Ambitious women are bitchy.
Americans are dumb.
Girls are supposed to be feminine.
Whether they're good or bad, stereotypes exist about nearly every group of people. At best, they're annoying and reductive; at worst, they can limit a person's potential (in their own mind and those of others).
Matt Lundquist, LCSW, a psychotherapist based in New York City, says they can result in something called stereotype threat, in which a person experiences anxieties about confirming a stereotype about their identity, whether that means their racial identity, sexual identity, or another group they identify with.
"In a sense, how we're seen can be a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy," he says. "All kinds of life circumstances can interfere with the ways an individual sees what's possible: success in marriage, getting their anger under control, achieving more professionally."
Stereotypes, he says, are a big part of this.
"An individual who was discouraged from pursuing a particular life path because of interlined ideas about their race, for example, [can] feel unfulfilled," Lundquist says.
And even when someone pushes ahead, despite a limiting stereotype, he says they can still find themselves needing to work harder to prove their worth — which, in turn, has a negative impact on their mental health.
In a study published in the The Journal of Adolescent Health last year, researchers found that rigid gender stereotypes could affect children as young as five, possibly making boys more prone to violence, and causing girls to be more likely to be victims of physical or sexual violence. And another study from 2016 suggested that the more men conformed to masculine norms, the poorer their mental health was.
Stereotypes are often unconscious and ingrained into us at early ages, and that's precisely what makes them so hard to shake. Even if you don't consciously think about them, they can still affect the way you think of yourself. With that in mind, we asked 11 people to share the negative stereotypes that make them anxious.