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Mirror Mirror On The Wall: Establishing Identity As An Identical Twin

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

“So do you guys switch places and pretend to be each other?” No. Being an identical twin is one of the most natural feelings in the world for me, but it’s one experience that cannot be easily translated to others who have their own individualized identities. 

We Are Different But the Same

A misconception the media likes to prompt is that all twins are the same; inside and out. This is simply not true. My twin and I look identical to each other, we both have the same height, the same features, and rhyming names, but despite that, I think she is more different from me than all of my closest friends are. For starters, my sister is artistically gifted — her mind has corners of creativity that I will never be able to see or comprehend on my own. She can draw a self portrait of herself with just a piece of black paper and charcoal pencil, while the most I can do is doodle on the edges of my biology homework. She has favorite foods which I cannot stand, and listens to music and media much differently than I would ever prefer. Our capacity to handle stress and anxiety is very different too, as well as the way we work to console the other when experiencing it ourselves. 

One thing that does stay consistent, however, is how we notice details and approach conversations. I have noticed that we tend to look at a visual scape in the same mindset; If we were shown an image and asked what we noticed about it, 90% of our answer would be the same things described in the same pattern. This fascinates me still, and is our power when we work together, as I find I do not have to spend more time detailing and dissecting information to her, she just gets it so much more intuitively. I like to call this our “telepathy,” and it allows me to better understand how she is different from me as well. 

Solitude in Singularity 

For as long as I can recall, me and my twin have always flowed into one singular category, “the twins.” People like to assume we are carbon copies of each other, reflections of the same being, just because we display the same exterior. This is a fact that I had only seriously understood in college, when my sister and I parted ways for the first time. Until then, the last 12-13 years of my adolescence were spent under the category of “twin.” It was all people ever really saw of me, and the only label they ever gave us. My hobbies and interests were assumed to be cohesively shared as well, and my strengths and weaknesses were never recognized as belonging to me alone, they were hers too. 

Sharing our identity as one “entity” removed the need for others to view us respective of one another — we were interchangeable —- and this impacted the way I expressed myself in various situations. If my sister was the outgoing one, I had to default to being the reserved one, and vice versa. We played this silent social orchestra, in order to maintain a sense of balance between us both, for the unspoken fear of coming across as being “too much.” At the same time, this also made us incredibly competitive, because in a way we had to fight for our own title as individuals, hence we would try to differentiate ourselves from the other as extremely as one could. Clothing was never shared, our sports were divided and based on success, interests had to be claimed before the other did, etc. 

When we were on the same page, sometimes we would find resentment towards the other for being so alike. It was almost like at times I could view my own faults in her, and could do nothing to prevent it from happening in her reality, and it made me feel helpless to have to watch ‘me’ experience something negative twice. This would only drive us through cycles of being far from each other, then eventually reuniting. This also impacted the way we approached friendships: peers accepted us as one or not at all, and we would often find ourselves sharing friend groups by default, despite the fact that maybe one of us had nothing strongly in common with the people in another social circle. I think the prospect of there being two of us, and the conception that we would always be so close to each other, exclusively, intimidated a lot of my childhood friends, so much so that they felt the need to “pick” a favorite. 

Presently, I feel that the notion that people should accept us as different beings instead of clumping us as one should be something that is obvious, yet it is an issue that I continue to see even as a 21 year old. People love to glue us together and refuse to acknowledge that we are not affixed in reality. Although having her is so special, it is all I know. So asking me if we swap places or get confused as each other often is a fun little ice breaker in conversation, but it is our everyday reality. The jokes get old, and we are left with the weight of a stranger’s ignorance of how exactly the guessing game impacts our originalities, and sense of self. 

The Beauty of Our Scheme 

My identity has developed around the edges of my twin’s, but that does not mean I never got the chance to define it for myself. Today, the people that are closest to me can quickly recognize that she and I are nothing alike (surprise!). This was only possible after we were given the opportunity to pursue different freedoms away from the strings that bind us together in routine and life at home, and it was achieved when we went to college. I never feel obligated to introduce myself as a twin at first anymore, and it has stopped feeling like a platinum badge I must wear to be recognized by my peers. 

I love to keep my sibling connection as something private and something that is enriching to me, but also something that gives me a chance to add dimension to my own shapes of life. My sister and I have grown even closer in these last few years, as we can check in on each other and relate to the struggles of being a young adult via our shared perspective. I receive a different type of comfort when I interact with my sister, because she knows how I like to think; she thinks the same way too. We have icky inside jokes that no one else in the world would laugh at, and we have ways of knowing things about each other without even saying them out loud. I love having her in my corner of life, and I know she feels the same way too.

Tanvi Joshi is a student writer at the Her Campus chapter at Michigan State University. Her primary work is focused on wellness and health, with the scope of directing her knowledge towards bringing awareness of mental well-being. Apart from Her Campus, Tanvi is currently a junior who is double majoring in Human Biology and Psychology, and minoring in Women's Studies with the aim of of entering medicine in her near future. In her free time, Tanvi enjoys writing poetry, reading, dancing, watching strange Hindi movies, hitting the gym, and spending time with her loved ones.