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How to address (and overcome) damaging internalized biases

We normally think of stereotypes as preconceived ideas we have about other people because of their gender, race, domestic situation, or other social identity.

However, we also have stereotypes about ourselves because of our own social identities. Thus, we are likely to unconsciously hold assumptions about our own skills, available opportunities, and appropriate goals. These assumptions are the result of the gender stereotypes we have internalized throughout our lives. Unfortunately, these stereotype-driven assumptions frequently foster negative preconceptions about our abilities and prospects, creating what we refer to as self-limiting biases. For example, as a woman, you tell yourself you are not good at math, or computer science is not an appropriate pursuit for you, or negotiation would not fit your abilities. And as a man, you might think you are not good at emotional expression, or nursing is not an appropriate pursuit, or you would be a poor human resources manager.

Negative assumptions like these can cause you to restrict the type of activities you pursue, circumscribe the possibilities you believe are open to you, and make you anxious and uncertain when faced with new tasks or ones about which you doubt your ability.

Take one well-documented phenomenon: Men typically apply for jobs when they meet approximately 60 percent of the stated job criteria, but women typically won’t apply until they feel they meet 100 percent of the criteria.

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