Stress can become a motivating factor in our lives, however experiencing too much stress can affect our brain to slow down and also slow our ability to think critically (Boss, 2012). Stress, it is a feeling of emotional and or physical tension that can derive from events or thoughts that can make an individual feel anxious, angry, or frustrated. I come from an Asian family and it is typically known for Asian cultures to have high expectations of their children to do well in almost everything, especially in school. These expectations may consist of getting good grades and getting into the honor roll. Having to carry the weight upon our shoulders brings an immense amount of stress to me.
Researchers found that people in disasters tend to stop and “freeze up” (Boss, 2012). People become stunned and bewildered when they find themselves in a stressful situation. Coming from an Asian background, the children are expected to excel in their education. These expectations may consist of getting good grades and getting into the honor roll. If I received a low grade in a class, I would start to feel fearful and I would try to avoid showing my parents my report card. With all the pressure upon me, I find it difficult to work under stress. I become so anxious that the thought of failing and disappointing my parents restricts me from critically thinking on any of my assignments. When I get stressed, I rush on my assignments. Rushed work typically do not have the best results because I am competing against time and my own anxiety. Anxiety and stress leave no room for critical thinking for me because it has got my mind worried about finishing my tasks as fast as possible with the least amount of effort.
The effects of stress can be countered by mentally rehearsing our responses to different stressful scenarios (Boss, 2012). I am still trying to find ways to mentally rehearse my response to stress but I lack the knowledge so it becomes a barrier. Having no knowledge on how to deal with stress, the anxious thoughts that linger in my head becomes overwhelming to the point where I feel depressed and question my own existence. Conforming to Asian family expectations makes me feel less of a human because it feels like education is more important than my own mental health. I did not grow up knowing how to deal with my stress because in many Asian cultures, mental health is a taboo topic. Asian families have the mindset where we are expected to “just get over it” when individuals go through a crisis with their mental health. Seeking treatment for our mental health from a therapist or mental health facilities will bring shame and dishonor upon our parents because our culture views it as parents neglecting their child and not raising them well enough. Due to the negative stigma of mental health and having high expectations for Asians, it becomes a significant factor that contributes to Asia having the world’s highest suicide rates. There is a lack of knowledge on how to deal with stress in my culture, therefore it has created a personal barrier to thinking critically.
Humans are known to have a desire to fit in, they are afraid of being rejected for having different ideas from their peers (Boss, 2012). I often tend to agree with my peers even when I have different ideas because I am afraid of being judged. The fear of rejection tends to affect my ability to succeed in critically thinking. Having a group that has everyone agreeing with each other also becomes a barrier in critical thinking because no one is willing to challenge the mindset of the group. Good critical thinking involves being open-minded and skeptical of opposing views (Boss, 2012). Not all conformity is bad, however, harmful conformity can become a barrier to critical thinking because it erases individuality. Our tendency to follow and agree with decisions with our peers could stop us from questioning the leader even if we know that we are right. By always conforming, we do not stop and think about our actions or ideas because everyone else is not doing it. Conformity can make us forget to question whether it is right or wrong to follow in the footsteps of everyone else. Using your own intelligence and critical analysis to decide for yourself can benefit our lives. It is necessary to question and analyze the environment around us.
There are various types of barriers that can stop an individual from continuing their ability to think critically, but my personal three factors that stop me from critical thinking are stress, lack of knowledge, and conformity. Stress blocks the ability to critically think because our brain is being occupied with tension. Not having the right information or any experience can create a barrier to not being able to fully think critically. Conformity is a barrier because everyone is afraid of rejection. Even though these barriers exist, there will always be more room for improvement in our daily lives. By adopting new characteristics of an effective critical thinker, I can expand my ability to think critically.