“You can take the boy out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the boy”.

That statement drives me mad and I get pleasure from proving it wrong. Why? Generalizations are not cool. I am from the Bini speaking part of Edo State, and if you’re Nigerian, you must have heard the popular saying;

“Bini girls are loud, lousy, crazy, witches. They like going abroad to become commercial sex workers.”

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But you see,  it’s not just common among Bini girls. There are pre-conceived notions associated with almost every ethnic group in Nigeria.

“Ibo girls are money-hungry.”

“Calabar girls are nymphos.”

“Yoruba girls will do anything to keep a man”, so on and so forth.

It’s even more annoying when educated people say these things.

Let’s be real, this happens in Nigeria and I guess, other African countries too. I decided from an early age not to be defined by my ethnicity. Over the years, I have owned this resolve. Indie Arie’s “I am not my hair is my go-to song for kicking against convention and pre-concieved notions.

I speak out against generalizations, whether in gender, colour, tribe, political or religious affiliations. I am not generic. I am specific, unique, and me!

Unfortunately, some of us have allowed ourselves —and subsequently our families and businesses become products of these notions. Here’s a true confession: I secretly take pride in being an Aries. And the “Aries do not finish any project they start” statement is one of the biggest lies I ever heard.

This belief shaped my life badly and for a long time, till I took control. I am tempted to just say “ walk baby, walk!” but it is not that simple. Here are my top suggestions to walking away from stereotypes.

Define yourself

Do not beat around the bush on this. I’ll be first to admit that I didn’t do this early on in life, and I wish I had.

winning personalityTaking self surveys and personality tests help to get a definitive self picture. A temperament analysis and if you are into it, your Zodiac sign can also help you get a clear picture.

Filter

In Nigeria, the statement “dem say, dem say” is used to define rumours. The prevalent view of your environment may not be normal at all. Don’t let it be.

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Filter what you hear and perceive. I’m not suggesting that you become oblivious. See, it’s important that you are aware of the workings of your area.

Let go of dead-weights

Please! This should be numero uno. Don’t go about dragging baggage and ideas that are probably as dead as the people who invented them .11-catch-fire

“Dreadlocks are evil” or “Girls should be quiet”. Ummm… no! Shed them faster than slimming teas shed fat.

Re-brand

As a follow-up to the previous tip, re-branding is simply psychological (let’s not talk about changing your wardrobe now). My mom calls it changing your OT (orientation).

It is basically about changing your thinking process. I re-cultivated my mind on so many issues that were a part of my environment.

Two major ways I did this were through books and the Bible. I read a lot about self-empowerment  and growth and try to put what I read to practice.

Positive re-enforcement

You are so much more. Keep telling yourself that. I use sticky notes to write motivations to myself on my mirror. This way, I just can’t miss them.

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It’s scary thinking of how many people have followed uninformed predictions. Know that you can defy them.

I don’t care what anyone says about Bini girls, that’s not me. I choose not to follow that notion and I do everything contrary to it.

This is it, ladies, it doesn’t matter what people choose to believe about you, smile.  Of course, we both know they know nada!

So, walk away from generalizations and that “area” reputation. That’s clearly not you.

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