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Why Are People So Obsessed With The “Prettier” Twin?

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Illustrated by Anna Sudit
It all came to a head one summer when a family friend (a plastic surgeon no less) complimented my twin sister's face structure. It certainly wasn’t the first time someone had dissected our differences in minute detail, but that one, off-hand comment – which suggested my profile was less photogenic – became a catalyst for my relentless pursuit of validation.

While being a twin definitely has its perks (like having a constant companion), it also comes with pitfalls. For example, if your friends dub you the "cooler one", or the "edgier one" or the "prettier one", that’s the role you adopt – and may have to assume throughout adulthood. In my case, it was the "cute one", as opposed to the "sexy one".

Pitting twins, and sisters for that matter, against each other happens in the home and in the media daily, from Kendall and Kylie, to Venus and Serena, to the Olsens and Gisele and Patricia Bündchen. We’re often guilty of buying into the notion that women can't be allies, thanks to tabloids frequently comparing females, and specifically sisters, from their bums, to their skin, to their style, to the number of Instagram followers they have.

Of course, this is frustrating. And as psychologist Dr. Avidan Milevsky – author of Sibling Issues In Therapy – explains, being compared to your sisters can be "profoundly destructive" in that it minimises your ability to "develop [your] own individual identity."

Bella Hadid admitted that she can't keep stacking herself against Gigi because, as she told Seventeen magazine last year, "we're so different." Meanwhile, Kylie Jenner's bestselling lip kit range has reportedly rattled older sister Kim. Even more extreme, are reports that the selfie queen has been ‘spying’ at Kylie's factory. It's relentless – not to mention tacky – that Kim is interpreted as desperately clawing to snatch back the limelight from her little sister, when she's more likely lending her support. Kim dismissed claims of alleged rivalry between the pair recently on her blog, saying they "laugh so hard at this all the time."

And yet, I couldn't help but watch Kylie's stratospheric rise with a mix of envy and glee. If Kylie, once a peripheral member of the Kardashian clan, could undergo a transformation that instantly catapulted her to stardom (and arguably to the top of Kardashian/Jenner glitter pile), then maybe altering my looks could do the same for me. Maybe, with the right makeup tools, I too could become the ugly-duckling-turned-swan and no longer have to play second fiddle to my sister. Perhaps with the right amount of contouring, I would feel better.

Social media compounded my anxiety and gnawed at my self-esteem. I'd constantly berate myself for my inability to take a good selfie and compare it to my twin's. If I had a longer profile and more defined features, would I have received the same amount of praise online? The round-face shape which I had once loved for bagging student prices at the cinema long after my NUS card expired, no longer brought any satisfaction. Instead, I lost hours snapping rolls and rolls of selfies before realising another evening had gone by.

Even the tiny picture on my WhatsApp profile became a competition when my cousin remarked that my sister's picture was 'more beautiful.'

Even the tiny picture on my WhatsApp profile became a competition when my cousin remarked that my sister's picture was "more beautiful." I oscillated wildly between paranoia and frustration. And, I know, I’m not alone – studies have shown time and time again that same-gender siblings can be more sensitive to rivalry and competition.

My friend Steph, 25, said she felt humiliated when her sister's boyfriend remarked that she looked nothing like her sister, despite being only a year apart. "He was so insistent that we looked so different; it felt like a personal attack on my looks."

Another friend, Rhiannon, 24, says maintaining her weight is a perpetual source of frustration. “I'm constantly battling to remain a size 10-12," she says, "so I'm not seen as the 'bigger' sister."

It became easier when my twin sister and I split up and went to different universities because there was no one to point out our differences. I was no longer the 'shorter' twin; now I was just short! Of course, when I returned home for Christmas or Easter, the same insecurities would return. But I eventually made my peace with my sisterly struggle last year, when I realised that seeking validation online was a futile endeavour. Nothing short of extreme surgery would end the ‘round face’ label to my twin’s ‘longer face’ one. And I realised that it affected her too; my twin was just as annoyed that everyone always assumed she was older.

Dr Milevsky is just as optimistic, saying that twins and sisters who've had the space to develop their own identity early in life are able to “share a closer bond in adulthood.”

My sense of self-worth is no longer shaped by my wombmate, and I've finally learnt not to take affront to comparisons. My twin sister is my best friend and my soulmate, not my opponent.
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