The Danger of Stereotypes

By Masimba Biriwasha | Op-Ed | @ChiefKMasimba | January 07, 2014

Stereotypes are pictures in the head that behave in a funny, insidious, and paradoxical way.

They’re supposed to provide a shortcut to the way we understand the world and yet they can be thoroughly misleading. A stereotype is defined as “…a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.”

The term “stereotype,” coined in 1798 by the French printer Didot, originally referred to a printing process used to create reproductions.

Stereotypes are akin a pile-up of images of the world that we repeatedly produce in our heads. It’s easy to see why our minds turn to stereotypes.

The mind has a way to turn to signposts to get understanding. Given the loads of information that the mind, the mind relies on boxes of pre-packaged information. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we use stereotype to make sense of the world on a daily basis. Think of stereotype as old, worn out perceptions that are repeated over and over.

The problem is in believing stereotypes and letting them guide your actions and responses. Stereotypes provide a simplistic way to see the world.

Most of us believe stereotype without questioning. We pocket them and dish them out every time it is convenient to do so. Once activated, stereotypes can powerfully affect social perceptions and behavior. They make us lazy to engage our thinking capacity, our ability to see things without discoloration of pre-conceived notions.

The danger of stereotypes is that they block a first hand interaction with the world. Every interaction is filtered through categories that we’ll have formed in our heads.  In a way, stereotypes mask our humanity. Preconceptions and generalizations distort a clear view of the world around us.

“The immediate effects of stereotype activation fade after a few minutes, but regardless of their duration, each activation reinforces stereotypic thinking in the long run. Additionally, evidence suggests that once a stereotype is activated, it can be reactivated by something as simple as a disagreement with someone in the stereotyped group, and if brought to mind frequently enough, can become chronically accessible,” says Scott Plous in a paper titled, “The Psychology of Prejudice, Stereotyping and Discrimination: An Overview.”

I think if you allow stereotypes to sink deep into your psyche, you may find yourself missing out on life’s opportunities. Instead of depending on them to categorize the world, they should be challenged.

People, for instance, are simply more complex than the stereotypes that we create for them. Working through stereotype can be difficult but its worth the effort: it’s an ongoing effort.

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How to find your passion

There are exactly three places you can find your true passion: in your heart, mind and spirit.  

Passion is personal, and it’s deep.

It’s about what you love to do without being forced to do it. It flutters like a butterfly within the heart, mind and spirit seeking to show you the way to go.In addition, the spirit of intuition is the very lifeblood of passion.

The things that, without force, light a flicker in your heart are the tell-tale signs of what you are passionate about.Unfortunately, many people choose to push away those signs to the dark recesses of their imagination because they lack the courage or wherewithal to pursue their true passion.

Of course, many people just opt to live within the cushion of comfort zones and prescribed lifestyles, and never really ever live their true passion.However, the major problem with trying to find your true passion is that you already have it, right within you.

Unfortunately, in today’s noisy world, choosing to ignore one’s passions is a cope out to survive life’s demands. Many people’s passions simply sit inside their hearts, mind and spirit as silently as an ignored grave.

For people in this category, the task of truly finding and living true passion can be a life changing endeavor.The starting point to find true passion is inside your heart. That’s where everything that makes up the body of passion lives.

So, simply put, if you want to find your passion you must first look inside.

Sadly, in the world today, there are millions of people who know what their passion is yet they fail to heed to its call.Simply knowing about your passion is therefore different from finding your true passion.

Finding your true passion demands that you do something about it, that you take action and pursue it relentlessly.

Passion is about those things that tickle you, energize you and fill you up with inspiration with very little effort on your part.

Once you know what your passion is – to find it, you must make it actionable so that you do something about it every day of your life.

The following three steps can help you to find your true passion:

1. Look to the little things.
Look to the little things that fire you up and drive you and make your eyes open wide. Things that give you that “Wow!” feeling. It could be anything from collecting stamps, fishing, collecting butterflies to feeding underprivileged children. There are as many passions as there are human beings. So, don’t hold back because you fear what people will say. Do what your heart tells you.

2. It’s a personal thing.
Undoubtedly, someone can influence you to have a passion for something but ultimately ownership of that passion is a highly personal affair. No-one can have your passion for you. To find your passion, just be you.

3. Passion is your heartbeat
When you seek to find your passion, be calm, and listen to the whispers of your heart. If you hear what they mean, then just follow it.

It’s certainly possible to have many passions. But, more importantly, once you have found out your passion, strive to do something about it, no matter how small.

The internet is a good place to start researching what you are passionate about.

And always remember, finding your true passion is not a rocket science: it all begins in your heart, mind and spirit.