I’m someone who’s always liked school. From getting to be with my friends to learning about different subjects, school has definitely been a big part of my life. I was always more of a humanities person and wasn’t really good at math and science, but I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until high school that I remember hearing other classmates joke that I wasn’t “like other Asian students.” In high school, I didn’t take as many AP classes and did different extracurricular activities. Because of this, I would receive looks or insinuations that I was not as academically competitive as other Asian students at our school.
I felt like I had to explain myself and my choices in a way that made my activities sound as equally impressive as the ones that people expected me to be a part of. The stereotypes that were placed on me made me reflect negatively on myself as a person. I was always questioning whether I was doing good enough, or whether I was slacking off because I wasn’t taking rigorous classes across all subjects. I was comfortable and happy on my own academic path, but something felt off. One thing a lot of people say is to be yourself and stand out. But, it didn’t feel that good to be myself. I felt more lost and distanced.
Generalized judgments don’t help us get to know others better, but rather, they do the opposite. I felt that people were asking me about my activities and classes so I could be compared to other students and not because they wanted to learn more about me as a person. A certain mold was being put on me that wasn’t completely true and that didn’t make me feel seen for who I was. Stereotypes cause the person who is being stereotyped to feel negatively about themselves and it causes the people who are stereotyping to hold on to beliefs that may not be true for everyone. Stereotypes are barriers that do not help either party and the less stereotypes we allow to interfere with our communication, the easier it will be for everyone to truly learn about each other more.
Now looking back, I am happy that I stayed true to who I was. Everyone is unique and has their own path, and I am truly happy to be myself.