Society’s rules have been holding people back for ages

Andrea Elsholz, Writer

People sometimes seem to have something holding them back from success. When they examine what is holding them back, they see everything society has ever told them. It almost seems like humans are given a manual of strict guidelines at birth, and those rules have drastic consequences on physical and academic achievements.

Stereotypes deter people from academic success. They put pressure on people to be what society expects them to be instead of who they are.

Illinois social psychologist Claude Steele ran an experiment where men and women were taken to a room to take a difficult mathematics test. While taking the test, men were faced with the worry that they did not excel at math like they had thought they had. However, when women experienced frustration over the test, it triggered the fear of proving the stereotype that women possessed inferior math skills compared to those of men. With the weight of that stereotype, the women’s results were lower than the men’s.

Then, a second test was conducted where women were told beforehand that past scores matched those of men; and the results proved this statement true. The pressure of the female inferiority stereotype had been removed, allowing women to be more academically successful.

On the flip side, men are constantly under the pressure of needing to seem masculine. They perpetually insult each other for not being “manly”, and for not being as strong or fast or muscular as other men are. Deep criticism greets them when they want to show emotion or do things that are portrayed as feminine, like having an interest in fashion.

When people go against these guidelines, society takes the opportunity to degrade these men and women who are trying to be themselves. Any chance of success seems 100 times harder for people when society stands against them.

Professors at Stanford University such as Margaret Neale have found that stereotypes increase counter-productive and delinquent behavior in people. They have prevented girls from showing their intelligence in the classroom, making them think playing dumb is the real right answer to the teacher’s question; that intelligence is unattractive and that they should feel the need to be attractive in the first place. Stereotypes have told the boy that he cannot dance or do gymnastics, because those are “girl sports”. These restrictions, enforced by the media, deprive people of their identity and their chance to have the future and success they desire.

Only by accepting one another and rejecting stereotypes can humanity find true success. By challenging social limitations and rewarding others who challenge them, stereotypes can be depleted. Embracing new creative choices and telling others they can be more than what society says they should be is another way to stop stereotypes from taking control over humanity’s chances of success. Just a little open-mindedness can remove society’s largest trial on the path to success.