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Are Stereotypes Bad?

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Stereotypes affect all of us.

Others stereotype us, and then we apply stereotypes to them. It is a natural way of our brains trying to put things into categories. Is the attempt to make a connection between things we know and things we do not know good or bad?

I have spent over 20 years fighting against stereotypes placed on me that resulted in prejudicial actions. I am the first one to tell you that the stereotype for prisoners’ wives is NOT flattering. We have been labeled as dumb, lazy, criminal, weak, bad mothers, promiscuous, manipulators, and more.  Ouch!  These stereotypes are definitely negative and equally hurtful.  But they are the things people think of when they hear that someone’s husband is in prison.

There are stereotypes all around us.

We do it every day without even realizing that we are labeling people, places, and things. Stereotypes are not bad.  Yes, I am sure.  The actual stereotype is not bad.  However, the way we respond to that stereotype can be bad.

You have a choice every time you are confronted with stereotypes.  There are 2 ways that stereotypes affect your life—1. The way you think as well as the way you act.  2. The way others think of you and treat you.

Lets talk about your own thinking first. When the stereotype is your own way of the viewing the world around you, you let it infect you or you let it inform you.

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Self-awareness is key!

When you are aware of what you are thinking and why, you are empowered to make choices.  You can choose to act on your thought/stereotype and exercise prejudice, or you can recognize the stereotype for what it is and choose to gather more information.  With more information, you can form your own opinion rather than rely on what you have heard or seen in the past.

When it comes to what others are thinking, you have to be even more diligent. You can let other people’s stereotypes of you define you, or you can defy those labels.

It won’t always be easy to see the situation for what it really is. Find the reason you do what you do and hang onto it. Integrity, peace, righteousness, honor – these are so much more valuable than anything money could buy. Fight the urge to impress others. Live to make an impression on them instead.

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Self-regulation is the key to defying labels.

You cannot let what other people think of you or say about you define who you are. The power to move beyond the labels and define yourself comes from your ability to self-regulate.  Don’t waste your time and energy justifying yourself, instead use that energy and time to create the life you want.

Stereotypes, in and of themselves, are not bad.  Our minds need a way to categorize all of the information around us so they will lump things together.  But just because those things get lumped together in our lazy brain, does not mean that they are really connected.  We have a responsibility to use both self-awareness and self-regulation to stop stereotypes from infecting our lives.

You are on the continuous improvement plan. Be true to yourself. Live every second as who you are, not as who someone else thinks you should be. Encourage others to live up to their potential as you live up to yours. When you live like this, stereotypes will never rob you of opportunities to learn, grow, and achieve your dreams.

I am rooting for you!