DEAR ABBY:

I'm a 16-year-old girl, and I'm pretty sure I'm the most insecure thing on the planet. I always feel self-conscious. Although I guess it's normal for kids my age to feel like this, it's at a whole different level for me.

I feel like everyone, including my closest friends, don't like me or care about me as much as I care for them. I try to distance myself from people so I won't seem annoying or clingy, but that has left me socially deprived.

I don't have a best friend either. I have multiple "kind of" friends. I'm scared to get close to anyone, and too shy to make new friends. And yes, I know, having friends isn't the most important thing in the world, but it's still pretty important because you need to have people there for you, to trust and to have fun and make memories with.

I always feel like a burden to everyone and like everyone who is nice to me is only doing it out of pity. This year I wasn't invited to even one Sweet 16 party because I have distanced myself from everyone. No one, except for two kids, talks to me at school, and when the teacher asks the class to partner up, I'm usually left alone.

A lot of this "no one likes you, everyone hates you" paranoia comes from my parents, because when I was younger, they said it to me repeatedly. I only have a few internet friends. They're the only best friends I have, but unlike me, they have lives outside of the internet. I'm the loser. Please help.

- Completely worthless

DEAR COMPLETELY WORTHLESS: Please do not compare your life with the lives of the people you know from the internet because the information can be misleading. In an online world, everything seems rosy because people are less likely to post about their disappointments.

In the real world, let me point out that parents are supposed to support and encourage their children, not belittle and denigrate them. Because you need more mentoring than I can offer in a letter or a column, I hope you will discuss your issues with a counselor at school who may be able to help you receive professional counseling to overcome the verbal abuse you have experienced at home. Please write me again and let me know how you are doing because I care.

Questions about shower are cloudy

DEAR ABBY: What's a polite way to respond to friends who ask, "Are you having a baby shower?" when no one has offered to throw me one?

My husband and I are expecting our first child, and we are thrilled. My family is unable to host a baby shower (which I understand would be a breach of etiquette anyway) and my husband has no family.

I'm not particularly wedded to the idea of having a shower, since my husband and I are well established and I don't really like being the center of attention. Still, if someone offered, I would graciously accept. I feel awkward when I am asked this question because I don't want to seem entitled or expectant or like I'm feeling sorry for myself. Do you have any way to say, "No one has offered, but I'll let you know if they do"?

- Expectant mom in California

DEAR EXPECTANT MOM: Honesty is the best policy. Your answer to that question is perfectly acceptable. It's the truth, and it may cause some of your friends to step up to bat.