Being born an identical twin makes you a doppelganger. On one hand, you get someone who is almost always similar to you in every way, a best friend for life. If identical twins are raised together, they look to each other as an influence for how to grow up. This leads to them developing complementary thought processes, which is how my brother and I turned out. Furthermore, identical twins enhance each other when they work together, their ideas boosting the ideas of the other twin in sync; it is always said that two heads are better than one. On the other hand, identical twins are, as I said, doppelgangers, meaning that identical twins are almost always seen as one entity, and not two different individuals. My brother and I have had numerous experiences with this concept, and being born in America, a country that supports individualistic mindsets and education, has made life more complicated. In both education and interactions with other individuals, we are seen as the same person with the same skills and expectations, meaning that people assume that if one of us does something, then the other will do it as well. The fact that we only have one identity has encouraged my brother and me to become more competitive than normal, as we are always trying to prove that we are our own individuals. Despite being competitive with my twin, Connor, I am not adverse to interacting with him; in fact, we are on good terms. Connor is the one exception to my individuality and I like to be close to him as much as possible. The American culture, which celebrates the individual, has made it hard for me as an identical twin to establish my individuality, thus influencing me to become more competitive in all ways possible to create my own identity, while at the same time making me even more efficient with my twin.
Contrary to popular belief, identical twins are not actually carbon copies of each other. While identical twins may look the same, they have a large sense of self and try to be as independent from the other twin as possible. Twins are used to trying to increase their own independence while at the same time enriching the other twin. Dona Davis, a cultural anthropologist, says that “Identical twins actually have a more finely developed awareness of their uniqueness than do singletons, and this understanding goes beyond physical features” (Davis, par. 17). Davis also states that “Having an identical twin does not compromise one’s self at all—instead, each twin enriches both the self and the other” (Davis, par. 17). In the case of my brother and me, we are bound together by our appearances, rather than our upbringing, unlike fraternal twins. My brother and I are not just identical in appearance, but we also have similar temperaments, personalities, and intelligence. One habit that we embraced was that when we talked to people we already knew, we introduced ourselves again, as to assure the person we were talking to who we were. As we were growing up, we always both got in trouble even if it was just one of us that messed up. This happened many times in elementary school, mostly before 4th grade.
Furthermore, we were often ostracized before 4th grade, with only those we knew outside of school wanting to hang out with us. This was further complicated by the fact that we did not make friends very quickly, already having a built-in link with each other that fulfilled many purposes that friends normally provided. Eventually we decided to make ourselves as a unit, unique in such a way that both of us would be important enough that people would recognize us individually. Like Kevin Hartnett stated, “… sometimes it’s sameness that sets you apart, like the profound genetic sameness of identical twins” (Hartnett, par. 1). Using this sameness to set us apart is something that is more common among identical twins and is harder for fraternal twins to pull off. Along with using this sameness to make us unique, the many minor differences that we saw in each other became evident and helped us assist the other twin in building his own identity.
It is common a belief that having a twin gives you a best friend for life. This statement is mostly true with my brother and me being a prime example. Esther Perel, a couples therapist, says that, “Among the twins I interviewed, many described their relationships as quasi-marriages — at least as applied to the first eighteen years of their lives” (Perel, par. 4). Unlike parents, who end up leaving earlier in life, and spouses, who come in late in life, “One’s twin sibling is with [them] the entire time — from the beginning until the end” (Perel, par. 8). Overall, having a twin sibling “… encompasses unconditional love, a long history of shared experiences, freedom to be oneself, and deep, deep knowledge and understanding of the other person” (Perel, par. 9). In layman’s terms, being born a twin is being born with a lifelong friend right by your side. On the downside, from my own experience, having a built-in best friend sometimes makes you feel like you do not need anybody else because your twin alone can fill all your friendship needs. Being born a twin also brings other benefits. One study led by David Sharrow shows “that twins have a survival advantage over the general population at nearly every age, and between the two types of twins, identical twins have a survival advantage over fraternal twins” (Nierenberg, par. 3). Furthermore, due to being an identical twin, my brother and I do not have as much as an individualistic mentality as most Americans. We have some parts of a more mutualistic mentality, like those seen in Eastern countries. This does not mean that my brother and I have a group mentality though, as we compete with each other all the time and can be individualistic of one another. In addition, like Ethan Watters stated, Americans, and in my opinion, I more so, exhibit “… the least tendency to conform to group belief” (Watters, pg. 495). Therefore, being born with a best friend for life has granted me a slightly offbeat individualistic mentality compared to most Americans. While I have a partially mutualistic mentality with my brother, I still have the American mentality in that I do not follow group beliefs, and that I am individualistic, often competing with my brother to be seen more as an individual.
