Saturday, 25 February 2012
Why Knowing Yourself Is Your Best Protection
Everyone is under pressure. To conform. To follow the horde. To let others manipulate and control their lives. But not everyone reacts in the same way. How you personally handle such pressure has little to do with circumstances and everything to do with your sense of identity. About knowing what’s right for YOU.
Take the following scenario and consider how you’d react: An acquaintance, colleague or classmate tries to tempt you into an activity you know to be anti-social, harmful or even illegal. It could be smoking, vandalism, shoplifting, heavy drinking, driving too fast, being coerced into unwanted sexual activity or any number of things but, just for the sake of argument, let’s say you’ve been offered a joint of marijuana. Would you:
(a) Try to wheedle out of it with lame excuses, such as: “Oh, I’m not sure....my Dad would kill me....what if we get caught?.....perhaps another time.....”
(b) Reject the offer with a firm, unequivocal statement. For example: “Not for me, I like breathing too much - and you should have more sense as well!”
The difference between (a) and (b) is knowing who you are, of having a sense of identity which encompasses your attitudes, principles and, above all, your right to make your own decisions - whether these offend others or not. Some people, particularly youths, are afraid to make a stand in case they appear uncool. Yet, ironically, it’s the very people who stay true to themselves who earn the respect of their peers, not ones who can never say ‘No’ and who yearn to be in with the crowd.
Examine Your Strengths
A healthy identity is tied up with self-esteem and inner confidence. Unfortunately, there are times, particularly during adolescence, when you feel vulnerable and unsure, so it helps to examine your strengths, talents and abilities. Think of all the things you’re good at – sports, music, art, woodwork, creative writing or even an academic subject – then write them down. You can also add your qualities, like being a good listener, being there for others, staying calm in a crisis, generosity, determination, having a strong sense of justice and other attributes of which you can be genuinely proud. If it helps, ask your parents or someone close to you what they perceive as your strengths. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Admit Your Failings
Now here comes the hard part. Make a list of your weaknesses, bearing in mind that, while no one is perfect, your failings only influence you to the extent that you allow. Knowing what they are is the first essential step to controlling and perhaps even eliminating them. Meditate on how each weakness could be exploited by others, causing problems for you. For example, if you have a weakness for alcohol, would it be wise to mix with people whose main leisure activity is drinking?
Decide on Your Goals
Having a goal or purpose in life helps you focus on the future. Watch sprinters preparing to run a race. Do you see them gazing absently into the crowd? No. From the moment they enter the track, an athlete’s eyes are firmly set on the finishing post and on winning first place.
In the same way, you can avoid much that is unnecessary, wasteful and harmful. Having an ambition, or even a small goal, can keep you on track. If nothing else, you’ll be too busy planning how to reach your goal to care what others are thinking about you.
Determine Your Principles
Principles should be at the core of every human. Knowing what they are and sticking by them, no matter what the cost, will identify you as a person of conviction. Without a moral code, people are like wisps of grass swaying in the wind, unable to control their own direction.
So take charge of your life. Discover who you are and, like an oak tree, stand firm for what you believe in. That way, no matter what circumstances come upon you, you’ll always stay true to yourself.