Who Are You?

The Battle Against Social Identity in High School & Stereotypes

In high school, young adolescents have enough to deal with during the transition from middle school to high school, social identity and stereotyping being the most prominent issues. Stereotyping is the grouping of certain kinds of people based on the way they look, dress and act. And in high school, all those things factor into either making or breaking your social identity. Who do you identify yourself as?

What stereotypes are, where they come from and how they can hurt:

Stereotyping comes from all kinds of different people, for kinds of different reasons. Students can be stereotyped and judged simply by what they wear, all the way down to how they act, or even how much money their families have. Some common stereotypes include the jock, the cheerleader, the emo guy, the rich girl, all the way down to the school nerd. Usually however, stereotypes are developed by how a person dresses especially in high school. The very sad truth is that clothes shape students existence probably from the beginning of their high school career all the way to the end. Once a presumption is made in high school, there is really nothing that can be done to change it. High school students don’t take the time to understand sometimes that some people are less fortunate than they are or just aren’t into the same things they are. They think that “s/he doesn’t dress like me and that makes them weird” and it should not be like this.

Though stereotyping seems harmless it can lead to things such as racism, discrimination, prejudice and sadly, bullying. It leads to issues with social identity and leaves students wondering about their social identity. They wonder who they are, what their purpose is in their life, and what they can bring to the table of their friends. Many students struggle with finding themselves. Some go through hundreds of style changes and personality changes just to see where they can fit in and who will like them. It’s that constant yearning for popularity that so many high school students strive for. It’s that feeling that everyone likes them and though it is a nice feeling to have, many students go about it in all the wrong ways. Ways that can ruin their young lives forever.

What we don’t know however, are things about cliques and stereotyping and where they really come from.  As people we create something called the in/out system. Through this system we classify and relate people to a social class by the way they look and through this comes hostility, ignorance, and hatred. And though a lot of times it is done subconsciously, many people still act on it and as a result children pick up on it and learn from it. No child is born discriminatory and prejudice, these children have to learn this from somewhere. It doesn’t even have to be from parents. Children can pick up many different things from many different places.

Growing children develop many different reference groups aside from their family members. With every grade there is a new reference group as well as they children that they grow up with in their neighborhoods. This could very well be where many children get their ideas of what social structure is and what it should me like during school hours. And the fact is that most adults don’t even know what and/or who is influencing their children.

In high school these days people value the names of their clothes more than the names of their friends. If you aren’t wearing Hollister, Aeropastle, American Eagle, or any other brand of clothing that is overpriced, you’re not cool. You don’t have a good sense of fashion and you obviously must not be rich or have some kind of economic status and therefore you aren’t part of the “it” crowd. Then there are those who stray away from the name brands and form somewhat of their own crowd of friends and from that come the animosity and ignorance. Students allow simple and unnecessary things come in between them and make high schools more divided than they need to be. Usually, judgments based on looks are completely wrong. They boy who is known as the "dumb jock" can turn out to be really smart. Or the emo kid can turn out to be a very happy person who enjoys life. It is sad however that some students in high school will never get to know this because they have created such a bias and prejudice against their fellow peers. Some won’t even bother to venture outside of their group of friends to meet new people. In high school, especially in the early years, students get so wrapped up in their cliques that they don’t even think to introduce themselves to other people because they don’t look the same. They judge based of looks and miss out on someone that they possibly could’ve had so much in common with and they never would have known.

High schools love to say that they are diverse and that it is the place where young adolescents can come and grow. Though this statement may be half true, is high school really that diverse? As members of society, everyone wants to be apart of a community. This sense of community builds our comfort zone and shapes the way we think about other people both individually as well as in a group. We as people, especially in high school, tend to only associate ourselves with who are similar to similar to us. We try and find people based off of economic status, political belief, ethnicity, or even where someone may live. A lot of times it may not even be on purpose, we’re not raised to be prejudice against other people sometimes it happens that way. That still doesn’t make it right however.

