Growing up, everyone has a specific mental image of how people should act/dress/behave, etc. And when you look around, it is blatantly obvious in all aspects of life. Now, I am not putting the blame on anyone; I, myself, am guilty of stereotyping, and most people are hanging with me in this corner, but that’s okay! Very recently, I have come to terms with the fact that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, and all succumb to ignorance sometimes. However, what really matters is your willingness to learn and make a conscious effort to change the way you look at things.
Personally, most people see me as a white, straight female. Because of this, I get treated as such. I am an introvert, and part of the LGBT+ community, so dealing with stereotyping is an everyday thing. I am willing to bet that many of you reading this blog post have also experienced some type of stereotyping in your life. It is nearly impossible to change the way other people think. Nevertheless, leading by example is the best way to make a difference (in my opinion). So today, I have compiled a list of tips and tricks to stay more aware of the stereotyping occurring around you!
1. Become knowledgeable about different stereotypes
This may seem a little counterintuitive, but the first step to stopping something is to know what exactly you are stopping. Just simply take a moment, wherever you are, to people watch. See what comes to mind as you observe others living their lives, and take note of the negative and positive thoughts that cross your mind. Stereotyping can be negative or positive!
2. Begin reversing your thoughts
Once you’ve become aware of the role stereotyping plays in how you think, it is much easier to recognize when those thoughts cross your mind. Being able stop that thought and tell yourself, ‘hey this is a form of stereotyping - how can I alter this thought?’ was the hardest thing for me. But this is the most important step!
For example, the other day, in class, my friend overhead someone asking students to write their names, and explicitly stated for international students to write their preferred name. Let’s dissect this for a second - instead of singling out a group of people, why not just make a general statement for anyone to write their preferred name, thereby making that statement inclusive for everyone.
3. Questioning whether something is stereotyping or ‘offensive’; just avoid it
If there is any question as to whether or not something you are thinking/about to say is considered stereotyping, it probably is. Just ask yourself why you are thinking that, and if it really is a necessary thought. If not, then just avoid it!
This is something I am still working on, and will continue to work on, for the rest of my life. Learning, and self-improvement, is a constant part of life, but willingly participating in both is the main take-away from this. I hope this post will shed some light on the societal norms that really should not be accepted as such. If there is anything that you have found to help with stereotyping please comment! Engaging in conversations regarding controversial topics with peers is one of the best ways to have a deeper understanding of that topic, so don’t be shy.