Have you been stigmatized?

Technically, a stigma is a mark of shame or disgrace. It gets applied to a person—often unfairly—and is not easily removed. 

Avoiding a stigma is like walking through a minefield. In our hurried age, people make shallow judgements about you based on stereotypes, personality, title, age, even wardrobe. Then they lump you into a category. This can all happen in an instant. 

It’s mostly a result of laziness. It’s taxing on our brains to actually get to know someone thoroughly and discover their hidden talents before forming an opinion about them.

Here are three common stigmas and how to overcome them:

The “in-house” stigma.
In ad agencies, there’s the in-house stigma. Like an in-house photographer or in-house editor. These individuals are generally viewed as not being as ambitious because they don’t work at an independent, cutting edge studio or production facility. Therefore they are assumed to be not as good. This is true sometimes but not always. Either way, it’s a powerful stigma that is unlikely to change. To overcome it: Try looking outside your day job to help establish a better reputation. Take on personal projects in the evenings and weekends and make something great. Or quit your job and seek out a hot, independent company.

The “wallflower” stigma.
Not everyone is a hilarious stand up comedian or life of the party. Some of us are quiet and shy. Which means we are frequently disregarded. People aren't comfortable around us and they avoid conversations. This is all despite the fact that many of the greatest artists and craftsman are socially awkward wallflowers. To overcome it: Learn to start conversations. Read more. Read the newspaper. Read books. Have an opinion and express it. Help your career by being more outgoing and sociable. I’ve had the tendency to be a wallflower but I’ve forced myself to be more outgoing and engaging over the years. And I’m glad I did.

The “uncool” stigma. 
The uncool stigma is probably the most shallow and offensive of all. Your wardrobe, manner of speech and social presence can sometimes determine whether you sink or swim. Personally, I applaud people who refuse to change who they are just to appease the cool police. However, if you feel that you’ve been stuck with the uncool stigma and want to remove it, you can. To overcome it: Use your talents. Do some risky and original work. Make it truly great. Then make sure people see it. It will supplant the uncool stigma over your head. Or you could simply develop a new sense of style. Change your wardrobe and image. It hate to admit it but this has worked for some people. They went from frumpy to hip and everyone seemed to view them (and their work) differently. Just like what happens on that TV show, “What Not To Wear.”

Stigmas are a painful reality. They affect how people view your work. If your raw creative output was the only criteria for judging your work, the world would be a better place. But that’s a pipe dream. Don’t waste time waiting for human nature to change. Refuse to be stigmatized.