How Do We Break the Stereotypes We’ve Created for Ourselves?


I knew I was “different” from the time I was as young as five.

At 5, I became “quiet” and “sensitive” in kindergarten when I didn’t speak for the first month.

At 14, I earned the nickname “Spacey Katie” because I was always forgetting things and would be so lost in thought I would be oblivious to what was going on around me.

At 21, I became a “scatterbrained.” After being nominated to run for president for my sorority, my best friend at the time and boyfriend told me that the role would be too much for me to handle.

At 25, I adopted the descriptor of “intense” after not mincing words in front of a client who was used to being catered to.

At 27, I was given the learning disability diagnosis ADHD. My test scores reflected those who rarely make it through college.

Why is it that so much of our self-identity is determined by the perception of others? So much of who we are is defined by the affirmation or rejection of our peers and mentors. No matter how small, these labels become ingrained in our subconscious and become a cornerstone of how we view ourselves.

The beauty of being human is we’re much more complex and dynamic than the boxes we (or society) put ourselves in. If we learn to see past invisible lines in the sand, throw away the descriptors that decide our destiny, what happens?

This month’s theme at W&D is all about breaking the stereotypes we (and society) have given ourselves. I may be all of the descriptors I’ve earned throughout my life, but they have given me clear path as to how to look at my potential through a different lens.

My quiet sensitivity makes me a great listener.

My spacey, scatterbrained mind leads me to great ideas and projects I would have never tried.

My intensity gave me the grit and focus needed to open my own business.

My learning disability helped me build my life and business around a strong support system.

This month, we would love to hear from you on our May theme. What stereotypes are affecting your life that you’d like to break? Write in and let us know what it’s like to live in your world. Our original thoughts for this month were to ask the question, “What is it like to a ______ in America?” But we want to expand that question even further and ask, “What’s it like to be ________ in/at _________? We want you to fill in the blanks. What is it like to live in your shoes? At the end of May, we will choose a contributor submission to publish on Wit & Delight. Please send submissions to: stefani@witanddelight.com by May 15 for consideration.

Lastly, we have a little printable affirmation worksheet for you to help remind yourself that stereotypes do not define you. Only you get to determine what defines you. Here are a couple of “I am” statements followed up with positive affirmations our team came up with:

Happy May everyone; we can’t wait to hear from you this month! 

 

Image by 2nd Truth

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  • Thank you for this post. Love this month’s theme. I might not send my submissions for each month’s theme, but these prompts do help sort out things for me. Thank you.

  • This post really spoke to me. I’ve always been told that I need to be more assertive, and in a previous job, was told that’s why I was passed over for a promotion. In that same position, I was told that while I executed well, I was not a strategic thinker. Once I finally left that job, I realized I had been in a work environment that was toxic to my mental health. I was absolutely letting my self-identity be determined by others, and it was holding me back from achieving my goals for my career. Not to mention damaging my self-esteem! At my new job, my current supervisor told me she appreciated my strategic, creative thinking. I almost laughed out loud – if my old boss could see me now! Now I look at my quiet confidence as a strength. And I’ve realized when I do speak up – people listen. Thank you for this theme, and thank you for putting into words what my heart has been feeling.

  • I just found this blog and so far I love it! Also, wish I have found it sooner. I am struggling with better understanding my anxiety. When it comes to wanting to accomplish my goals/dreams of being a blogger I am hit with anxiety. This anxiety stops me from moving forward and instead puts me in the endless cycle of doing nothing. I am about to print out these cards and paste it around my house.
    thank you!

  • love this post!! was just having a convo with me bf…i was telling him i always consider myself scatterbrained and always feel that way in my jobs. I’m more accepting of it lately thought, and it may be me stereotyping myself, but I am more proud of that label now. Being scatterbrained has helped me become a great multitasker and I’ve experienced so many interesting roles because of it.

  • I love this post. I have learned the power of subjectivity in the past decade. That is, what to one person/situation is a positive trait will be the flip in another. My glaring white skin was ‘ugly’ in Texas and revered in China. My introversion is shyness at a party and introspection when someone needs me to write. It reminds me of that Ani DiFranco song: 32 Flavors. I am 32 flavors…and then some. 🙂 I know…that just really aged me. For anyone who didn’t grow up with some good ADF angst, there’s still time.

  • This post really just made so much sense to me. I have always been labeled as unreliable and flakey. I’ve always tried to really be there for the people I love, but sometimes I become paralyzed. It was only till I was in college and got diagnosed with anxiety and high functioning depression that all my “flakey” moments suddenly made sense.

  • Thank you for staying true to who you are! Often society tries to box individuals into one category because it’s easier to maintain norms and expectations. However this is often at the expense of the individual. People are multi-faceted and our greatest weaknesses can also be our greatest strength, perspective and self love are fundamental in embracing the shift towards more of these open conversations. Your words are brave and necessary, keep up the amazing work!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this post Kate. I’m 29, and this year I was given the learning disability diagnosis: reading disability (dyslexia). It’s been a hard few months and especially hard finding other 20-30 somethings who have had a similar journey. I found this post truly inspirational and reaffirming.