As humans, it is natural to self-label. We are repeatedly labeled and evaluated by others and we tend to adopt others’ labels into our own self-concept. This is especially detrimental for individuals, who are trying to fit in or figuring out who they are. As a result of self-labeling, those individuals may come to experience internalized prejudice, which takes place when a person turns an unfavorable opinion directed towards them by others onto themselves. A major issue that may result from internalized prejudice are mental disorders.
Internalized prejudice may not only result from direct comments or opinions of oneself from others, but also from society’s standards and social media. For example, the LGBT community has a higher prevalence of mental disorders than heterosexuals. Social psychologist, llan Meyer describes this excess in prevalence of disorder in terms of minority stress, which explains how the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination that they endure, creates a hostile and stressful social environment that leads to mental health problems (2007). These high levels of stress can be caused by expectations of rejection, the need to conceal and hide who they are from others and lack of support from their loved ones and community. Not only are these individuals experiencing general stressors, but also the added stressors that come along with minority stress, therefore they may require more of an adaption effort.
It is important to recognize our internalized prejudices about ourselves and work to combat them. This will help to steer away from negative self-concept and promote positive self-concept. People with a negative self-concept may be sensitive to criticism and feel as though others view them in a negative light, which can lead to self-esteem issues and even depression. When it comes to making inferences about individuals, through social categorization we must be careful not to show prejudice and to promote diversity in our own lives, which can also help to combat internalized prejudice.
Lastly, as a society we need to draw light to the issue of minority stress and offer adaption strategies to help individuals cope with the added stressors in their lives. For young adolescents experiencing these feelings, before and after-school counseling sessions would be beneficial. I also think there should be more access to therapy for people with or without health insurance to encourage people to talk to someone when they have no one else to confide in.
Meyer, I.A. (2007, November 9). Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2072932/