Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Sisters Clash Over Homework Help for Struggling Boyfriend

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 13-year-old girl in junior high. I am very shy and self-conscious. When I see skinny girls, I look at myself and feel embarrassed or ashamed. I have a lot of friends who support me. They say I shouldn't worry about my weight and that I don't need to lose any more.

I would like some words of encouragement from you. It seems like nothing can stop the way I feel. I have a boyfriend, but our relationship is long-distance. We talk online and he is as supportive as he can be, but I still feel self-conscious. Please help me with this. -- TEEN IN NEED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR TEEN: The harder we stare at our imagined flaws, the bigger they become. So please stop constantly comparing yourself to others. It's a depressing waste of time. Very few people are completely confident and self-assured at 13, and there are more important qualities to focus on in life than whatever happens to be the ideal of physical perfection at the moment. Your time would be better spent developing qualities that not only make you special, but also will last a lifetime -- your personality, your intellect and your talents.

So listen to what your friends and your boyfriend are telling you. Spend a few minutes every day reminding yourself of all the things you have going for you and the special qualities you have to offer. If you do you'll have less time to dwell on the negative.