Many of us in this world have a dream, whether it be to be an author, a singer, an entrepreneur, a doctor, an actor and so on. However, most of those dreams are often left unrealized as we are held back by fear—fear of failure and social judgment—especially if the dream is atypical for someone of your particular background, gender or race. We often let stereotypes regarding these areas force us into one way of thinking and living. We do not dare to deviate from what is common and expected because we have been socialized to believe that we will fail. We become products of our environments by letting these values and beliefs of the people around us influence who we are and who we become. Our destiny becomes beyond our control as society controls it for us. Thus, I am here to remind you that you have the power to decide what affects you and what does not.
We can choose to not let the stereotypes affect us, to not let society affect us. We are often taught to value the opinions of others, but caring about the opinions of others can only thwart and limit us, which is why it’s best to not turn it into a habit. Do not let others tell you what is possible and what is not because that is for you to decide. While most people become caged by conformity, only a few who have broken through this social cage and achieved the “impossible.”
A notable individual who achieved the “impossible” is Amy Tan; a renowned Asian-American author who I read about in my high school Freshman English class. Tan immigrated to the United States from China when she was in the third grade. In her short story, “Mother Tongue,” Tan showcases her experience being an immigrant in America and her challenges. One anecdote she recounted that I never forgot is how when she was in high school, teachers steered her away from writing and into math and science, as that was what Asians were stereotypically known to excel at. However, Tan did not let the narrow-minded opinions of her teachers thwart her capabilities. She instead gave in to her rebellious nature and used it as motivation to manifest self-belief and disprove assumptions made about her by majoring in English and eventually becoming a distinguished fiction writer.
Tan’s story really resonated with me from the moment I first read it; like her, I was also thought to possess an affinity for math just for being Asian, when in truth, I always favored reading and writing over doing burdensome calculations. On top of that, many of my cousins seemed more intrinsically mathematical and technical, leading me to question whether someone from my background is even capable of writing and creativity. However, rather than letting stereotypes fill me with doubt, I took action to grow and perhaps hone those skills by writing for my school newspaper, The Observer.
There are even more examples of courageous figures, like Tan, who did not yield to the stereotype. Another one is the highly esteemed Oprah Winfrey. As some of you may or may not know, the extremely wealthy and revered Oprah that we know today came from an impoverished backdrop. As someone who grew up in destitute conditions, forced to wear potato sacks as clothing, you would not expect for them to one day make a net worth of three billion dollars and become one of the 400 richest people in America. Nonetheless, she made it happen through continual willpower and not giving into conventional perspectives. Lily Singh, the first Indian host of a major American late-night talk show, and more recently, Simu Liu, the Chinese-Canadian actor to play the first Asian Marvel superhero, are other remarkable people who overcame societal opinion and fought for what they believed in. Together these idols serve as proof that nothing is impossible. And so, I encourage you to stop perpetuating stereotypes by blindly believing them and instead, challenge them through action.