Student can't escape shadow of longtime rival

Dear Abby: "Maya" and I competed throughout high school. We shared common interests — even friends, who would blow me off to hang out with her.

We were involved in speech and debate and were nominated for the girls' state team. I was deemed "too qualified," so Maya got the nomination. She ran against me for speech president and I won by a huge margin. Then the coach decided she wanted us to be "co-presidents" and announced to everyone that the vote was tied. I was one- upped constantly.

Later, to my chagrin, I discovered we'd be going to the same college. I was told I'd probably never see her because of the large campus. Well, last semester she joined two activities I'm involved in. We rushed for a prestigious pre-law organization. She was accepted; I wasn't.

Maya is pretty, popular and charming. I am plain and by no means popular. I can't stand to lose one more thing to her. After all these coincidences, we'll probably end up in the same law firm. What can I do to stop feeling so awful about myself as Maya continues to take away all the things I care about most? —TIRED OF SECOND PLACE

Dear Tired: Your high school speech coach's obvious favoritism for Maya was terrible, and for that I am sorry. But you have allowed your feelings of being constantly one-upped to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Stop concentrating on Maya and start devoting all of your attention to yourself and your goals. While good looks and charm are powerful assets, so are being brilliant, self-assured and accomplished in one's field. Let the future take care of itself and you may be pleasantly surprised.