This is the most painful person in my family… Is it yours too?

“Your oven stopped working? Well my oven stopped and then the gas bottle for the stove ran out plus the shops were closed so we had to eat toast!” 

“You’re going to Canada for Christmas? Oh we’re going on a very expensive, six week tour around Europe – it will be amazing!”

“Oh your grandson Tommy got into the school swimming team? Maureen’s grandson will be going to the state championships in Western Australia, he’s just so great”

“You had the flu? I almost just died from an illness so rare that it hadn’t even been discovered yet, and they’re probably going to name it after me”


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All right, the last example is an exaggeration, but the others are all very real things that my sister in law has said to me over the last two months.

You see, she’s a one-upper and I’ve been living with these occasions at least twice a week for the last decade. My husband’s brother remarried after a divorce and in came Jan. Jan was lovely, she was fun but Jan’s story is always bigger than anyone else’s. Jan’s problem is always more important than anyone else’s. Jan’s health is always more serious than anyone else’s.

It doesn’t matter what it is, but no matter what anyone says, Jan has something that doesn’t just equal it, it blows it out of the water quite extravagantly. She never expresses an interest in what other people say, their thoughts, opinions or lives, it’s always about what can she relate to and compete with.

Jan’s been like this ever since Derek married her and I have to wonder, what drives people to do this?

I think that everyone knows someone who is a classic one-upper. Some of them have been doing it for so long that they don’t even realise it! In my opinion it has to stem back to childhood. Either they had parents and role models who were one-uppers and so they were taught that’s simply what we do, or they were made to feel like they needed to one-up those around them. Perhaps it was bullying or a hard start to life?

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I don’t know what the reason is for Jan, but my goodness it’s annoying. We have a lot of annoying people in the family. I’m a worrier and so I am incessantly annoying everyone with my undue worries, my husband is the classic grandpa who takes too long to tell a story and one of my daughters is the constant complainer… We’re definitely a kooky lot and we have our own issues, but there’s just something totally frustrating about dealing with a one-upper.

It in some ways is quite sad that other family members occasionally make comments about her behind her back and sometimes dread sharing good news about their own lives with her because they know it won’t be acknowledged and something bigger and better about her own life will be told.

It’s sad that she can’t celebrate anyone else, not even the young ones because of the competition and I hope that someone might know how to deal with someone like her.

Tell us, do you have a one-upper in your family? Do you know someone like Jan? How would you handle it? Would you even try to change the situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below…