Stereotyping both helps and hurts people

Stereotyping both helps and hurts people. I experienced this the last time that I got a massage.

The person who was giving the massage told me that she thought I was gay. I had to laugh. Mostly I am helped by stereotypes. For example because I have glasses people often perceive me as smart. Since I am white, I am often perceived as non threatening. Since I speak English I am perceived as a higher social class when living in mixed ethnic neighborhoods. I prefer living in mixed neighborhoods since it is more affordable and housing doesn’t really motivate me to spend money.

I was thinking about stereotypes and we only complain about the stereotypes that hurt us. I hadn’t really considered much how much my daily experience is controlled by other people’s stereotypes of me. I know that because of my gender, age, ethnicity I get the benefit of the doubt in situations. For example when I bought a car once I didn’t have much credit history but because the white F&I guy believed in me, he gave me the benefit of the doubt and qualified me for the car. Sometimes when I have heard the daily experiences of people who are black or other ethnicity I hate that others stereotype.  However if they did not stereotype, I don’t know how people would deal with unknown others.

It is certainty unreasonable to ask everyone to get to know everyone that they come across. I know personally that I sometimes stereotype others especially when I am frustrated. For example when I am driving and another driver does something that shows poor judgement, judgments immediately spring to mind. I question their intelligence, character and even common sense. I think that when our needs are frustrated we can’t relate to others in a healthy way.

So what is the answer? I don’t know that there is an answer. Maybe all we can do is be aware of when we are stereotyping others and trying to take a step back and ask our-self what we really know about a person. In my case, I don’t know why people drive in a dangerous manner. I am certainty not excusing that behavior, but I can not get upset at everyone who doesn’t act like I wish they would act. Most of the time I relax, breath and let dangerous drivers have whatever space I can give them. I know that being happy means letting go of the need or desire to control every situation in life. Sometimes all you can do is accept that unfortunate things happen, and move on as best you can when they do.

Life sometimes has difficult moments, but they don’t need to define our behavior and happiness. Make a choice to treat others as individuals as far as possible and your own life will be richer and happier for it.

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