About Face

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People are going to stereotype each other. We categorize people, so we can organize our thoughts. Unfortunately, when we are quick to categorize, we miss the content. I’m sure someone has incorrectly put you in a box a one time or another. Generally, we like to debunk these perceived myths about us but have you ever gone along with it? Have you ever let someone’s perceived understanding of you, alter you?

I asked a lot of questions in middle school. If I didn’t understand something I’d simply say “I don’t get it” and I didn’t. I was bubbly, positive, and chewed gum like Bubblicious sponsored me. It didn’t help matters that the movie Clueless with Alicia Silverstone had just come out and all the kids had seen it. I could often be seen with my head tilted and my eyes staring off into space. Here’s the thing, I literally had to try to stay awake in math class and I’d still fall asleep, even if I wasn’t tired. As for Science, I didn’t care so much about the insides of a bird or a mouse but man, genetics was fascinating and I seriously loved looking at that Periodic Table of Elements on the wall. It was easy to put me in the “airhead” category at first glance.

But, I wasn’t an airhead. I wasn’t a ditz or really even “spacey”. Sure, sometimes I was confused but that’s because I was 12 and… uh, blunt. If anything, I was overly analytical for a middle schooler. I questioned everything all the time, most of which I kept to myself because well, I thought I was a weirdo. So… I accepted this ditz personification, in fact I embraced it. I guess it seemed as convenient for me as it was for everyone else. I had a few friends and eventually my long term boyfriend who knew otherwise and that was fine, for awhile…

I went to youth group on Wednesday nights. At school there were enough people who knew all facets of me and so the few that taunted “airhead” didn’t really affect me. At youth group, people didn’t really have as much time with me as the kids at school did. They just got a glimpse of me, and apparently, the part of me I was revealing was a little too bubbly and a little too playful. Many of the kids made it clear to me that they thought I was a ditz, in fact they started getting rude about it. They discredited my words, my thoughts, my perspectives, they teased me. I remember questioning why I felt so terrible after youth group. I started to dread going… Then I realized, I was partially to blame. I let them mold me into this version of myself that didn’t feel like me, it didn’t feel like me at all.

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I think we do this. We as people, do this. We let the outside world dictate who we are going to be. We give into the molds that we conveniently fit into and we’ll do it for years. In reality we are all contradictions of ourselves, we are layered, varied, complex individuals. If you think about it, every single person you know could fit into a stereotype. I’ll list a few, just for fun.

  • Frat Boy Athlete aka Stifler
  • Sorority/ Cheerleader
  • Witty girl that makes crazy faces in all her pictures
  • Naive goody Two Shoes that follows all the rules
  • Bohemian Hippie that was raised in the suburbs
  • Aloof Artist (the true Hipster)
  • Wannabe retro hipster
  • Stoner /music junkie
  • Pretty boy Corporate America
  • Housewife/mother
  • Playboy
  • The urban foodie
  • The badass rebel
  • Country hick
  • The world traveler
  • Granola hiker
  • Granola hiker that lives in the City…
  • Gay fashionista
  • Type A perfectionist
  • Whatever stereotype came with your race
  • Whatever stereotype came with your religion
  • Whatever stereotype came with your family
  • Whatever stereotype came with your sexuality
  • Whatever stereotype came with your gender
  • Whatever stereotype came with your career

For the record, I could have kept adding. Here’s the thing, sure we all could jam our way into these boxes but in reality we are ALL far more complex. I’ve known feminine gay men that are more invested in the game of football than any ole jock, stoners that graduated at the top of their ivy league schools and goody two shoes that were secretly sleeping with someone else’s boyfriend. Not yours. 

My point is this, sometimes we have to break our own stereotypes of ourselves to get out of a rut and expose people to all the other layers of who we are. If you’re the stoner musician dude and you haven’t introduced another element to your identity since 1994, it might be time. If you are the girl who feels it’s your duty to make everyone laugh but no one lets you be quiet or sad on your off days, give yourself a little room to be. I think we all get stuck in our own version of ourselves and we give in too frequently to the convenient stereotypes placed upon us. When we are quick to judge people, we miss out on who they really are. When we default easily to the categories that people place us in, we miss out on who we are capable of being.

Break your mold.

A

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3 comments

  1. You know, one thing about us human beings is that all of us are different from each other. The fact that we also have free will…when a person becomes more aware of that fact, especially if they’re being stereotyped or if they’ve embraced a stereotype, and then they become true to themselves, they can surprise people greatly. And that’s a really fun thing to watch, don’t you think? Also, from what I’ve learned about stories, stereotypical characters usually hold great potential in surprising readers, you know!

    Let’s all be ourselves. We’re more than just stereotypes. We’re all unique. We’re all different from each other, you know!

    Keep calm, look at the bright side, and friendship for the win, people!

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