I've been waxing philosophical lately about what I will coin, "the paradox of self." After a diversity seminar at work a few weeks ago, I realized that there exists a whole new dimension to stereotypes that I had never considered before. Individuals can define themselves by different groups, traits, and beliefs without being the whole of that group. That is obvious. That is the basis of faulty stereotypes and categorizations. The CIA Factbook can't tell you who a person of FILL IN NATIONALITY HERE truly is. I think that type of ridiculous stereotyping is easy to recognize (or at least ought to be).
However, individuals can also define themselves in seemingly opposing terms. Part of the essence of humanity rests within a paradox. Stereotyping is not just assuming that a person fits a bill because of one of their identifiers, but also that they can not identify with other traits on a conditional basis. I can be a religious feminist. A conservative humanitarian. A procrastinator go-getter. An intellectual idiot. An outgoing introvert. A dreamer and a realist. I can be one thing and the exact "opposite." Humans are composed of layers and layers of identities with varying levels of densities.
If people could figure this out, there would be a lot less misunderstanding in the world. Unfortunately, many groups or ideological followers expect fellow identifiers to believe or act the same as them. BUT, here's the news. This type of prejudice, faulty logic, stereotyping is wrong and detrimental to the exploration of human identity in both self and in others. The costs of refusing to recognize paradoxes are great.
It has taken me many years to recognize the paradox within myself and regarding others. I can be two things at once, and nobody can tell me that one part of me invalidates another part. Within all humans exist a paradox; and this paradox is a valid way of expressing and defining one's self, no matter the contradictory social messages that suggests otherwise.