Labels, patterns, categories… we use them. That’s an obvious fact and not necessarily a bad thing. Human mind needs to operate somehow in this world of infinite information. The exploration process starts with a first step of recognizing and comparing our previous experience, seeking landmarks in an unknown space. The freshly discovered item is classified in a “folder” after setting similarities and differences with the existing ones.
It’s a perfectly normal process. Nothing to be afraid of! The problems appear when we limit to these categories and even worse when we attach them a good/bad label.
Some time ago a friend from India showed me a video with Russell Peters, an Indian-Canadian comedian who talks mainly about cultural stereotypes (of course Indian jokes included). While watching it, she told me… “you know, I was really angry when I first saw one of his performances”.
Indeed I had to agree with her… looking in the mirror is not an easy task. You need to change the perspective and admit your thinking patterns. Humor gives the opportunity to make a step back and reflect on how you act and think about yourself and the others.
At the same time when you feel ‘categorized’ you may also want to stop being defensive and just joke about it. I received a good amount of smiles with lines like: “well, I’m a woman, I need to faint a bit now” or “I can read minds, but only in my office hours” or (borrowed from a friend) “yes, I’m from Dracula country, but no worries I became blood-hungry only after midnight”.
So why not use categories in a constructive way? It sure helps to add value to our interactions.