Prejudices that limit well-being

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Louise Hay

Prejudices that limit well-being

Prejudices are unconscious and inconsistent and often lead us to make bad decisions. Recognizing and disabling them allows you to shape a more respectful and happy world.

Last update: January 06, 2022

There are several types of prejudices that limit well-being. These are predetermined and unconscious beliefs that we all have about people, about the world and about every reality that surrounds us.

These mental assessments are in many cases raised as biases that limit our human potential and even our social harmony. They hinder our relationships with others, simplify our worldview, and make us act with fear and skepticism rather than facilitating openness and cognitive flexibility.

These psychological constructs are in many cases the purest expression of our illogical thinking. The psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman has shown that we all make use of these cognitive resources.

Their purpose is to give quick answers by filtering the available information in a subjective way. A tool to simplify the complexity of our environments and make immediate predictions in contexts of uncertainty.

Should I trust that person? Who should I collaborate with at work? What information do I need to validate? How should I react in this circumstance?

Many of our responses and actions are mediated by bias unconscious that do not always lead us to the best or desired goals.

Nothing deceives us more than our judgment.

-Leonardo da Vinci-

The need to organize the world into mental categories

Racism, sexism, age, homophobia, xenophobia… The prejudices that limit well-being actually go beyond those categorical dimensions that we all know.

They are unconscious and stereotyped mental architectures that reinforce negative attitudes towards many areas of reality. And especially towards groups of people.

If we ask ourselves why we create and strengthen them, there are several explanations. As psychologist Gordon Allport explained in his work The Nature of Prejudice (1954), prejudices and stereotypes are the result of normal human thinking. Since our world is complex and unpredictable, we have to organize it into mental "categories".

Similarly, expert Daniel Kahneman said that we all use these heuristics (mental shortcuts) to make decisions on a daily basis. These are also mediated by moral and emotional motivations, by the education received and by the surrounding environment.

Prejudices that limit well-being

Recognize and deactivating the prejudices that limit well-being is possible only by becoming aware of them. For example, asking why certain beliefs about some people are strengthened is already progress.

However, it is also advisable to carry out a brief review of the negative prejudices that many of us internalize. Are the following.

1. What I don't know is negative (fear)

It is one of the main causes of prejudice: what is different is dangerous, what is ignored is negative, so you have to defend yourself. Fear of the other fuels racism, but also self-defense behavior.

This characteristic it defines people who always prefer the known evil to the good to be known and who respond with concern and even contempt to any change or novelty. Regarding this, James Cook University has carried out a revealing study.

When we display curious, imaginative, and experiential behavior, prejudices are reduced. They fall by themselves. Only in this way is it possible to see what is different not as a threat, but as a learning opportunity.

Prejudice for fear of the different is the substratum of intolerance and the root that blocks every opportunity for change and human progress.

2. If you look like me, I will like you more (affinity bias)

One of the prejudices that limit well-being is to understand the world from personal experiences and points of view. Those who have opposite opinions or who have not had the same experiences are not worthy of trust or friendship.

The affinity bias says many people they unconsciously prefer those with similar qualities and experiences to their own.

Those with the same political views, those who attended the same university or have the same nationality will be seen with better eyes.

3. Your image tells me everything (prejudice from appearance)

The bias of appearance is a classic. Who hasn't done it at least once? Most of us tend to judge by appearance.

We know that the physical aspect always counts, but be careful because sometimes we fall into serious errors of judgment that sharpen the weapon of discrimination.

4. Men and women are different (gender bias)

Among the prejudices that limit well-being there are undoubtedly gender prejudices. Let's think about it, not only does society reinforce certain sexist schemes. Sometimes, we too continue to internalize certain prejudices that limit our full potential.

An example is some women who decide not to opt for management or top positions because they believe that these categories are intended only for men.

5. Prejudices that limit well-being: prejudice of power and beauty)

The prejudice of power and beauty is very present today. For example, many young people believe that only those with certain physical attributes achieve success.

A debilitating and negative prejudice certainly is the idea that thinness or beauty opens doors in any scenario.

The prejudice of power and beauty is supported by low self-esteem. It is an emotional component and a prejudice that limits our potential by thinking that all success or achievement of goals begins only with the physical aspect.

6. One mistake determines everything (devil's prejudice)

People are sometimes cruel to themselves and to others. It is enough for someone to make a mistake to conclude that they are unreliable or worthless.

The devil's prejudice tells us it is it is enough for someone to show a bad quality (even if temporary) to think that it is better to distance themselves from it.

This idea can also be applied to ourselves: it is enough to make a mistake or fail in something to consider ourselves a total disaster.

7. When something goes wrong, everything will go wrong (straight line bias)

Among the prejudices that limit well-being there is the belief that if something has gone wrong, it will also be so in the future. While the devil's prejudice is applied to relationships between people, in this case the straight line is about our experiences and daily events.

It is a negativity filter that causes us to fall into despair by predicting that what starts the wrong way cannot be improved upon.


Nothing is as cathartic to our potential as becoming aware of these psychological constructs. As William James said, most of the time we think we think, what we really do is rearrange our prejudices.

It is not the right thing to do. We learn to deactivate the prejudices that limit well-being to reason as we deserve.

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