It is this exact reason why cliques form. These small "communities" form and slowly begin to take over high schools around the world. If one goes into any lunch cafeteria and look at the different lunch tables. One will notice that all if not most of the tables have the same kind of person sitting at them. They may either look or act the same depending on the clique. And every clique comes with a different attitude.

Bullying and stereotyping is a never ending vicious cycle, more often than not the bully was bullied themself when he/she was growing up. It is the classic case of the oppressed becoming the oppressor. Alissa Sklar who writes for the Montreal Gazette writes that “More often, bullies are themselves insecure about their own social status and maintain their position by putting others down. Some bullies feel entitled to attention, and feel they are exempt from the usual rules. Some students feel a sense of satisfaction about putting down others, it makes them feel better about themselves. Bullies a lot of times hide the fact that they too are going through something and that their lives are in turmoil as well. Many parents are unaware that their children are even the ones doing the bullying. “Don’t assume your child isn’t a bully because he or she is popular with other kids. Popular kids are regularly tied to aggressive, bullying behaviors. Sometimes kids make friends with the mean kids to avoid being their targets.” Says Sklar



Stereotyping can cause some seriously negative effects on young people. Statistics show that 1 in 7 students grades K-12 have fallen victim to bullying. Bullying also causes things like school shootings or even suicide. There is often the misconception that stereotyping is a harmless thing that everyone does, but this is often not the case, especially not in high school. In high school appearance is EVERYTHING. How you look and how you dress will forever shape your reputation and what others will think of you. If it's not how you look, it's definitely how you act. Attitudes too can be the down fall of a high school teenager. You do or say one thing on the first impression, that's the impression for life. And in the cruel world of high school, that's when the taunts and jeers come in. It’s very hard to change the minds of other people once they have a thought about a fellow student. Whenever they see them they think in their mind “There goes that               ” or “Have you seen            ” and even “Did you see what they had on?” It’s a never ending pattern that happens all throughout high school and doesn’t seem to ever stop.

So what can you do?

  • The sad reality is that there really is nothing we can do to stop people from thinking, judging and making perceptions of other people. It's what we all do as human beings. But we can control the things we do and say. Think twice about the next time YOU judge or stereotype someone. Think about how you would feel, the things you would do. Would you want someone stripping you of your social identity and giving you a new one?
  • Speak up. Take a stand. There are too many cases incidents that go unreported leaving some students afraid and alone. If you witness any type of stereotyping, report it. There are people waiting to help.
  • What if this was your child? As people, empathy is something that we lack. If it's not happening personally to us, then we don't care. But the truth is, it is personally happening to us, and it's effecting us everyday our children, brothers, sisters, and friends go to school.
  • Just be there. Everyone needs support, everyone needs a friend.
  • If you suspect your child of being a bully, say something.
  • Let them know that what they are doing to other people is wrong and can have some seriously negative side effects. You and your child do not want to have someone’s suicide on their conscience.
  • Pay closer attention to the things your child is doing and participating in. Many parents miss out on the signs that their child is a bully because they aren’t involved enough in their child’s life. Parents get so wrapped up in the things that they’re doing that they forget how to be a proper parent and take care of their children properly. Kids, especially those at a young age can easily begin to feel neglected and as a result they take their frustration out on other people. Bullying is often just a simple cry for attention, a cry for someone to love and nurture them.
  •  Support your children by always being there for them and letting them know that you do care and that you do love them.
The fact is that prejudice is not just amongst teenagers. We as an American society as a whole are not very welcoming. We shun things like homosexuality or anything that's out of the ordinary, things that we aren't used to but embrace the idea of pop culture and feed into it's stupidity. But there are many different organizations today that can help with anyone struggling with struggling with social identity.

What will it take to get this

and this

to stop.

Sometimes, we don't realize the effect we can have on someone with just our words.

Celebrities Speak Out. You're Not Alone.
The Trevor Project, Keeping Kids Alive
Stomp Out Bullying

Make Beats Not Beat Downs
Stomp Out Bullying: About Bullying
Stereotypes Explained
Montreal Gazette: Bullied Becomes Bully