Opinion: High school stereotypes need to stop

As a child, I spent most of my weekends in front of my television. I spent my time investing in the stories of Disney and Nickelodeon characters and studying their actions, styles and attitude. Spending my time trying to become these characters may have shaped who I am today, but it unfortunately caused me to develop a habit of stereotyping people. Categorizing people into labels that can be confusing such as jock, loner, nerd, emo and many more is simply degrading. 

I’m not saying these movies and shows were solely responsible for the idea of stereotypes, but they did not help stop the stereotyping. I understand society has made it a force of habit, but, personally, I don’t enjoy it. Being categorized in a certain stereotype has caused me to have, so far, a lifelong identity crisis. 

Firstly, these stereotypes corrupted my confidence. I watched popular kids, athletes, nerds and dorks on my favorite shows, and I didn’t know where I fit in. I never understood who I could or couldn’t talk to. If one student was popular, I had to watch my words, and if another student was a weirdo, I couldn’t speak to them at all. 

No one ever stopped me from talking to anyone, but because the environment was influenced by the concept of stereotypes, it was hard to overcome my fear of speaking to my colleagues. Not being able to speak up destroyed my ability to love myself or stand up for what I believe in. 

Being the new girl throughout middle school made it harder to navigate these labels. Depending on who was in my class, there were times where I would be silent and wouldn’t ask anyone questions no matter how confused I was, but there were also times where the teacher would have to yell at me to be quiet. I didn’t want to be known as “a weird person” because if I was, I would be deemed unapproachable which would categorize me as a loner. I didn’t know where I stood, and it made me feel so small.

Going into high school it felt different, but nothing changed. The typical high school stereotypes disappeared and the comments became more racially motivated. 

Because of my Asian ethnicity, people have the preconceived notion I was born a genius. It started with people asking me for homework answers before class, but then they started blaming me for wrong answers, telling me, “I thought you were supposed to be smart.” I hated that, because of a label, I was expected to uphold the expectation society had of me. I know I’m smart; I’m just not perfect. 

I am tired of saying sorry for being me. I have tried my best to grow from the bullying and stereotyping by putting effort into relationships that respect my personality and, most importantly, not blaming myself for being the way I am. Due to the society we are in, it’s difficult to force change or even encourage it, but the least we can do is acknowledge our actions and words. 

I learned that being less judgmental and staying away from those who are have increased my confidence significantly and have allowed me to be who I am with no regrets. Regardless of progression, stereotyping has definitely caused some lifelong anxiety for me, but I am now assured that there are bigger things to worry about and that I should stride through life unapologetically.