation with her.

Thankfully, the biopsy came back normal and I do not have cancer. For this, I am grateful. However, I now have to deal with Betsy carrying on about how I "always have to be the center of attention" and "worried the family half out of mind over nothing" and, worst of all, her own tales of "the many times" she thought she might have cancer but was "strong enough" to keep it to herself. At first, I was concerned that Betsy had gone through cancer scares alone in an attempt to appear brave, but after my mother pressed her she elaborated - her "cancer scares" were no more than WebMD symptom searches, where anything can be cancer if you look hard enough.

Tazi, I want to take the high road, and I have tried to put this past me, but Betsy just announced (over Sunday dinner, no less) that she has a doctor's appointment because she's been having headaches and "might have a brain tumor" and wants to have her symptoms evaluated "like 'Jennifer' did at her last doctor's appointment". Thankfully, I had a mouthful of food and started choking, allowing me to excuse myself before taking Betsy to task. How should I handle things, when this issue arises again?

Sign Me,

Dear "Jennifer":

First, let me offer you my congratulations that you are cancer free - such a health scare is like no other, so I can completely understand why you are offended by your sister-in-law's self-diagnosis, and her comparison of her special doctor's appointment with your routine one.

One detail you left our was your family's reaction to Betsy's news. Were they honestly concerned or was there a lot of eye-rolling in her direction? I ask because both extremes will feed Betsy's need for attention - the former a reward for her pleas, the latter a challenge to try harder. Betsy's reaction to your health scare - and her constant need to be the best - stem from a very fragile ego. Whether Betsy suffers from low self-esteem or an inflated sense of self-worth, it is obvious that she sees you as a threat to the love that her husband (your brother) feels for her.

I would advise you to sit down with Betsy and be straight with her. Explain to her - nicely - that you are concerned that she seems to constantly need to compete with you for attention, and that this competition is one-sided; that she is family, and that you wish to have the close relationship that sisters-in-law should have. Tell her that the comments she made about your needlessly worrying the family hurt you and that you did not share your medical news to draw attention to yourself, but rather to explain a sudden change in personality.

I cannot promise that, as a result of this conversation and line of reasoning, Betsy will change her behavior, but she will at least be aware of how you and the rest of the family view it. I would like to recommend counseling for Betsy, but for you to suggest it to her would most likely end badly. I just hope that she is reading this column, and sees herself in your letter.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

No comments:

Post a Comment