What are negative stereotypes?
When others dismiss your abilities because you belong to a particular group, it can leave you feeling demoralised, uncertain and anxious. Worse still, when negative stereotypes are used to describe you, it can seriously hamper your performance or even convince you that your dreams and goals are futile. Psychologists refer to the act of assessing someone’s capabilities as low because they belong to a specific group as ‘stereotype threat’.
Their problem or yours?
If you’re thinking to yourself that other people’s habit of stereotyping is their problem, not yours then you’ll likely be interested to know that when negative stereotypes are applied in this way it can have a significant, seriously performance lowering impact. Research shows that when females are told that they’re inferior when it comes to maths and science or African-American and Latino students are told that they’re academically inferior, performance is impaired – they score much lower on tests when reminded of their race or gender beforehand.
We’re all vulnerable
We are all vulnerable to this effect. One piece of research highlighted the fact that we are all vulnerable to the effects of such stereotypes by telling a group of high performing white male math and engineering majors — a group statistically associated with mathematical ability – that the experiment they were participating in was intended to explore “why Asians appear to outperform other students on tests of math ability”, their response? Performance on the test was subsequently much worse than their average score.
Shield yourself with a growth mindset approach
Adopting a growth mindset response when others try to put you down enables you to power past their stereotypes. Understanding that you control your ability to achieve your goals through perseverance and effort is key. Focus your thinking on our following growth mindset tips to learn more.
Six tips to overcome negative stereotypes
- FOCUS ON EFFORT AND PERSEVERANCE. REMEMBER THAT INTELLIGENCE & ARE ABILITY ARE LIKE A MUSCLE, THE MORE EFFORT YOU PUT INTO DEVELOPING THE MORE YOUR ABILITIES INCREASE.
- FOCUS ON INCREMENTAL CHANGE. FOCUS ON EACH SMALL STEP OF YOUR IMPROVEMENT TO AVOID BEING DISCOURAGED BY OTHERS LABELS.
- REFRAME ANXIETY INDUCED BY LABELS BY SEEING IT AS A FOCUS TO MOTIVATE – RESEARCH SUGGESTS THIS LESSENS ANXIETY.
- FOCUS ON YOUR POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES , ESPECIALLY THOSE RELATING TO THE TASK, RESEARCH SHOWS THIS IMPROVES PERFORMANCE – TO DIMINISH NEGATIVE LABELS.
- ANXIETY DOES NOT EQUAL ABILITY. REMEMBER THAT ANXIETY ABOUT OTHERS LABELS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR ACTUAL ABILITY.
- EXPAND YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK. INCREASE RESILIENCE BY EXPANDING YOUR NETWORKS – ACCESS INFO, SUPPORT & MENTORING. DEVELOP A NETWORK OF COLLEAGUES WHO SUPPORT YOU & SEEK OUT OTHERS WHO HAVE OVERCOME SIMILAR CHALLENGES & HELP YOU TO REALISE STEREOTYPES DON’T DEFINE YOU. RESEARCH SHOWS THAT A SENSE OF BELONGING DEVELOPS RESISTACE TO STEREOTYPE THREAT & REDUCES IT’S IMPACT.
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