November 11, 2020

If you’re thinking why you’ve never heard of the term “second-best-syndrome” before, it’s because I made the term up.

But pay attention, because it is a real thing and you might be suffering from it, like I did.

To fully understand this, let me give you a little background.

I’m the youngest in the family.

And despite the “bunso” being known and stereotyped and favorite, let me tell you that It’s actually tough.

I know a lot would argue that the youngest usually has it the “easiest”. It still certainly had its cons.

Everyone has the right to make you do stuff.

You’re the whole family’s PA. “paki this, paki that.”

The “dakilang utusan” of everyone older than you, and you CAN’T complain. That’s just how it is.

You get A LOT more hand-me-downs than originally new stuff. This doesn’t bother me anymore, but it was kind of a big deal when I was growing up.

Now, about the second-best syndrome.

I wasn’t the smartest. Ate (our eldest) was. And yes she is smart. She’s still probably the smartest person I’ve met in my life. And I’ve met a few.

I wasn’t the prettiest. Ditche (our second) was. She was the apple of the eye of many and was an easy favorite.

Our brother, the third sibling, being the only boy, instantly made him special.

I sort of was the unnecessary last bit in the kids, and there just wasn’t anything special about me.

Anything I try and do, somebody already does it better than me.

Except I think for crying and screaming as a baby, I get that recognition.

But seriously, I lived with the second-best syndrome and sometimes still do.
I grew up and made friends but I would always pick a best friend that is “better” than me in some way.

I surrounded myself with people whom I think was better than me, because that’s the place I’ve believed myself to belong to – never best, only always second, or even third.

My friends were always either prettier than me, more popular than me, smarter than me, and so on.

I didn’t realize how deep this THING is, in me, until i was doing reviews for the board exams a few years back.

An instructor asked us, if you’re going to top the board exam, what rank do you want?

And guess what? Yes, I said I’ll be happy to be top 2 or top 3.

And right there and then, it hit me. WHY have I never wanted first place?

Now the thing is, there was NO doubt in me, I knew I could actually top the exams. Exams are just always easy for me, and I’m already topping mock exams in our review center.

So what do I do when I feel like I’m winning? I sabotaged my own success.

I broke up with my boyfriend-now-ex about two weeks in from my exams. LOL. And though I found an amazing way to justify my reasons, the timing couldn’t just be more perfect.

Years and a lot of introspection forward, I am now well aware of this syndrome and the negative belief systems around it.

I know that I’m my worst enemy, and awareness is always the first step in addressing any problem.

My self healing mantra for this: “I am okay being the best in what I do.


How to know if you’re also suffering from the “second-best syndrome”:

1. You’re uncomfortable and unable to respond to compliments

2. You never volunteer to be in the spotlight.

3. You’re uncomfortable being better at something in comparison to others. To the point of downplaying a lot of your skills.

4. Deep down, you know you could have done so much more, but somehow you feel like you’ve never given your best, or simply “unable” to.

5. You feel guilty and feel like you “don’t deserve it” when you win something or get an award.

So If you resonate with two or more of these signs, repeat after me:


“I am okay being the best in what I do.”


Say it three times. Feel it. Believe it, and you go, slay it, queen!

Love and Light. kiss


x Sarah S.

*photos credit to the owners

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