My friend always tries to show off what a good runner she is. She makes fun of lesser runners, like me. I've told her to stop, but she says, "I'm just playing." What can I do to tell her she hurts people? —Kelly, 16, Gainesville, Ga.

Even though she's making cocky comments, your friend seems to have some self-esteem issues; after all, most people who feel good about themselves try to make others feel good. People who feel bad about themselves try to bring out the negative in others — to make themselves feel better! Understanding that is your first step to fixing this situation.

Try complimenting your friend, so she'll see you're not out to get her or compete with her. She'll also learn how good it feels to be treated kindly. In turn, she should start to understand that it's important to treat others, namely you, in the same way.

If she doesn't respond to your compliments and continues bringing you and other people down, tell her that you won't hang out with her unless she stops. There's nothing wrong with giving her a second chance, but you deserve to be surrounded by people who make you feel good.

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I have younger siblings who look up to me, and my parents expect me to be a perfect role model. They're always nagging me, and I have no time to hang out with friends and relax. It's like I'm playing a game that has no end, and it's impossible to win. What can I do? —Dani, 16, Voorhees, N.J.

First things first: We want you to really think about and accept that no one is perfect. It's impossible to be perfect — but that's a good thing; messing up, or even just trying things you might not be "perfect" at, will teach you new things about yourself and the world around you. Sure, it's great to want to be your best — but striving to be perfect won't make you happy. Once you really understand that, it's time to talk to your parents.

Tell them you feel overwhelmed. Explain that you love your role as an older sibling, but that you have lots of other roles you need time for too. Let them know that having the time and space to explore these other sides of yourself will help you de-stress, develop a clear head and boost your confidence. That will help you become a stronger role model for your siblings, and a stronger person overall, naturally.

And Dani, if you try talking to your parents and nothing changes, you might want to reach out to a trusted adult (an aunt, cousin or trusted teacher or counselor) and explain your feelings. Maybe this person can step in and help your parents see your side of things.

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