Understanding What Makes Up Our Identities
We’ve all heard them at some point in our lives, but knowing how stereotypes affect the way we present ourselves to the world can solve a lot of problems. Being Mexican, I learned pretty quickly that there were certain things people assumed about me in my mostly white neighborhood. I had a big family, so the assumption was that I probably didn’t speak English well because my parents only spoke Spanish. That I was poor, and my parents were illegal immigrants. The list goes on.
Not only were most of these assumptions untrue (I do have a big family TBH), they were also damaging to the way I viewed being Mexican. When my parents realized that both my sister and I preferred to speak English due to school, they stopped speaking Spanish in our house and I lost my fluency in the language at a young age. That loss is something I struggle with even today, and when I reached high school, I almost felt embarrassed that I was a Mexican taking the Spanish language elective.
Don’t get me wrong, not all stereotypes are meant to be damaging. Often people use stereotypes to joke about the contrast of cultures between different people. As long as these jokes are made in the right environment (with the right contrast) there’s usually no harm, no foul. But there are stereotypes that can greatly impact how we view ourselves and choose to conduct ourselves in the world. It can force us to work harder than everyone else to prove that we aren’t “lazy,” or excel in other academic subjects so that we are seen as versatile learners. It can cause us terrible anxiety to get behind the wheel because we don’t want to be labeled “bad drivers.”
Being kind to ourselves is the most important step to moving past the damage. Accept who you are and don’t let random perceptions terrorize you. You are amazing just the way you are; shine bright, my friend.