Don’t Allow Yourself to be Typecast
Actors and actresses worry when only one type of role comes to them. Being cast again and again as a superhero or a villain can limit the roles in which others will be able to imagine them in the future.
In life, we can become “typecast,” too—and very often we’re the ones who believe in our limitations the most. How? First, if we played particular roles—the peacemaker, for instance—in our families of origin, we might feel most at home playing that role in one situation after another, for life. We can feel compelled to negotiate with and appease others because we haven’t ever played the role of the strong person willing to risk it all for what we believe in. Yet, there may well be situations in life that call for us to be far more direct and unyielding, not flexible and accommodating.
Other typecast roles with roots in childhood and adolescence can include:
- The parent . . . always invested in nurturing younger siblings (and then one’s friends and coworkers), to the exclusion of yourself.
- The vulnerable one . . . who, for example, battled a childhood illness and is now always convinced you need extraordinary support from others.
- The combative one . . . who, for example, was relied upon by your siblings to stand up to an unreasonable parent, but who now can’t seem to sit fights out when they aren’t worth it.
There are many more such roles. Once you become typecast in one of them, that role can operate not only in your personal life, but your professional life, as well. It can certainly direct your choice of professions. There are accountants in this world who lived through financial chaos in their families of origin and who, underneath it all, are actually entrepreneurs. There are firefighters who are actually inventors.
Typecasting can also predetermine what sort of leader you will be. There are CEOs who are actually five times as bold and inventive as they know, because their original experiences typecast them as steady, stay-the-course leaders—period.
Getting “out of character” and having the freedom to play more than one role, as you desire and as the situation requires, is pretty easy once you realize that you’re participating in your own typecasting—whether just allowing it or actively perpetuating it.
Dr. Keith Ablow