How To...Defy Stereotypes

When this topic was suggested it was something that caught me by surprise, but in a good way! I’m glad we’re interested in defying stereotypes to say the least, but I’m also a little curious as to why the opinions of others is that important. I do recognize there are some stereotypes that are practically impossible to evade, so with that being said let’s talk about how to defy them! 


1.     Acknowledge that the stereotypes exist

Before you can challenge or defy anything, you absolutely must acknowledge that it exist in the first place. Think about the stereotype that’s holding you hostage, instead of ignoring it’s existence or pretending it is irrelevant or outdated…try accepting that it does exist likely for good reason. Back in 2013 I had to face the reality that I fit into the “angry black woman” stereotype before I could work on changing it for myself. For many years prior I had convinced myself that my anger issues weren’t “that bad” and I was justified in my anger or frustration. What’s worse, when I had my irrational or unnecessary anger outbursts I would even feel like the other person provoked me. 

If anyone is struggling with this stereotype in particular I share this with you, I had to learn what was worth the anger and what wasn’t even worth the energy. I also had to see that I was giving my power away to anyone willing to take it, which left me on an emotional rollercoaster. I had to take control of my emotional stability and stop allowing other people to take my peace. Finally, the quote “If it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes upset about it” changed the game completely for me! 


2.     Evaluate whether you agree with them or not

Before you can defy a stereotype you have to decide whether or not you agree with the validity of the stereotype. For example, one stereotype I simply disagree with is that “millennials are lazy” and because I don’t see any validity to this stereotype so personally I don’t see the need to actively work to defy it. However, the stereotype that I do feel the need to actively work towards defying is that “therapy is for crazy people”. Even if you feel like you don’t have “real issues” I believe the beneficial part of therapy is working through your issues prior to it becoming a “real issue”. Also, most insurances cover the cost of mental health!!


3.     Create a game plan

With absolutely everything we do, we’re going to need an actionable game plan in order to see real progress towards those goals. Now that you’ve decided which stereotypes you’re looking to defy, it’s time to effectively determine how we’re going to make that happen. If you’re habitually late, what steps can you take to adjust your time management skills after determining what causes you to be late. Now that we have the big picture goal in mind, we have to figure out what are the actionable steps we can take to accomplish or defy this stereotype. 


4.     Progress is a slow process

When you’re working to defy stereotypes, particularly ones that have been apart of you for a while you have to recognize that progress is a slow process. Be forgiving to yourself and understand you’re not going to be able to turn certain images around overnight. You may find yourself falling into old habits and while you should hold yourself accountable we also have to learn to be forgiving as well. Far too many times we are willing to forgive absolutely anyone else except ourselves and we’ll hold onto our shortcomings for years to come. 


5.     Celebrate small victories

As you make steps towards the ultimate goal, find ways to celebrate even the smallest of victories. If you are working to defy the stereotype that “most black men are absentee fathers”, every chance to play an active role in your child’s life…celebrate that. Don’t take the small wins for granted, instead make an effort to find reasons to enjoy a win! Sometimes that win looks like you simply doing better than before, and that’s okay! A win is a win!


* Bonus * Help the next person along

We get better as a collective unit when we take the “each on tach one” approach to the lessons we learn throughout life. That’s what this written and the video blogs are all about, sharing knowledge that has been learned throughout life. If you learn something and see someone dealing with similar struggles make the effort to share that knowledge with the next person.