Five Things that Pigeonhole You
As humans, we like to think that we’re free, that our tastes, preferences, and decisions develop from our own free will, which makes us independent. At the same time, this idea of free will captivates us. However, there are plenty of things that pigeonhole you and influence your decisions.
We’re born in a set place and time. To become part of the society we’re born into, we have to adopt the prevailing norms. We adopt a lot of these norms without even thinking about it consciously. During the adaptation process, we assimilate and incorporate them, assuming they’re “natural”.
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
Often, those norms are a product of collective rationality that serve the common good. But sometimes they don’t. This is when these norms pigeonhole you and you go about your day to day life without thinking if they actually benefit you or not.
Here are five things that pigeonhole you:
1. Value systems
Value systems are a set of ideological or moral principles that show what’s good and bad for a given society. They also include a kind of a prototype of the “ideal human being”. For example, a person that’s hardworking, intelligent, beautiful, etc.
Values are ingrained in us from the day we’re born. At first, our family instills values in us and then social institutions do it. Sometimes, we think that our society’s values are the only ones out there or that they’re the best, but this isn’t always the case. Some values, like solidarity, for example, aim to promote our evolution. Others, like blind obedience, just pigeonhole you.
2. Fashion and trends: Two things that pigeonhole you
In the second half of the 20th century, fashion started to gain an unusual amount of influence. It existed well before that, but it was at the time of the industrial revolution that it started to become an important part of people’s lives.
Fashion is a way to show how you identify with a group. It gives you a sense of belonging. However, it pigeonholes you when you adopt the latest trends indiscriminately even if they go against your own tastes and preferences. Also, it’s concerning when you adopt the latest trends as a result of an excessive desire for acceptance.
Just like with values, there are some customs we follow from birth. They help us integrate into society and accept its norms. However, they can also limit us and hinder our personal growth.
Customs, such as personal hygiene, are positive. On the other hand, traditions like having to marry before the age of 15 aren’t so beneficial. In any case, the important thing is to realize that we can always assess our customs and decide to keep or change them based on our own criteria.
A role is a part a person plays within a group. In other words, it’s the function the group assigns to a person. Each role follows its own patterns. We expect that people will act based on the role that we assign to them. For example, a family could have different expectations for each one of their children.
Roles pigeonhole you when you’re not conscious of them and when you just adopt them passively. For example, this has a big impact on gender roles. Imagine accepting to act a certain way because you’re a man or a woman without understanding the logic behind it. It’s possible this might limit your personal growth.
Stereotypes are mental projections that apply to people or groups. They involve a set of ideas or patterns about what that particular person or group means. Stereotypes involve prejudices.
Stereotypes lead you to think or act automatically, often wrongly. For instance, a man who wears an expensive suit can seem important and reliable. However, a scruffy person may seem dangerous or unworthy. As it happens, this may be the other way around.
All these things that pigeonhole you filter through your consciousness and determine how you see the world to a large extent. Thus, it’s always a good idea to rethink everything that’s been instilled in you to assess if it really contributes to your personal growth or if it limits you.