This is such an important analogy. I really hope you enjoy.
What is typecasting? To me, when I think of the word I think of acting and the fact that actors and actresses get typecasted to play certain roles. For example, if you were to think of Will Ferrell, what movies does he almost always play?… Comedies! The audience has connected Will Ferrell to comedy movies. If he’s not playing that role (that role people know him to play so well) then people aren’t interested in seeing the movie. Since movies are all about entertainment and making movie, there’s not much incentive for producers and movie ‘big-wigs’ to cast Will Ferrell in anything other than a comedy. Movie characters need to relate to the audience’s perspective and their perception of the type of character in the movie.
Another example is Jason Statham. If he’s not in a movie with fast cars, which he’s more than likely driving and the genre isn’t action/thriller then people just wouldn’t be interested in seeing that type of movie. If people are going to a Jason Statham movie they want an action/thriller movie!
Okay, so great… typecasting. But how does this relate to us? Well you see, just as actors and actresses get typecasted in movies we, as individuals get typecasted to playing certain roles in our lives. Okay, but so what? There isn’t necessarily a problem in playing a certain role in the movie of your life unless the role you’re playing in the movie of your life is something that you desperately want to change.
But what’s the problem? Well, we all know how difficult it is to change an aspect of ourselves. For example, if we want to create the habit of working out or we want to lose weight, etc. There are obviously internal barriers to changing our behaviour, however, there are also external barriers. Typecasting relates to external barriers that we don’t necessarily think of. External barriers may usually include things such as time and money, which are definitely popular external factors that prevent people from achieving the success that they want to in their lives.
However, what if I told you that because of the fact that we get typecasted in our lives and the roles that we play in our lives are familiar to other people; in particular our family, friends, teachers, doctors, employers, etc. The difficulty in changing is that not only do we have to overcome internal and external barriers but we also have to overcome the typecasted role we have come to play in the minds of other people around us. This may cause other people to not necessarily believe in our abilities or believe in the person that we want to become and they may, inadvertently, create barriers to help us achieving change in our lives.
Now obviously (and I firmly believe) it is ultimately up to us to change our lives to become the person that we want to become but this idea of typecasting can really play on our unconscious mind. I think, on an unconscious level, we all care about what other people think of us and what others believe we can become in our lives.
Let’s look at an example of this idea of typecasting and how powerful it is. Let’s take a kid in school. Now when you are young we can be quite influenced by the beliefs of others, particularly family, friends, and teachers. If a teacher or family member consciously or unconsciously believes a child is always joking around, not paying attention, not doing their homework, always disrupting class, not engaging in the lessons then there are going to be certain roles that that student will come to play in the eyes of his school, peers, and family members. We’ll call this Student A.
Let’s consider Student B. They always complete their homework at a very high level, they participate in class, they are engaged, etc.
Now, whether conscious (ie. whether verbally spoken) or unconscious (ie. what is believed about the children or other nonverbal cues) each Student, A and B, will be thought of and treated differently. If student B ‘acts out’ people will see that as 'out of character'. The following is the most important point: if Student A starts behaving, pays more attention in class, participates in class, etc., the teacher, their peers, and family members will unconsciously think and believe…. What is wrong with them? You see just as actors and actresses get typecasted in movies because that’s what the audience has come to identify with as the role they ‘always’ play, we can do the same thing with people. We will expect people to play certain roles and if they act differently or ‘out of character’ for that role (even if it’s a positive change in the example of Student A) then we will wonder ‘what is wrong’ or say, ‘that’s out of character for them to be behaving so well’ because it’s not what we expect. This is why it can be so difficult to change if the role we’ve been identified with is negative, just like it is for Student A who’s always acting out and then wants to change to be better behaved and get better grades.
Typecasting powerfully plays on our minds on an unconscious level and it can really create additional barriers for us achieving change.