I act childish and feel patronized whenever I go back home from university to my parents and (much) older sister. I think this is a known phenomenon. What can I do to minimize this? (Snowflake details inside.)
So I went to a university across the entire country away from my hometown (I'm in Canada, so this was a long way to go), and I've been absolutely thrilled with the things I've learned and the ways I've developed through fending for myself for the past few years. I grew confident, I learned to love my own skin, I learned how to interest and be interested in others, and I developed a personality that I've been proud to call my very own.
And then I fly home, and it all dissipates.
It feels like the moment I step off the plane, I get thrown into a time machine where I relegate back into my old self: awkward, lacking social grace and manner, immature, sheltered and uncomfortable with who I am. To complicate matters, I may end up spending an entire 16 months rather than just a summer back at home this year due to a thrilling academic job prospect that's developing nicely - while the opportunity is absolutely amazing and cannot be passed up, I find myself dreading having to deal with my feelings of immaturity and discomfort for an extended period of time.
I know that this is a common thing, but some of the advice I've found on the topic doesn't apply to me. Even back home, I'm not financially dependent on my parents, nor do I lodge with them except for a few weeks when they come back home from overseas. The majority of the time, I'm cooking for myself, living by myself, doing my own laundry, cleaning my own living spaces, and so forth. So it's not as much as it is about physical dependence, it's just something in my nuclear family's style of interacting with me that forces me into a pattern of immaturity.
The snowflake that I want to mention here is that it's less of an issue with my parents as it is with my older sister, who is nearly a decade older than me. My parents are generally overseas the majority of the time, so the few weeks that they're actually present, I actually find it relaxing to be pampered by them and to be their kid again for a short period of time. My sister, being so much older than me, is as much as a pseudo-parental figure as she is a big sister figure. Unlike my parents, I have to be exposed to her for much longer. And unlike my parents, who have a generally relaxed (with some exceptions) attitude with me at this point especially given how well I'm striking it out independently, my sister exhibits a lot of personality traits that I find encourage the immature mannerisms that I end up exhibiting around her:
- She frequently adopts a very patronizing attitude around me. We're both adults, but she often talks down to me as if I were a child. Part of this has to do with my late-blooming - I only stopped being socially inept when I went to university and took some hard knocks for myself, and she hasn't yet witnessed that transformation. I've called her out on this (although not firmly), but she simply asserts her right as my "big sister" to always treat me as the "little brother."
- She is extremely overprotective: she refuses to let me make my own mistakes whether socially, academically, career-wise, or in any area of life I can think of. Her belief is that since she's walked the path ahead of me, it's her duty as the elder sibling to prevent me from falling into any of the pitfalls that she did. She often doles out advice with the explicit expectation that I will follow it, and pushes me constantly to do so. This frustrates me because not only is her advice often wrong given that we're on different career tracks and that we have different personal values, but also because I realize that this trait of hers (to some extent my parents do this too) resulted in a lot of delayed growth for me because I wasn't able to make risks and learn from them, something I realized when I struck it out on my own.
- Any time I do make a mistake, she takes it personally. I've learned to view mistakes as learning experiences, and I openly embrace the consequences of them (because I'm the type who learns from pain), but she always chastises me for making them in the first place, and encourages me to fight back against the consequences.
- She is extremely prideful, and whenever we have an argument, she's always quick to attribute blame. For this reason, I find it absolutely impossible to bring up any of the things I would like to see her change with her, because she instantly pushes it back on me.
- Her rhetoric and persuasive abilities are insane. Given how uncertain I end up feeling around her a lot, she easily exploits this by nature of her personality to coerce me into even unconsciously going along with what she's saying/urging even when I know it's not the best option for me. I end up feeling like I have no opinions or free will of my own around her a lot. I find myself struggling to even articulate myself around her.
Which isn't to say that I don't love her, but dealing with her is exhausting. I do confess that her personality has its positives and negatives, as I do enjoy it at times and like how she takes charge of things, but it forces me into certain patterns. And unfortunately, spending time with her throughout the year is unavoidable.
To complicate things even further - I came out as gay this semester, and when I told my sister, she was thrilled and wanted to take me to Pride this summer with her, as she has been frequently involved as an ally in the LGBT community in the past. But I'm worried about how she'll end up influencing me in this regard: I'm afraid that she'll force me to follow a certain path of experiences that she regards as correct given her over-confidence in the issues, but I want to treat these experiences as more of an exploratory thing. I want her there, but I don't want her to constrain me!
So in summary: how can I condition myself to act maturely and assertively at home, as I have been doing all this time living independently at university?