Mirror Magazine

2nd December 2001

The Sunday Times on the Web















Only YOU can change YOU

Most people want to impress others, to 'go' with the crowd and to be accepted. This is not something new; it is as old as humanity. Today, though, teenagers are increasingly getting into difficulties not only due to personal conflicts and depression but also as a result of peer pressure. They see taking alcohol and drugs as a symbol of adulthood. But they are only taking the path to self-destruction. 

What we have to learn is that life can be pleasant and far more rewarding if we could accept ourselves as we are. 

If we don't learn this early in life, we will continue to feel isolated, even though we're in a crowd. There's no way we can be happy and comfortable with others, if we can't be happy with ourselves. 

We have to realize that not going along with the crowd could help us stand out in the crowd. 

Here is a true story of a young man who learnt a bitter lesson about drugs.

Krishan (not his real name), 25, was a talented teenager, extremely interested in art. But his life took a dramatic turn at the age of 16, when he started smoking. 

"While I was schooling, I used to see boys of my age, having fun. They were very popular, and were involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities at school. I was not like them, everyone considered me very sober. I never participated in any extra-curricular activities, and didn't have the confidence or the courage to do so. 

So I took to smoking, thinking it would boost my personality. And then it all began to happen!" he recalled. 

"I began smoking and later took to ganja, as I felt it really enhanced my artistic skills. There were so many questions in life that needed answers. I preferred being alone rather than being with a crowd. And slowly I started losing interest in my studies as well as my home. I never realized that everything was drifting away from me." 

Krishan failed the A/L exam. He took to heroin, when he was 19. According to him he just wanted to experiment with drugs but soon he couldn't give up the habit. His priority was to find a way to support his habit each day, everything else was considered secondary.

"At the early stages, there were no difficulties in finding a way to purchase heroin, but as days went by, my addiction grew severe and I couldn't get the money I needed. Eventually my parents, friends, and girlfriend slowly began moving away from me. I was isolated. People who knew me called me a cheat and rogue, because I was involved in petty thefts to find a way to support my habit." 

He had to spend Rs. 500 per day for his addiction. But there was always something deep inside Krishan that told him he needed to get out of this abyss before it was too late. 

"I wanted to give up but I couldn't. My life was controlled by heroin," he admits. 

Ultimately, his family decided things had gone too far and took the first step by informing the police of his problems. 

Remanded for eighteen days, Krishan was later produced before a magistrate, and sent to a rehabilitation centre. His family took him to the Al-Anon Prevention Centre at Wennappuwa, and there, he gradually began dealing with his problem. 

Krishan says that since he started dealing with his habit he has got to know himself better and changed his attitudes and approaches. 

"I couldn't stop on my own, but since others compelled me to do so, I have succeeded. I am learning to get along in society. I am in control of my life, there's a sense of happiness in me, which I never felt before," he states confidently. 

There are various problems that Krishan faces today. The separation from his parents, consequences of failing his exams and unemployment. But he is confident that he can overcome any obstacles that may come his way. He has cultivated numerous life-skills such as prevention methods and stress management skills at Al-Anon and SLANA. 

What he has learnt through all this is that he can't change others but he can change himself. He has made this his philosophy in life. 

"Now when I look back, I can say without doubt that it was my family that stood right behind me through this entire healing process. Though my friends and relatives were there to advise me, it was my family who took the initiative. And I am grateful for it," he says. 

Krishan is progressing. Being at SLANA for the past 10 months, he has learnt various employable skills, which will help him become an independent and productive citizen. 

His interest in art has made him a talented computer graphics designer and he is determined to find employment in the media field. Krishan will be launching his own business in the near future, under the micro-finance business scheme funded by SLANA. 

Designing and printing items such as calendars, bookmarks, notepads, etc., will be a dream come true for Krishan. This young man is on his way to success; since he honestly believed he needed to change and was willing to confront his problems.

'Psst! Just how good a gossip are you? 

Gossiping has a bad name, but is it deserved? asks Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School and a gossip specialist. "Gossip is good for you. It gives you the latest map of the office so you can navigate issues. It's ad space for your ego and it's a form of grooming-like monkeys taking lice out of each other." 

Do only women gossip? No. Men do it too, but they call it networking. It's inevitable in any organisations, says Professor Nicholson. "You can tell the health of a company from the gossip that goes around. We all do it. It's a tool and has a part to play in personal development and career success." So how are you on gossip? 

Can you handle it and use it to your advantage? Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey, a psychologist experienced in work-related issues, says gossip must be used positively and constructively. Try her test to see how you're doing. 

Award yourself two points for As, one for Bs and nil for Cs. 

15-plus - brilliant. Dr. Bisbey says: "You gossip to increase closeness at work, to support and promote yourself and others." 

10 to 15 - tentative, "You know how to gossip positively, but you don't always do it. Be bolder and less self-serving." 

Under 10 - not good. "Are you sure you prefer to be on the outside of things? Gossip doesn't have to be negative. To further your own aims you must learn to further the aims of others." 

1. You've been nominated for an award as a charity fund-raiser. Do you: 

a) Tell your colleagues
b) Leave a copy of the award letter lying around in the office
c) Keep it to yourself for fear of appearing boastful

2. There is talk of redundancies. Do you: 

a) Encourage colleagues to tell you their thoughts with a view to a discussion with the boss
b) Drop sarcastic comments among colleagues and bosses whenever possible
c) Resign yourself to the fact that your influence probably won't be of much use

3. You hear that two colleagues are getting engaged. Do you:

a) Organise a surprise lunch, inviting colleagues and bosses. 
b) Tell the couple that there will be drinks after work on an arranged day to celebrate
c) Give them a card just from yourself

4. Which statement best describes you? 

a) At the heart of office life, enjoying a two-way share of news and info with colleagues. 
b) Know quite a bit but not sure that you want to know all. 
c) Out of the loop, the last to hear the news. 

5. A client/customer has sent a "thank you" card after you've done a job well. Do you: 

a) Tell everyone and prominently display the card
b) Display the card and hope that colleagues will notice
c) Tell no one

6. Your boss has a silver wedding anniversary. Do you: 

a) Tell your colleagues and organise a collection for flowers. 
b) Ask colleagues if they want to send a staff card. 
c) Offer "happy anniversary" wishes just from yourself. 

7. A colleague is revealing a stress problem. Do you: 

a) Offer a listening ear, and maybe suggest lunch. 
b) Talk to a colleague about it. 
c) Do nothing. 

8. A close colleague has been off sick and malicious rumours are thriving. Do you: 

a) Put everyone straight. 
b) Tell the gossips to be quiet and mind their own business. 
c) Say nothing on the grounds that it is not your business. 

9. Which statement best describes how you think you are viewed in the workplace? 

a) You attract people because you always know what is going on and you are always positive. 
b) You are not seen as a good source of info. 
c) You usually know the juicy bits, but seldom the good stuff. 

10. Which statement best describes the work atmosphere you want? 

a) To be part of a team that works well together, that supports each other in good and bad times. 
b) To be part of a cordial team but not obligated to share too much of yourself or your life. 
c) To be civil to colleagues, but to work independently of them. 

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