As I sit here trying to decide if I should check off Hispanic as my ethnicity, I realize I am having a mini identity crisis. If I pick Hispanic or Latino, I will be confined to what a “Latina” woman is, we are “crazy”, “jealous”, “unintelligent”, and “loud” according to the stereotypes, of course. If I pick woman as my gender, then I automatically place the weight of thousands of years of oppression on my shoulders. Yet, if I decide I am a “man” I am forced to “hide emotions”, to be “tall” and “intelligent”. I am in a constant struggle trying to escape this tiny box that tries to confine me to what is expected of me rather than who I am as an individual. Whether we know it or not, we all carry the weight of a stereotype that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is detrimental to ignore the stereotypes, however, as they form a huge part of our daily life from the shows we watch to the way we are perceived in our work place.

A stereotype is an assumption of an individual based on gender, ethnicity, physical attributes, and so on. Why do we stereotype? Us as humans are constantly processing new information when we meet a new individual. With no background information, our brain automatically creates a little story in order to reduce anxiety and uncertainty. Over the years our brain has developed specific background information, based on socialization (the way the world around us has shaped us), that help us form our “stories”. However, these “stories” may be far-fetched.

In an effort to understand more about the stereotypes, I turned to social media to get feedback from different individuals. I was astonished with the replies I received on Instagram. My favorite one was “I am too pretty to be intelligent” yet, the prettiest woman I know is getting her PhD in biochemistry. So, how far from the truth can this possibly be? These toxic stereotypes are harmful to our self-concept. A psychologist by the name of Claude Steele coined the term “stereotype threat”, which is essentially an individual who is concerned about the scrutiny or treatment another person can give them based on their stereotype.

We are all guilty of stereotypes, yet we all do it, so how do we change that? We challenge our mind. We start by asking ourselves questions and leaning into the discomfort of the unknown, leaning into meeting an individual that is different from you.  If you’re trying to navigate the tiny box that your stereotype has placed you in, be kind to yourself, and trust yourself. Take matters into your hands and create your own image, you have a bigger impact than you think you do.

For all the women who replied to replied to my Instagram story talking about the challenges of proving yourself in academia solely because you’re pretty, just know that I am proud of you and I am rooting for you. If you’re a male who has been stereotyped as weak for having emotions, you are loved, and your vulnerability is what makes you strong. I pour my next glass of wine in honor of you!

If you have any questions regarding this subject feel free to contact me.

References:

 Else-Quest, N. M., & Hyde, J. S. (2017), The psychology of women and gender: Half the human experience (9th ed., pp. 30-153). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

From seeing your friends going out getting drinks without you to seeing everyone advance in their career path besides you, F.O.M.O. is a real thing. Let me break this down, F.O.M.O. means fear of missing out. Whether you think you have it or not, the symptoms are pretty easy to distinguish – sadness, anger, reactivity, uncertainty, even anxiety towards the future when you see others doing things in your absence. I validate everything you’re feeling because guess what…we all have experienced it at some point in our lives ESPECIALLY in our social media-driven society.

As human beings, we are driven to obtain a sense of belonging, why? According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we as humans need interpersonal relationships and what comes with developing those relationships such as vulnerability, intimacy, communication, and even the support we can receive from a group of friends. This need for belongingness is a crucial part of achieving self-actualization, also known as fulfillment. This feeling of belongingness in a social context helps us develop the view we have of ourselves, otherwise known as self-concept. Isn’t it paradoxical that we often think it’s harmful to place our self-worth in the hands of others, yet we need others to thrive? (damn that was good Val)

Sometimes we fail to realize that we as humans are constantly evolving, and feeling “left out” is crucial to our growth as an individual (no matter what age you are). Why are we so certain about this ongoing dilemma, yet fail to empathize with ourselves during times of F.O.M.O. that we are all just humans, doing human things?

Here’s my advice on dealing with F.O.M.O.:

  • Don’t compare yourself.
  • Don’t spend your entire day on social media – People post what they want you to see, never their failures.
  • Recognize that we all feel F.O.M.O. – You are not the only person on this planet that feels sad about being left out.
  • Don’t take everything personal – If they left you out, they probably realized you’ve canceled on plans the last 5 times and they don’t want to bother YOU.
  • DON’T ASSUME – Never assume what situation has arisen.

You are exactly where you need to be. Just because someone is excelling in their career doesn’t mean you aren’t. You are EXACTLY where you need to be.

Lastly, if you are experiencing F.O.M.O. just remember you have the power to do anything YOU want. The only person putting obstacles in front of you is YOU! If you are working your butt off to get where you need to be, your breakthrough will happen at the right moment. You know that it will be so worth it once you achieve what you’ve been working towards for the longest time. If you feel left out from your friends, coworkers, etc., pour yourself a glass of wine, give yourself some YOU time, and give yourself the quality time no one else will give you. It happens to the best of us. You are normal for experiencing F.O.M.O. and you are loved for surviving in this social media world.

P.S.- I am writing this blog post because I am currently experiencing F.O.M.O.

Sources:

Kunc, N. (1992). The need to belong: Rediscovering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In R. A. Villa, J. S. Thousand, W. Stainback, & S. Stainback (Eds.), Restructuring for caring and effective education: An administrative guide to creating heterogeneous schools (pp. 25-39). Baltimore, MD, England: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.