Thought you left stereotypes in high school? The truth is people will still try to put you in a box for the rest of your life -- but it doesn't have to be like that. Read more for how to change your own personal narrative.

Stereotyping is a heavy, daunting term in high school. Back in the days of learning, lockers, and lunch periods, it seemed that everyone fit into a category. Sports teams, arts clubs, cliques, church groups and other activities divided you to fit a certain category and you were grouped accordingly, assuming that your personality was the same as those around you.

Your 20s don’t feel a thing like high school, but through new experiences like jobs, volunteer opportunities and new friendships, sometimes it feels like people are continuing to place you in a group.

One crucial part of self-development is identifying the traits you don’t like about yourself and changing them – and sometimes, that means breaking out of the mold that many have placed you in.

Making progress is an exciting thing, especially when you’re on a long journey of self-development and you see improvement bit by bit.

What’s disappointing is building excitement to tell those close to you about this progress and they simply reply with, “But why?” 

Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly explaining myself and why I’m changing my habits, hobbies and interests – it’s exhausting. 

Not only exhausting, but sometimes I feel defeated, that I’m not breaking down the wall as fast or as well as I wanted. We all continue falling into traps and setbacks, like:

  • Thinking we have to stay on the same career path as our college degree.
  • Sticking with the same habits we’ve always had.
  • Only doing what we’re good at or what we know.
  • Being reluctant to continue trying new things.
  • Not announcing our new goals or hobbies with fear of being judged.

But most often, we fall into the trap of listening to what others are saying when we’re trying these new things, and taking that feedback negatively. We use their confusion or their questions as a reason to quit and stay the same.

So let’s forget about trying to change the stereotypes and jump out of the categories we fall into.

Let’s work on redefining ourselves, and the rest will come.

You were not meant to fall into a single category, so you shouldn’t have to live your life like so. Blaze your own trail; be yourself, shamelessly. Define who you are and leave the rest to fate.

Your responsibility isn’t to make everyone else happy with your decisions or changes. You are responsible for your happiness, so focus on that.

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If anyone tries to question your new definition of yourself, answer unapologetically. You weren’t meant to live life the same way for the rest of your time or live inside the same bubble for the rest of time. We were all meant to evolve, to change, to grow, to gain new perspective, to shift focus, to try new things, to fail and to succeed.

You are not defined by a personality trait or a stereotype created by those around you; you are defined by your character. Your definition of yourself is the most important thing.

What should you do when you’re feeling run down or defeated by your stereotype wall holding you back?

  • Don’t spend time dwelling on others’ judgments of you.
  • Don’t spend time judging others for blazing their own path.
  • Motivate yourself–with success stories, in support communities, etc.
  • Remember the person you want to be.
  • Keep your end goal in mind. As with life, hurdles come and go.

I think stereotypes are hard to overcome sometimes because we’re so focused on how to explain ourselves to others.

What I’ve learned is that it’s important to just go for it and let others accept it – because they will. Nobody seems to be comfortable with change at first, but it’s not your responsibility to make them comfortable – again, that will come.

Focus on you.

So, what’s next for you? Is it outside your comfort zone? Is it a new passion, redefining character-builder? Whatever it is, it should push you to continue redefining yourself and being your best self.