Dear Annie: I am a teenager. In our society, the central message is that you need to look perfect and have tons of money. It’s drilled into our heads every day, and I feel the pressure.
Clothing companies tell me I need to wear their labels to be popular, cosmetic companies convince me with airbrushed models that their makeup will make me look flawless, and weight programs promise to give me the perfect body. People undergo surgery to make their faces and bodies more appealing because they have been brainwashed into believing the body they were given isn’t good enough.
While all this goes on, there are simultaneous advertisements for suicide hotlines, medication for depression, and help with bulimia and anorexia. I am sick of it. I don’t want to feel like I must look like every Photoshopped model in the magazines to be accepted. I am beginning to question the society I live in. Is there anything to do? — Teen Lacking Self-Esteem
Dear Teen: You sound like a pretty smart cookie to us. You already understand that the reason behind such advertisements is to sell product, and that the pressure to be “flawless” is manufactured by companies that benefit from your purchases. This pressure is internalized and can breed insecurity in those who don’t feel they measure up.
We know it’s difficult, but remember that those who are interested primarily in superficial appearances aren’t particularly appealing in the long run. Please don’t feel obligated to attract such people. There are plenty who still value integrity, intelligence, confidence and a good personality. If you cultivate those traits, your self-esteem will develop right alongside them.
Dear Annie: We recently received a wedding invitation for a Friday wedding that starts at 5:30. I think that is too early for a Friday night wedding. It borders on rude by asking people to take time off from work or rush like crazy to get there on time. What do you think? — Keep Your Guests in Mind
Dear Keep: While bridal couples should not put undue burdens on their guests, they do get to decide what time to start their wedding. (It would be impossible to please everyone.) Many weddings begin with some socialization before the actual ceremony, so you may not be as late or as rushed as you think. Please try to enjoy yourself and wish the couple well without resenting the inconvenience to you.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Too Clean, Too Fearful,” who was not interested in counseling to address her anxieties about travel. Her relatives were also concerned that she is obsessed with the cleanliness of her home.
I had similar difficulties and eventually discovered that I have a mild form of OCD. This is a much misunderstood but fairly common problem. Some OCD sufferers give up on counseling because some therapies may not be effective, but they have not yet tried a cognitive approach called ERP (exposure response prevention). Working with a counselor who is trained in ERP therapy could be enormously beneficial. Please suggest she contact the International OCD Foundation (ocfoundation.org), which offers information about therapists and treatment. — S.
Dear S.: Thank you for suggesting that “Too Clean” may have a form of OCD. We have often recommended the International OCD Foundation in this space and hope she will contact them.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.