What Stereotypes Have You Faced? These 5 Malaysians Share How They Overcame Their Labels

It's time to break free!

Cover image via Arisha Rozaidee

If you've ever been stereotyped based on your appearance, interests, or decisions, then you'll know how frustrating it can be

Image via Giphy

Whether consciously or sub-consciously, there's a tendency to label individuals and put them in a category. But the truth is, we're each awesome individuals and nobody should be pigeonholed or labeled based on the assumptions of others!

While it can certainly be difficult, Celcom Xpax is encouraging Malaysians to break free from all stereotypes and be themselves.

So, in collaboration with Celcom Xpax, we spoke to 5 Malaysians about the stereotypes and obstacles they faced and how they overcame them:

1. "They told me I can't workout because I wear a hijab, and hijab girls are supposed to be timid and modest"

Image via Arisha Rozaidee

"Everywhere I go, people stereotype me as the 'hijabi'. Two things happen when I tell people that I'm into fitness.

Firstly, they assume that I should only be doing 'girly' workouts like yoga, spinning or Zumba (which aren't even 'girly' hello!) Secondly, they say that hijabis can't workout because wearing a headscarf is restricting."

Image via Arisha Rozaidee

"But you know what? I wear hijab and do Muay Thai. How I choose to dress doesn't affect what I choose to do. My proudest achievement was when my coach told me I'm one of his best students in the class, and that my kicks are powerful.

Freedom to me is having the ability to break boundaries and stereotypes, while still being myself!"

- Arisha Rozaidee

2. "I'm the only boy in a family with seven sisters and people stereotyped me as too feminine and not 'macho' enough"

Image via Ihsan Ihsani

"Most stereotypes I face revolve around my personality and how society expects me to be. Whether it be my interests, how I talk, how I dress or even how I perform every day tasks - people (even close friends and family) would always take a jab at my more effeminate qualities and how I 'act' differently from the 'macho man' norm.

It used to bug me so much that I tried so hard to change myself to not fit the stereotype. As a result to this behaviour, I often felt lost about who I actually am as a person."

Image via Ihsan Ihsani

"Things changed when I started seeing the representation and normalisation of men with different personality types in the media. From Phil Dunphy’s antics in 'Modern Family,' Tom Haverford on 'Parks & Rec,' or even everyday guys on YouTube who aren't your traditional Alpha Male.

So nowadays, I actively try to embrace my difference. I cook for a living, I love tending to my plants. These are all 'feminine' interests but it’s 2019 - who cares about camouflaging with the norm? I've learned to live comfortably with my feminine traits and embraced my stereotype.

Freedom is knowing who you are and being unfazed by the labels people place on you. If I’m good at heart, not hurting anyone, and am happy myself, what people say about me is not my problem."

- Ihsan Ihsani

3. "When I decided to leave medicine because I hated my job, many people said that I was not trying hard enough and that it would all be a waste. But the biggest obstacle that I had to face was myself."

Image via May Vin

"I left the medical profession to start over as an intern in the media industry.

When people talk about housemen leaving housemanship, they stereotype these people as the lazy ones, the weak-willed, the ones who don’t want to work, the manja ones. And they are happy, because the hospital system has gotten rid of these 'lousy' doctors.

At that point I was already depressed and anxious from work but I allowed those thoughts to enter my head. So even though I had quit, I began to have a lot of doubt about things that I did not even doubt before such as my character, my identity, my purpose, and my life. That was the worst of my depression."

Image via May Vin

"The moment I felt that I had overcome the stereotypes was when I was volunteering alone in Cambodia teaching underprivileged children.

It was a foreign country with such different values and cultures, which I did not know beforehand, so all I could be was myself! That made me realise that I was so caught up with known expectations and stereotypes back home, that I did not allow myself to make decisions in fear it might disappoint others. But in doing so, I had only created so much conflict with myself. So, from then on, I learnt to trust myself better.

While I know that I will never be free from judgement and stereotypes, freedom is in knowing to never again allow others to question my self-worth, my decisions, and my life. They can say whatever they want now, I’ll just continue being me."

- May Vin

4. "A lot of people were talking behind my back and complaining that I was 'too friendly,' it made me want to change my personality"

"I have always been a super sociable person my whole life. Always talked to anyone I could. In college, my outgoing personality got turned into something negative. I was suddenly stereotyped as 'too friendly and therefore weird.' They stopped wanting to hang out with me.

It was hard to ignore, especially because I was living overseas, away from childhood friends and family. It made me question myself about whether I should change my personality. But... I didn't want to stop being nice???"

"The people that appreciated my 'nice-ness' became my closest friends. And the ones who didn't... well, they were still my friends too! I don't have time for haters :)

I think people should be free to express themselves in a positive way. Now I'm a social media manager so my job revolves around being social and nice and friendly! I love meeting new people, learning about them, and sharing with them."

- Suresh Yoganthram

5. "People stereotyped me as too young and inexperienced to open a business in the art industry, even though they knew nothing about me"

Image via Anis Manis

"I left the corporate world to focus on my passion for art. I'm now a full-time content creator and part-time art teacher!

People made a lot of negative comments about how young I am, that I was too inexperienced to do this, but I believe that age has nothing to do with it."

Image via Anis Manis

"Now people recognize my effort and passion in creating something new. Either my photographs, content creation, artworks or my teaching method. I enjoy doing what I love to do and I appreciate when people come up to me saying that I inspired them in some way.

My freedom began when I started a small business with my sister where we provide and teach art workshops for both kids and adults called @ohlittlemess. I am proud of where it is going and I hope to grow it bigger, so we can share more and give back to society."

- Anis Manis

Time to break free of those stereotypes y'all!

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