I’ve talked about stereotypes and stigma, and how people tend to judge someone at face value rather than taking the time to analyze further and form an opinion. When these things happen, most would say that that type of tendency is wrong, right? After all, people are usually much more than what they present themselves to be.
Unfortunately, rash judgements, stereotyping and false assumptions still pop up every single day – causing bullying, further ignorance, isolation and low self-esteem. A lot is talked about in relation to what the “offender” should do in a case of bullying,discrimination or ignorance, but what about the defendant?
I’ve experienced this a fair amount, especially when I was younger. I remember in third grade some kid was spreading a rumor that my condition was contagious and so no one would want to sit near me in class or talk to me. I didn’t really know what to do. I was, and to an extent still am, a very non-confrontational person. I generally keep to myself and don’t want to cause any trouble with anyone,Ignoring whatever nonsense was going on in regards to negative stigmas being thrown around about me. Then one day, I decided to speak up. I got into a fight with him, and it almost landed me straight into detention (which is like prison for a kid) and after that, no one saw me as the different kid in class, but like one of them, someone who stood up for himself when the bully was tormenting him Of course I don’t condone violence at all when in that kind of situation, I’m just saying that when things like that aren’t dealt with properly, emotions tend to negatively boil over.
The same kinds of things still happen today. Like when someone on the street starts talking to me really slowly, thinking that my cognitive state is a little off because the rhythm of my steps are. Or when people assume I can’t do something; it drives me just as crazy as that kid in third grade. I no longer because that’s also irrational and causes more problems than it solves, 21-year-old me is a lot more logical than 9-year-old me. So, I tell them politely but firmly inform them of my situation and move. on. It’s the same reason I write this column: to stand up not just myself, but for others as well; to tell people that they might be able to do what others are telling them they can’t. I want to inform readers about what I deal with so that when they see me or someone like me they know that we’re not helpless gimps wandering the streets, but productive members of society. For a long time I didn’t say anything, and ever since I started speaking up, people have come up to me thanking me for putting things into perspective and for teaching them that people who may seem different from them aren’t that different at all.
I’m not giving myself a pat on the back; I’m just saying that standing up for yourself, even if it means going out of your comfort zone, can make life a lot more comfortable in the long run. So speak up, and tell your story. Don’t be afraid to tell someone they’re wrong, and be yourself the whole time. That’s the best way to end stigma.
Jacob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org