Stereotypes Don’t Define Us

There is something about fitting in, that no matter what our age is, we all want to belong to a certain tribe. That sense of belonging-ness gives us a sort of comfort and therefore early on, we unassumingly start falling into the stereotypical slots that the society has created.

We start identifying with one particular group more than the other starting right from our school days. You should either belong to a popular group or a studious nerdy group or an athletic sporty kind-a group and so on. And these groups have a collective set of characteristics that is reflected invariably in all the members of that group. If a person deviates a bit from the set norms then he is looked down upon as an outcast. And God forbid, if you don’t identity with any of these said groups, then you are a misfit in the society; And that’s how our journey of belonging somewhere starts. It is handed out as a multiple choice questionnaire of sorts; you have to choose one group, either ‘A’ , ‘B’ or ‘C’ and mind it, there is no ‘all of the above’ option here.

It doesn’t stop there. Even as adults, whether in work-spaces or social circles, this need to belong and identify with a certain group continues. I have seen people obsessed with the need to belong so much so that they would say or do things as per the said expectations of the group ideology even if it sometimes completely clashes with their own ideals.

The stereotypes are not just limited to who we are inside but also how we look on the outside too…appearance, dressing, accessories et al. You have to look the part too, you know. I mean, if you are a serious writer then you must wear Khadi clothes and have a jholna bag (sort of ragged cloth bag) and of course the look is not complete without the forlorn faraway look, big glasses and all. I am not saying this happens one hundred percent but just trying to portray the general expectation of people. (Now don’t jump up in defense because I know, not all of them fall into it and people are breaking these stereotypes in great style, of course. This is just to drive my point across)

Why do we have to follow any stereotypes at all? You don’t have to do what others have been doing? You could be a nature-lover / farmer and wear stylish trendy clothes, you know what I mean? This need to use a certain lingo or dress up a certain way or attend certain events to be a part of the group, has to go. Your thoughts need not necessarily match with the group either. We are thinking, evolving and constantly changing beings, so we have a right to our own opinions about things. I have found myself at loggerheads at various instances when I couldn’t agree with what my tribe (the one I thought I belonged to) was saying but always chose to state my opinion even if it didn’t sit well with the group. It had put me in a spot at times but I always felt better doing what I felt was right. But it’s easier said than done.

We are all unique with diverse interests and characteristics. Then why try to fall into any one particular tribe…be part of many different and diverse groups. There is no right or wrong way. Somehow I see this clarity coming in only as we grow older…the younger generation is still in the clutches of these stereotypes.

We need to understand that these are our own creation and we seriously need to break free from it. Do what works for us and what makes us happy instead of forever trying to fit into an ill-fitting mould.

Be who you are; own it and embrace it with all your inadequacies and flaws.

We don’t have to follow a stereotype of what the social norms dictate. Take the road less travelled if that’s what you want. People may not approve but that’s okay. Decide what you want to do and how much you want to do. Not guided by pressure but by pure happiness.

Trust your own gut instinct. Make your own decisions. If things work out, then great! You will live to tell the story of your success. If not, great again; you will be that unique person who stood out instead of following the herd. Both ways, it’s a win-win situation.

Be multi-skilled and open-minded. Pick up what you enjoy. Everything around you is changing constantly, so why shouldn’t you too? Listen to your own self.

I see a lot of that change happening around me, now more than ever. And that’s a welcome change.

Do your own thing – the motivations have to come from within you and nowhere else. So please, no templates or cookie cutter moulds to restrict you.

No road maps. Chart your own journey. Create your own path.

Do what makes you happy; do what makes sense to you even if it doesn’t to others.

This journey belongs to you, flawed or otherwise – not to anybody else.

So live it; love it…sans the stereotypes.

………………

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91 thoughts on “Stereotypes Don’t Define Us

  1. Bang on post. In the rat race, people live wannabe life, follow others but sadly, happiness doesn’t follow them. Its all about being happy, then why cant we stay simple and just follow what our heart says.

  2. What a thought provoking post. We should stop and think about it every now and then. Right from childhood we are groomed to be like others but why? We need to stand out, to reach our full potential! I enjoyed your thoughts totally!

    1. Thank you so much Sonia. That’s so great to hear about your conscious parenting journey. I do that too with my son and daughter. I have written 2 post on gender stereotyping…Do read whenever you find time and let me know what you think.

  3. I have never followed the social norms. If someone told me that you can not do it, I would make sure that I do it. Breaking the barriers is my motto and I am glad that I am doing it till now. Loved reading your opinions.

