Stereotypes


                                                                     Stereotypes                                        

    People generally judge you by their own standards.  usually we all have preconceived ideas about everybody we come in contact with, which are called stereotypes, based on information we have about them, age , tribe, religion occupation etc. these stereotypes are actually useful in that they help guide the individual to know what behavior is acceptable to each different individual. Without stereotypes, one would therefore exceed the limits of socially acceptable norm and modesty. Without stereotypes it will be a life of “anything goes,” a life of interpersonal and ethical relativism that would lead to societal collapse and anarchy.  Obedience of law and order is hinged on the stereotypes that have been built in the individual.   Everybody you come in contact with already has a preconceived notion about who you are and who you are likely to be. This is why you walk up to a lady and she fails to develop any interest in you, without even talking to you. It is not because you have done anything wrong; it is because she already has a preconceived notion about you which is not pleasant. As in this case the stereotype may not be directed at the individual, it may be directed at the action the person is performing.

         When we are talking about stereotypes, we are discussing stereotypes as different from impressions.  A typical stereotype is “all lawyers are crafty dishonest people.” A lawyer who is honest will only change the impression of himself, he will not change this belief of his profession. Plus he will get a large number of people waiting for him to make a mistake so that they can shout “I told you so!” from the rooftops. For better understanding let us put it this way:  Impressions are fickle and temporary and change according to situations and events, stereotypes however can never change. Time and events can do nothing about them.

            Stereotypes maybe positive or negative, but one thing which is constant and should be reiterated, you cannot change a stereotype. “As the Yoruba saying goes:”No matter how poor a prince gets, he will never lose his dignity.”  This is why HR experts tell you to always try to make a favourable first impression. Time for instance may prove that you are in fact the direct opposite of what you are supposed to be, but in their hearts of hearts the stereotypes have not shifted, they have only been kept in the long term memory, waiting for the time that the individual will make a slip and they will be dug out with a knowing smirk. This is why statements like: “I knew it was a trick”, “I have always known It.” is never far from the human vocabulary.  A lot of times people don’t want you to succeed because they love you, they want you to succeed because they do not want to be proved wrong in their notion that you must succeed.  Same goes for failure, people don’t want you to fail because you are evil or they hate you. They are waiting for you to fail because they already have a stereotype of you as a failure.

       Do not for a moment think you can change a stereotype you have been labeled with, you cannot. You may be able to change someone’s impression of you, but you cannot change his/her stereotypes so far you still have the qualities that got labeled with the stereotype in the first place. A person’s reality is his own perception of events and issues. It does not matter if the view is in contrast with generally accepted reality or not, Just as a jaundiced person will always see everything as yellow, no matter what the colour really is. You cannot blame or judge him for it, he did not wish to be jaundiced, it was factors beyond his control that made it that way.  A different person is only a departure from the norm. A departure from the norm can never alter what the norm is. True objectivity is only an abstract concept. Everyone views the world through coloured lenses; it is the colour that differs from individual to individual.  The lenses can be coloured by experience, upbringing, culture and tradition, level of education, exposure, station in life, and the actions they have observed from watching the world. To some, the theories of their stereotypes have been tested over and over again and it has never been proved false, hence they see no reason to change it.  The human memory is wired to rely on its five senses. Anything that the human perceives through his five senses is stored away and stays there until the end of the perceiver’s life, whether it is ever needed again or not. Human beings as a rule are egotistical.  People may admit to their fellow humans that they are wrong, they may admit that their impressions of people and events are incorrect, but it is impossible to get them to admit to themselves that their stereotypes are bigoted. Instead they store the information somewhere, waiting for time to prove them right. No human being will ever pass up the chance to say “I told you so” (even if only in his mind). Human beings will never admit that their stereotypes were wrong, they will instead blame other people, circumstances, society. If a politician (whom plenty of people perceive as dishonest) is presumed innocent at a trial for example. The consensus will remain that the accused got free because he had connections with the judge, or that the judge was simply incompetent. No one would even bother to consider the possibility that the accused might actually be innocent.  Stereotypes in human beings go so deep that a human being may get uncooperative or even violent if they are challenged. Jesus Christ,  Martin Luther King Jr.,  the martyrs of the dark ages, all were killed because they dared to challenge stereotypes, for instance the stereotype between science and religion has not changed, it has only been altered somewhat  by events, the  mutual distrust still runs deep.

        What is left for the individual to do is just to work according to the dictates of his own conscience. Your conscience is the only judge who will ever judge you fairly in all circumstances. It is your conscience who will tell you your strengths and weaknesses, sometimes you are underrated and labeled with a negative stereotype, sometimes you are overrated, given a positive stereotype and given targets that your ability and talents would find it difficult to achieve. But your conscience like a mirror, will give you an unbiased view of yourself all the time.  Your stereotype of yourself is meant to be embraced; black sheep are often the target whenever there is an aberration in the design of society. Conforming to the stereotype may keep you out of the storm that comes from being different. Do not care about changing stereotypes, as it is a futile venture, try to change impressions. The average human being tends to act more based on his impressions rather than his stereotypes. Anyone who acts on a positive stereotype when the impression is negative is regarded as a fool and a gullible personality. Anyone who acts on a negative stereotype when the impression created is positive is regarded as a bigot. A civilized human being puts his stereotypes to the background when he is dealing with people, but it does not mean it is not there. The stereotype that you have been labeled with might have been there before you are born, and will b there after you are gone, but the impression you create will be used to define your personality. Ultimately, people will not define a man by who he is, or where he came from. The question which everyone will ask first is “what did he achieve?”

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