Majella O'Donnell helps to solve your problems
Dear Majella, I'm 37 and I've been happily married for nine years. My husband and I have two lovely children, and we have built a nice life together. I know I'm very fortunate.
Although my parents live far away, I've always been close to my parents-in-law and, up to recently, I had a good relationship with my sister-in-law.
But lately things have become strained between us. I think she's copying me. I know that sounds quite melodramatic, but I have a distinctive style and I would never be seen dead in trousers. My sister-in-law was never that bothered about clothes, but lately she's turned up at a few family occasions wearing dresses very similar to ones I had worn previously, and on two occasions, she proudly announced that she had bought the same outfit as me.
I know you might think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it's beginning to feel quite creepy. And just yesterday, I called into her apartment only to discover that she had bought the same cushions and china as I have. I can't talk to my husband about this - he thinks I'm being silly. But I really feel that I need to tackle her.
What should I do?
Can I just start off by saying that, to try and avoid getting too angry about this, you should try to look at your problem in a positive way. Your sister-in-law obviously has a lot of admiration for you! She is not being nasty or malicious in any way. She likes you and the way you look and dress and she has confidence in everything you chose.
However, I do understand how frustrating it must be for you. I think what is happening here is that your sister-in-law has no style of her own (I have to put my hands up and admit to that myself!) and she likes what she sees you wearing and how well you look. She just wants to feel as good about herself as she thinks you must feel about yourself.
Maybe you could ask her to go shopping with you some day and ask her what kind of things she likes. Try to help her to find something that you think looks good on her but is more of a reflection of her personality. Help her to build up confidence so that she isn't afraid of getting it wrong.
Dressing like you is safe for her. Maybe you could talk to her in a nice way and explain that you notice that she has some outfits that are very similar to yours and that you would hate for either of you to go to an event wearing the same outfit. Ask her if she enjoys shopping for things and what her style is. Maybe you could be the one that can help her to develop a style all of her own! At the end of the day and in the great scheme of things, does it really matter if she has the same cushions or china as you? What harm will it do?
I've always been the 'big' girl among my friends. I had been really sporty when I was young, but when I reached my teens and puberty hit, I started putting on weight. I wasn't obese, or anything like that. I used to think I was just generously proportioned but, last year, when I turned 25, I suddenly got tired of being overweight. I had started and failed at numerous diets, but this time I embarked on a real lifestyle change.
And it worked! I've lost two stone and I feel fantastic. It is so brilliant to be able to wear body-hugging clothes and know that I look good. But some of my friends don't seem to think so. They make sarcastic comments about people showing off, and they've even said that I'm no fun anymore, just because I order diet drinks and try to stay off carbs during the week.
My mother says that they're jealous, and I know I shouldn't let it bother me, but I'm starting to feel very isolated. I want to tell them that they're out of order, but I'm scared I might make things worse.
Congratulations on achieving your goal to lose weight and to change your lifestyle. You look better and you feel better and that's what's important.
It's such a shame that you feel your friends are jealous of the new you. Maybe they see you as a threat on the social scene and they are indeed jealous of you!
I don't know what your personality is like but if you could, I think you should be open about your feelings with them.
For example, when they comment about people, or you showing off, maybe you could say: "Well I worked really hard to look like this so why shouldn't I show it off?"
Be direct. Let them know that you are proud of what you have done and that you find some of their smart remarks are unnecessary.
For them to say that you are boring now, just because you are watching what you eat and drink, sounds pretty childish to me!
If that's the behaviour you are dealing with then you could be equally sarcastic by saying: "How sad and strange it is the way some people can change towards friends just because they try to improve themselves."
If you can't sort it out with them, then maybe they weren't good friends after all. They should like you for the person that you are, not the size or shape you are in. Keep up the good work!