How do societal expectations continue to limit our identity?

We live in an age where our identity has become something to be celebrated; especially those who come from minority groups who aren’t usually the focus of mainstream media. There are many Instagram pages, blogs and YouTubers who aim to make these groups feel empowered and as a young black Muslim woman to see these platforms have been helpful in knowing that I am not alone facing microaggressions and having a community of like-minded individuals who highlight both how the positivity and negativity of society affects us is very useful. These platforms speak on the growing diversity in cinema, the importance of the natural hair movement and praise work of artists who are not given support by mainstream media while at the same time speaking out on acts of prejudice which occur.

I am very proud of my identity and try not to hold it back so freely express it without the stereotypes of society. So, when I moved to my university halls and found that I was living with five white men why did I immediately feel like I couldn’t be myself? Like with any other halls there are issues which arise often, this is based on the cleanliness of the kitchen. There have been instances where someone has not cleaned up after themselves and where I have the right to say something and have been told by my friends when mentioning it in passing to speak up but I find it difficult to express my emotions in certain situations as not to be labelled the ‘angry black woman’ or have my emotions gaslighted, but I shouldn’t, and my emotions should be taken seriously. As a result, I wait for someone else to say something as not to appear to complain too much or be too irrational. When things have gotten too messy, I have resorted to more passive aggressive methods such as leaving post-it notes on the table hinting that people should clean up after themselves so there will not be any direct communication which could be misinterpreted. This is not the only instance I fear stereotypes of my identity will lead others to have a certain view of me and I have become more aware of this since starting university for example in seminars and I know I am not the only one when talking to other friends they have had instances where they fear that they will be perceived to fit that stereotype so in turn don’t speak up or are more introverted in comparison to when around friends.

 We are unable to express our feelings about this due to the fact we will be made out to be irrational. So we are constantly checking ourselves about how we act or speak especially in areas which are predominately white such as university this can lead at times to low self-esteem. You may be constantly worrying about how you are perceived and so choose not to make an effort to go for certain goals as not to deal with the microaggressions. So, in turn, at times, we may limit ourselves by not expressing our full potential out of fear of falling into these stereotypes. This is why online platforms which give us a space to talk about these issues are so important but how do we move these conversations from online to the real world? This is not a simple question which can be simply answered as much of the discrimination faced is institutional that cannot be highlighted as easily and is not seen to exist by wider society. Which is why micro-aggressions and gaslighting can lead to minority groups not occupying high level positions, as an individual may not want to deal with the level of micro-aggressions as well as institutional racism. The lack of diversity in top positions in certain industries such as the media allows stereotypes of our identity to be continually reproduced leaving us to deal with the consequences which can be a detriment on our mental health, as we continue to hide our emotions .

To tackle this much like with the conversations we are having online we do need to move these to real life. We must reassure each other that we are not alone in facing these microaggressions and that we have the right like any other person to express our natural emotions and we are not playing into stereotypes by doing so, rather it’s the reactions we get from doing so that is wrong. We may even have to call out those who may question those who react when we express our emotions to make them realise that they do have some internal bias.

Written by Roqi Adebimpe 

2 thoughts on “How do societal expectations continue to limit our identity?

  1. Just read this again rookie, so eloquently put.
    I think a real takeaway is the line where you said “To tackle this much like with the conversations we are having online we do need to move these to real life.” It’s so true, we can like posts on instagram about inclusivity etc. but how about we actually turn to our neighbour and let them know that even if we can’t relate on a personal level they are seen and their experiences are valid.

    Liked by 1 person

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