  4. The first para of your post reminded me of my school days when I was not a bright student. One day, my class teacher suggested I sit in the front row with a girl (my friend) who was the top ranker. As I approached the bench the next morning, another “top ranker” taunted that “only scholars sit in the front row, so what was I doing there?” . It hurt a lot, but I kept quiet. Maybe it was that incident, or what I don’t know, but ever since, I have not belonged to a group. I may have a friend or two, but, never a group. MAybe because I am a loner, but that may be because of several other factors, too. However, the one thing I have noticed, as you said, that people who conform to a group follow their ‘rules’ to the T, without thinking if they themselves are comfortable doing it.
    I so agree with embracing yourself, because whatever you may do, you might not always keep your group happy. SOmeone or the other will have a problem with what you do! Best then, to follow your own rules., right?

    The only group I belong to is (are) the blogging groups!! 😛 They are much better, right?

    1. You are bang on Shilpa. And a big bear hug to you…Kids can be mean, you know… Sometimes even scarring you for life. As we grow older we do understand what an utter waste of time it is to worry about what others say or think but our younger selves doesn’t understand that…The sooner we embrace ourselves, that much wiser we are! Yes our blogging groups are the best, anyday! Your comment made my day! Thank you for stopping by…

  5. I get what you are telling , we have stereotypes everywhere in our country. It started with the Brits and we are continuing it like it’s a legacy. The intellect club , the fair and lovely club and so on.
    The soon we realise that it’s okay to be who we are and not fit into any particular stereotype we are truly free.
    Very neatly written and expressed.

  6. Wanting to belong is not strange or unusual . In fact identification with a group is the foundation of society . It is a psychological need to be accepted and part of a group. Going against the group is necessary at times but social support and acceptance is required if we need to succeed as individuals

    1. Absolutely Sunita. You are right. That’s the most basic need as we are but social animals. Here I am Only trying to point out the issue of forcing ourselves against our own wishes to follow or fit in with a certain group. Thank you so much for bringing your views up. It was great to see your interaction.

  7. Very well said. I believe the need to fit in and seek validation stems from deep-rooted insecurities while growing up. As much as we see people breaking stereotypes and charting their own path, I know a few people who would live up to the stereotype just to fit in, for the fear of being judged. At the end of the day, we should all learn to live for ourselves and live the way we want, without any regrets.

  8. Couldn’t agree more. I recently learnt that we want to feel included and that is why we stick to groups, set of people etc. It calls from the psychological sense of security and inclusivity.
    Your post tells me to accept people the way they are and without any tags attached to them.

  9. Why do we have to follow any stereotypes at all?

    That is the million dollar question. Peer pressure, personal insecurities and the rat race that is our world sometimes makes us follow stereotypes.

    Excellent post, as usual, Kalpana.

  10. I am often accused of being a spoil sport, for I make sure to not fit in. I have my own identity and will fit in only if i actually fit in. It’s like log kya kahenge ke dar se jeena thode chod denge.

    1. That’s so great to hear. Glad to come across someone who stands her ground. More power to you girl! Bilkul…kuch to log kahenge…logon ka kaam hai kahana.
      Haha. lovely to engage with you through the post.

  11. Very nicely written. Everybody needs recognition and a kind of security, we often get along people or groups, where many of our qualities or principles match with other, but we can not be prototypes.

    Those who think independently and are not just blind followers, often face hostility etc.

    1. Very true indeed. and it’s that fear that makes us follow the herd blindly. It takes courage and a bit of awareness of self to break out of the mould and chart your path. Nothing wrong in belonging to a group as long as it doesn’t impose on principles and values you are not okay with, isn’t it. Thanks for engaging with my post and sharing your valuable thoughts.

    1. You said it Rom. Even with conscious behaviour it is difficult to shake off that, which is hard-wired in our brains. But with awareness, we can try to unlearn and rewire…hopefully. As long as we have the understanding to stay authentic and stand by ourselves, then all is well. Thank you so much for sharing your views. It is so nice to connect with you and have a meaningful engagement.

    1. Very true Arv. It is but natural for us to want to belong but when it takes away your individuality then it becomes a problem. And i like how you could relate it to Hilter and his attrocities. Thank you. Hope to read your posts soon.

  12. I agree with what you say, but to practice what you are advocating takes a lot of grit on an individual’s part. It is in a human being’s nature to look for a sense of belonging everywhere. Essentially there are no two absolutely identical human beings. Even identical twins differ in some way or the other. And as you say, it is very necessary to find your individuality and celebrate it. I remember the book by Ayn Rand titled Fountainhead where the hero Howard Roark, an architect, is an idealistic individualist who maintains his identity in the face of extreme challenge and is willing to suffer for it. The ability to be hundred percent ourselves and manage to still live in this society is indeed an uncommon one. Most of us do tend to try and look for groups to fit in and sometimes we adapt ourselves to the characteristics of the group even though deep in our hearts we do not agree. Yours is a very thought provoking post and I enjoyed every word of it.

