How often do you stereotype or label someone every day? I challenge you to think long and hard about this.
Think about it, how often do you find yourself thinking something like:
All Gen Y is…
All women are…
All men are…
All police are…
All lawyers are…
As you can imagine the list is endless and as we know the comments after the above words are most likely negative.
Unfortunately, when it comes to stereotyping, we are more likely to say something unpleasant and derogatory over something positive.
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I heard a tragic news story from China yesterday. I won’t go into the specifics of the story here. What struck me is that out of this horrible tragedy came comments like – The Chinese are all like that…
I found that comment quite staggering. There are over a billion people living in China. A billion.
While our environment and culture can certainly influence us to a large extent, saying a billion people are all the same is ridiculous. Not to mention it reflects badly on all of the Chinese living in other parts of the world.
I use the Chinese example only because of the story I heard yesterday, but you could substitute any nationality in there instead.
Stereotyping Australians as drunken hooligan springs to mind. I’m Australian and I’m not a drunken hooligan.
Whether we realize it or not we stereotype and label people all of the time. Despite the fact that I hate stereotyping, I know I am guilty of it myself.
Come to think of it how often do you label yourself each day? How often do you limit yourself by that label?
Father, mother, teacher, single, secretary, lawyer, blonde, short, fat, etc.
While there is nothing wrong with describing ourselves using certain words, we have to be careful we are not solely defined or limited by these labels.
Labels can take a much more sinister form when they influence your self-esteem. Such examples are stupid, lazy, failure, loser. When a negative label, turns into a belief, you are in trouble.
The truth is you may be a mother but you are a lot of other amazing things as well.
Motherhood is a classic example of how we can sometimes label people. Take these four examples – mother, a single mother, stay at home mother, working mother.
I dare you to think about these examples and not, even for a fleeting second, associate a label to each one. To consider one better than another, to look down on one group over another.
Part of reducing stereotyping and labeling is learning to let go of judgment. Gabrielle Bernstein’s book Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living a Better Life is an excellent place to start. If you’re keen, there’s also a Judgment Detox Journal that you can work through.
The title of this post is to stop stereotyping and labeling. Asking you to stop is all well and good, but for something that is so common in our society, we might want to start with baby steps.
Cutting back might be a more realistic goal at this point.
Let’s start with being aware of when we are stereotyping or labeling people. When you find yourself behaving this way, stop and think about what you are doing. Be in control of your own thought process.
Think about whether your statement could possibly be true or whether it is simply ridiculous. Think about whether it is something you have heard a lot of other people say and therefore taken on board yourself.
Ask yourself, do I actually believe this statement? Focus on what the logical basis for your statement is. To be honest, most likely there won’t be one, particularly if you are dealing with sweeping generalizations.
Once you recognize you are stereotyping unfairly or illogically, you can think about reframing your way of thinking. The first step is being aware of your behavior.
While you are at it, spend a week listening to the media and take note of how often they stereotype people and think seriously about how negative, destructive and dangerous this practice can be.
Stop stereotyping and labeling and make your world a more open-minded, understanding place.
I hope this post helps you to think in a more positive way.
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