It was my very first visit to the gynecologist's office and the 'maybe' mid-40 year old doctor asked me...at 15 years old... during their normal interrogation, "how many sexual partners do you currently have?" I felt embarrassed that it was assumed I had ONE sexual partner... let alone, MULTIPLE sexual partners! I told my mother about the question, since this was her personal gynecologist, and she assured me it was nothing more than a routine question, versus age stereotyping that I felt. I observed my mother didn't respond that she had been asked the same question. Go figure.
Fast forward... I was less than a year from graduating my bachelor's program and my birthday just so happened to fall on the same day as a staff meeting... my first professional I.T. job [see photo above]. Totally oblivious to the potential aftermath, I told my colleagues... who were old enough to be my parents... it was my birthday. Naturally, they asked how old I was and I told them. The room when quiet and after a few awkward seconds, that felt like minutes, someone THANKFULLY changed the subject! From that day forward, I was not treated as a peer. Personally, people were yet nice, but professionally, there was a difference. Again, I felt age stereotyping in the air!
Fast forward... January 2015 while in the emergency room for chest pain... in my 30s... the 'maybe' mid-60 year old nurse read that I took birth control pills from my chart. She stated, "when you kids take birth control it can have side affects that cause chest pain." She never asked the reason I took birth control, but made assumptions. So again, I felt age stereotyping in the atmosphere! As it turned out, the pills were NOT related to the chest pain.
After the first couple encounters, I was outraged and wanted to prove to anyone who doubted me because of age that I could be the contrary of their assumptions. But the reality shown in the January 2015 encounter is that I could never prove anything to anyone who is not open-minded. Although I was 30-something years old, gainfully employed, a positive role model to my daughter, a servant within my church, and a tax-paying citizen contributing to my own health insurance and retirement... it didn't matter.
Here's the punch line...
No matter how OTHERS see you, classify you, make assumptions about you, attempt to belittle you, or inject you as the butt of subliminal jokes... because of UNRELATED factors...
1) Laugh internally at their ignorance,
2) Disregard it, so that it doesn't fester into your self-conscious,
3) Prove to YOUrself what you're really made of, and
4) Enjoy a life free of other's misperceptions of you!
These example are based on my interpretation of "young" age stereotypes, but your experiences could be based on race, culture, gender, religion, weight, disability, or even "old" age stereotypes.
Have you internally overcome stereotypes? I'd love to hear your stories!
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