    1. Thank you so much for such a lovely engagement with my post. I completely agree with your views here…like you mentioned, about the protogonist in Fountainhead, it is very difficult indeed to stay true to one’s identity. I have read somewhere that “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”. And I also agree that the need to belong is innate to humans. We are social animals after all. It was so nice to connect and engage in a meaningful dialogue with you. Totally agree with your views here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

  13. Completely agree with your views. It becomes so easy to get bracketed but the beauty is when you break away from the stereotypes and let your individuality shine out.

  14. Craftily written with your deft touch, it is one more intriguing piece of thought. It is so much about our belief system and the self confidence we gain in life, and that plays such a vital role in what we do and how we grow and graduate as a person in life. Once we are out of the connection of internal system and we get easily distracted by the external forces, tempting and deliberate; and these are artificial labels much like the word stereotype and you have so deftly dealt with the topic.

    Everything in life then revolves with the attachment to groups, to the community, and the way we associate ourselves with the material things and the possession to presentation, we are controlled by the external force. Then we suddenly realize, we have lost our identity and the existence that was suppose to be driven by meaningful engagement and discovering the purpose of our life.

    There is that innate need to get recognition and praise, and when we are subjected to little bit of disturbance or greater discrimination we navigate towards that external influence..the beauty of life is in its imperfections, and we should fearlessly and fairly embrace those flaws. The act like our beauty spot, all in our mind. Every journey on this earth is an unique one and therein lies the magic of life. The joy of cherishing the journey as it unfolds…

    Kalpana as usual such a profound thought and indeed quite thought provoking. Always a pleasure to exchange thoughts with you.

    1. What a beautiful summary of your thoughts on the subject Nihar. Always a pleasure to read your views. Like you rightly said, “we lose connection with our internal system and get easily distracted by external forces”…well said. Thank you so much for taking my blog post to a greater level of engagement.

  15. Fabulous post! Stereotypes lend a sense of comfort – we slot people since it kind of tells us how to “deal” with the person. Its such a flawed way of maintaining social relations but we all fall prey to it at some point or the other.
    #MayuraReads #MyFriendAlexa

  16. That would be a dream come true but reality says something else:/
    All of us want to lead lives differently but we are binded by fixed options.
    #MyFriendAlexa #AditiReads

    aditikapur.com

    1. It’s an individual choice…though a tough one. We can try to break free even while being a part of the said tribe you know. Just not falling mindlessly in the trappings is more than enough to start with. Thanks for sharing your views aditi.

  17. Yes very true… I don’t follow the tribe no more… At first it was lonely. Now it’s a journey… I am excited to be on.

    1. Good for you! More power to you. I am so happy to hear that. And it won’t be lonely for long…once people see the real you and how fearlessly you guard it, those who are like you will follow suit and then it becomes a fulfilling journey. Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

  18. Such a well written post.. I have a son and I know the efforts I take to break the gender stereotypes. And my own people do not bele

    1. You are doing the right thing Sonam. Keep going…people will come around. Very proud of you to try and break gender stereotypes at your home. I have a son and a daughter and i constantly try doing it too. If all of us just take care of this menace at home level, the world will be a better place automatically. Thanks for sharing your experience here with me.

  19. I’ve always been a rebellion in this Sterotypes society. Can definitely realate ti this post. Thank to my upbringing that I was never compeled to follow someone or something. Thanks for sharing such don’t give a damn post Kalpana.

  20. AS per my mother’s instructions , I joined the scholars’s group( Teachers pet ) In primary school . In Higher secondary school , I got my true calling that I belonged to a rather outcast, rebellious category and it was the best phase of my life. #MyFriendAlexa #SujatawdeReads

    1. That sounds like it would make a very interesting story…rebellious huh! Great to know that it was the best phase of your life…of course it would be, because you followed your true calling. Glad to hear your thoughts and a have a little peek into your authentic self. Thanks for sharing Sujata. Lovely to have connected with you.

    1. I love what you said…I have created my own tribe too…all very unique in their own way yet belong to the tribe. Its a lovely thing to be a misfit, i say…I am a proud one too. So nice to have connected with you Veena.

  21. So true! And not just for myself, but I hope I am able to inculcate this in my son too, that he should live his life to the fullest and not worry about fitting in to anyone else’s notions of what he should be / act / dress like

  22. Every individual has different traits, so be it.
    And I completely agree on the point that how people judge from looks. Many times I have “You are writer? You don’t look like.” :))

    Cheers
    MeenalSonal from AuraOfThoughts
    #MyFriendAlexa #MeenalSonalReads

  23. You know at the end of the day everyone succumbs to the societal pressure unless you are okay to be judged or are a loner. We are still not a progressive society and stereotypes won’t stop existing. Having said that, I too am defying the norms and stereotypes at the risk of being judged all the time. But do I care? Hell no! I loved your perspective on this subject. Good one!

    1. I guess that “Don’t care attitude” comes with age and experience. By that time we have the maturity to understand and stand by our own values. It is tough when we are young and naive though. Well said. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with me. Loved reading your perspective.

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