To have bias is to be human. Experiences, beliefs, culture, family and many other environmental factors affect our subjective world views. It is essential to be aware of one’s bias not only for professional success but personal growth. Bias is an unfortunate but very real part of life, and it affects all people. Throughout this paper the author will discuss personal bias, how it is developed, how it effects work and life, how to work to prevent it, and a multitude of personal notions about bias.
According to Merriam-Webster, bias is “an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgement” (Merriam-Webster, 2018). Some biases can be helpful or positive, while others can be hurtful and negative to both yourself and other people. Unconscious bias and stereotypes may be formed by things out of our control such as upbringing, family dynamics, location, and culture, but can be changed or altered with more education and exposure to social change. Personal biases often originate from those unconscious partialities but can extend into everyday life to affect decisions made and the actions taken by individuals. If left unchecked, both unconscious and personal bias can turn into purposeful prejudice toward a person, group of people, place, or thing. All people are capable of either having bias or falling victim to it. Inclinations are completely subjective and impacts society in both negative and positive ways. Young people may have biases that have been imprinted upon them by caregivers and social groups, while older adults form bias based on experience, education, and media. As mentioned earlier, not all bias is bad, for example, choosing healthy, heart happy foods over processed, sugar-filled foods will help an individual maintain a healthy lifestyle. This indicates that bias is not always prejudice, and not all people with bias are bad.
When bringing up personal bias, I am automatically called to my partiality when it comes to gender roles. This personal bias is driven by both religion and family example, and though I don’t see it as a negative, I know how it could be perceived negatively in an ever more secular society. I unconsciously look for men to be the provider, protector, and head of a household, and for a woman to be the caretaker, nurturer, and teacher. I believe these biases stem from my family imprinting, and the way that all the relationships I have looked up to my entire life are structured. This bias could severely impact my work with families and children, because not all families look like mine does, and my “ideal” is becoming less and less the norm. It would speak poorly of both the business I worked for and myself, if I let that bias effect the way I handled family counseling, because not all marriages are heterosexual, men are not always the provider and not all women have the time or ability to nurture a child through every situation.
The reaction to my personal bias about gender roles, if brought into the open, would vary based on the people I’m surrounded by. If I was to make it known to my family and close friends, I feel there would be a positive reaction, or no reaction at all because the people I’m intimately involved with share similar beliefs and biases. On the other hand, if I were to unintentionally impress my bias in a professional setting, where beliefs and values vary I would have to defuse the situation, and cope with inflicted distress and potential emotional impairment. I might use coping strategies such as being gentler with both myself and my clients, investing time and energy into expanding my viewpoints and understanding others’, and working to identify the sources of my bias and work insistently to remove them from the professional setting. It is so important to be aware of personal biases and knowledgeable about the impacts they can have, because in Family Life Education and childcare work, I will come into contact with individuals of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, and with completely unique backgrounds. As a professional, I must always strive to help the individuals who come to me, with a neutral, unbiased perspective on their distinctive circumstance.
My personal bias affects my life in numerous ways, both internally and externally. I am in a very committed relationship, with a man that I believe embodies strength, dignity, and what it means to be a leader of his home. I believe in dating for marriage, and not just for “fun” so my personal biases affected my mindset when I was single, because it defined the characteristics I was looking for in a potential partner. I was drawn to all of his features that fit my partiality and found it hard to understand or take seriously the individuals who did not fit my “ideal” gender role. Although I am very happy in my relationship, I have begun to wonder what more I could potentially be doing to be my own strength and provide the steadfastness for a future family while also being the nurturing, gentle mother I’ve always known. Externally, I know my personal bias could potentially affect my work with children and families. I may find myself mediating a situation involving an LGBTQ couple or family, and my personal bias about gender roles will be completely misplaced, and potentially offensive. Also working with people of diverse backgrounds, varying religions, and cultures I must understand that not all family ideals and assumed gender roles are the same. I could be misrepresenting my employer, and the openminded persona I’m striving to become.
There are many ways to prevent my bias from being expressed in the population I work with. I strive to stay away from generalization and implied assertions, basing statements off of facts instead of personal ideas, and maintaining a balanced, updated view of society and its progression. All of these acts are easier said than done, when bias is either unconscious or a real belief, and as a human being I fall short, time and time again. I believe part of eliminating personal bias in the work force, is actively striving to either remove it completely or really understand the harm and or negative impact it can cause, in order to not let it affect clients.
Whether one believes it or not, we all have personal biases. It comes with the territory of being brought up in a world with so many varying ideals, values, and cultural influences. In order to be successful in a professional setting, one must be aware of their personal biases. Over the course of my career I hope to remain vigilant in eliminating personal bias, while understanding the continuous development of society and gender roles, in order to help and reach more people in the population. This paper covered personal bias, why it exists, it’s internal and external effect on life, and how to prevent it in the work place. Environmental factors of all types influence personal bias and the way society projects it, but with continuous education, professionals should strive to remove bias from the work setting in order to better reach hose in need.