Dear Margo: I really don't know what to do about my mother. It's as though she's made a career out of not listening to what I say ... or she's dedicated herself to doing the opposite. Right after I told her I was going on a diet and staying away from sugary things, she sends me a five-pound box of chocolates. (We live far apart, and she sends packages from time to time.)
At the very least, she is not listening to me, or worse, she hears exactly what I am saying. This strikes me as insensitive. I don't know what to do about it — or her. — Talking to the Wall
Dear Talk: Sending chocolates to anyone (especially a daughter) following an announcement of a diet is just hostile, passive aggressive and sabotaging. There is nothing you can do about her, but for yourself, you can try to understand where the pushback is coming from. Understanding a situation makes it more manageable (and less of an irritant).
Because you cannot make her hear you or behave appropriately, train yourself to ignore all the noise and save yourself aggravation. As "crazy mothers" go, yours is not at the top of the list. You can't improve her behavior, so work on yourself to diminish the annoyance quotient. Just using the chocolates as an example, I would've written her a note saying, "Thanks! I gave it to Gail. My diet is going really well!" — Margo, protectively
Look Neither Right nor Left
Dear Margo: I am 18 and a senior in high school. I have great future plans to look forward to, and I have worked hard to get where I am now. Although I've accomplished many things I am proud of, I always let the "greater" achievements of others (particularly my friends) make me doubt myself. I know deep down that the accomplishments of others do not detract from my own, but still I feel myself slipping back into a negative and self-loathing mindset. I know that thinking like this is holding me back in a lot of ways, but I can't seem to shake it.
Occasionally, I am truly happy for someone when they have done something impressive, but if this person has hurt me in any way in the past, I am immediately taken over by petty jealousy and wonder why I can't be as good. Although I try to be outwardly supportive, I am afraid that my resentment will start to show — if it hasn't already.
I know I tend to crave approval and often feel I don't get it, but then I realize I'm probably just being too hard on them or making a fuss over nothing. How can I feel better about myself, become a better friend and start focusing on the positive? If there's a big secret I'm missing out on, I'd like to know! — Not Good Enough
Dear Not: Somewhere along the way, your sense of self-worth got dented and insecurity and inferiority took over. I do not care for the word "self-esteem" because it has become so hackneyed, but that does seem to be your main issue — that and an instinct to compare yourself to others, which is a mug's game, by the way, because there always will be someone smarter, prettier, richer, whatever, so conserve your emotional energy.
Other people's achievements really have nothing to do with you. Should it prove too difficult to pull yourself together in this regard, consider using a therapist's help to get to the root of your competitive, self-demeaning instincts. I believe you can outgrow this by working through it. — Margo, productively
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.