Although being an identical twin has influenced me greatly, being American has shaped me as well. Like all Americans, I have a view of individuality and I take objects out of context when viewing them. Ethan Watters says that most Westerners take “an object out of its context [which is] what distinguishes the analytical reasoning style prevalent in the West” (Watters, pg. 502). In layman’s terms, I have an analytical mindset like most Americans. My exploration for my own independence is also a result of my American ancestry, as “the independent self—which is most prominent in America—focuses on individual attributes and preferences and thinks of the self as existing apart from the group” (Watters, pg. 501). Although this individuality is less in me compared to most Americans due to my status as a twin, I am still very independent from others and am analytical by nature. In the end, I am like most Americans, what Ethan Watters calls WEIRD, meaning “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic” (Watters, pg. 497). Despite this, I do not see the world the same exact way that most Americans see the world. I find doing actions that benefit myself at the expense of others very unappealing and unproductive. Moreover, I do not feel opposed to someone just because they believe in a different ideology. What I see as the biggest difference between the common American and me is that I have a much more analytical mind due to my advancements in education from an early age. Unlike most Americans who analyze only one object, I can analyze multiple objects from multiple angles and piece them together to create a larger overall image. Due to me being an identical twin, I can also see the influences that culture has on people much better, as I am viewing from a partially outside perspective in the case of the influence of American culture. While I have adopted the American culture in great amounts, I became less individualistic, more competitive, and more analytical than most Americans due to my twin and my upbringing.
Due to it conflicting with me being an identical twin, the American culture has made it hard for me to establish my own individuality, leading me to becoming more competitive to develop my own identity. The American culture has also prompted me to develop an analytical worldview. Being an identical twin has somewhat stunted the creation of my own individuality, and I constantly have to come up with ways to point myself out to others, to make me unique. I have partially achieved this goal along with my brother, using our similarity to make us more unique than the bulk of society. Along with our advanced self-analysis skills, my brother and I continue to develop our own separate identities. In the end, I connect well with my brother and have a group mentality with him, working better together. At the same time, I have an individualistic mentality and an analytical mindset as a result of my American upbringing.
- Davis, Dona, et al. “How Twin Culture Challenges Our Notions of Self.” SAPIENS, Garry Knight/Flickr, 24 Aug. 2016, www.sapiens.org/body/twinship-world-singletons/.
- Hartnett, Kevin. “How Being an Identical Twin Changes Your Outlook – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com, The Boston Globe, 21 Jan. 2015, www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/01/21/how-being-identical-twin-changes-your-outlook/fAsayrFPH382jtYYr96PQN/story.html.
- Nierenberg, Cari. ‘The Perks of Being a Twin May Include a Longer Life.’ Live Science, FuturePLC, 29 Aug. 2016, www.livescience.com/55918-twins-may-live-longer.html.
- Perel, Esther. ‘Are Twins More Like Best Friends or Spouses?’ Some Twinsight, WordPress, 28 Oct. 2016, sometwinsight.com/twins-like-spouses-best-friends/.
- Watters, Ethan. “Being Weird: How Culture Shapes the Mind.” Emerging, edited by Barclay Barrios, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, pp. 492-502.