Thousand Reflections: Stereotypes
About Thousand Reflections: Thousand Network is full of people from all walks of life and background. Here, we try to tap into this collective wisdom by offering a prompt every week and sourcing short responses from the members.
This week’s prompt:
Stereotypes generally refers to our perceptions and attitude towards a certain group of people. These days most of us try to say that we are stereotype free, but it’s almost impossible to be that. In many cases it’s just innate in our society and upbringing, tied in deep ways to our soul.
Stereotypes come in many versions — sometimes bad, sometimes just a preconceived notion of how a certain group of people will behave.
This week, think about the stereotypes around us and inside us. Do you have any stereotypes, and how do you become aware of them? How do you deal with other people’s stereotypes of you, and how does it help or hinder you? How do stereotypes start to take shape from our childhood, and have you ever tried ever to get rid of them? How did you do it, and was it successful?
There is no way to avoid having stereotypes — they are part of our culture experience and understanding growing up. Sometimes it’s not even about “others,” but our own cultures and countries. In living abroad the past four years, I’m still discovering stereotypes I had about my own country, but never realized.
What is more important in my opinion is being aware that we have stereotypes, and being open to the possibility of discovering and learning about them — and then, the next step, being open to the idea that the truth is more complicated, or there are certain specific cultural, historical reasons that have created the stereotype and its expression. Obviously, I cannot change a stereotype I don’t know I have, but I should be willing to check myself should it ever affect a situation.
I think that’s one of the reasons I love living abroad so much — every day I am learning about my own stereotypes, and learning how truly complex people are. Every day as I meet new people and experience new cultures, my awareness grows, and I can relate to people more genuinely and with greater understanding.
I grew up being stereotyped as an obese person. People around me , such as classmates, always used to make fun of me for my size. It was a pretty common incident. By the time I grew up I got over it, but the feelings was really bad at some points.
Imagine, despite having a lot of other qualities, you always get mocked for your obesity. Later, I became friends with some of the people who had always made fun of me. Although the situation had changed, it was still kind of weird. Even when I go in a new street, sometimes a complete stranger person or child will call me things like hey Fatty or similar.
That’s why I’ve dedicated a large portion of my adult life to getting in shape and getting out of this stereotype. Unfortunately I have not yet been very successful about it, although some years I did reduce a lot of weight. I’ve convinced myself that maybe I do have some obese genes, but the thing is, I’ve noticed that I developed a hatred for fat people like myself, especially if they are not doing anything to change the situation.
I thought I had no other stereotypes, but I noticed that I do not want to hang out with ugly people — or at least, I tend to try and avoid them. Recently I had a very bad reaction from one my friends for this, because I told her she looks grumpy all the time. I am trying to get over it, but it’s not easy.
Additionally, after connecting with people from many countries, I found many people have lots of stereotypes about those of us from third world countries. Some think we don’t have any money and we are just poor beggars. Others think we cannot be as intellectual as they are.
Recently I did an online course with a globally ranked school where I found a similar sentiment. We were supposed to have a discussion group with people from first world countries, but they all said they were too busy. Later, when the professor asked them about the discussions, they said it had gone well. I found it quite awkward.
It happens, people are categorized according to their size, color, ethnicity, religious beliefs and origin. This is kind of rooted in us, and I don’t think this situation will be fixed any time soon. I think all we can do is to try to make our own place and keep going with our own journeys. Even people who are successful still get harassed at airports for their religion or origin. But we will not stop our journey, we just have to keep going forward and keep our virtues with us.
We inherit stereotypes like we inherit genes and so from childhood we can find ourselves in social environments with specific stereotypes. To become aware of stereotypes, which often arise as judgement, you must observe the emotional response to people and circumstance. Stereotypes are like superstition, from a tradition of fear. Fear can play a large or small role in our lives according to the type and stronghold of the fear. Try to give it shape to humanise it not demonize it. A human fear may be rationalized with and if it is based on a narrative that does not serve you, feel free to question what role it plays in your life.
Dealing with other people’s stereotypes of you…this is more fun. Again this is rooted in their expectation of who you are and what you will do. If you allow it, their stereotype will become your course of action, unless if you are aware of a method to counter the impact. Others’ judgments and stereotypes are easier to deal with than your own. It is a matter of expanding your belief to overcast theirs. Imagine a ball of energy around you + them filled with your belief, dwarfing their judgement. This will allow you to reduce any negative impacts on you by helping you feel empowered by your beliefs.
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