Abnormally Normal

How do you break free from the pressures to be “normal” around you, to a life where normalcy is defined by you and no one else? This is a guide to just that.

Culture is one of the most beautiful parts of life. It brings about some of the most delicious food, traditions, clothing, music, literature and other forms of art. However, culture can also impose restrictions that leave many feeling left out, judged, alone and unable to have the freedom of expression they so desperately desire and need. One group doesn’t like your music, another doesn’t like your hair, another thinks your house needs to be spotless, and another feels your children should be seen but not heard. Upbringing, as a very strong factor, lays within our psyche certain inclinations or aversions as well. How many times have you heard someone say, “This is what my mom did, so that’s how I do it?” While this is not negative in-and-of itself, the guilt which the opinion of our fellow man (or mother) can bring, can lead to a sense of being lost, depression, and sometimes even worse.

Just because your mother was up at 5 a.m. scrubbing the baseboards, with breakfast already prepared the night before, doesn’t mean you need to do the same and doesn’t necessarily guarantee a healthy outcome if you strive to achieve this in your own life. You are your own person, with your own limitations, needs, desires and convictions.

Looking at culture, friends, family and the world in general for inspiration, ideas or direction is more than wonderful, and at times, just plain necessary to push us along. There is a reason we have our peers, as without them, we would most likely be more prone to destructive behaviors, and two is almost always better than one. Law and order, as well, have a place and are vital to a healthy society. After all, what if “normal” for someone is to murder and steal? It isn’t that there should be no standard, I would simply suggest that the foundation (standard) for our choices needs to be something greater than that of our beloved grandmother, type-A co-worker, or controlling family member. I have developed a very simple standard for these things in my own life – love. If I am not harming myself or someone else in a real way, I must be true to myself, and to others, simply by loving them. The standard of love is one that does not advocate harm, which would of course include things like murder, stealing, etc.

Love encompasses caring for, nurturing, encouraging, helping, and being thoughtful of the needs of our fellow man. But there is no reason you have to throw out your own needs for self-expression and your own version of productivity in the process.

American culture has many ideas of what a successful person is someone who is rich, has the latest fashion, a degree, owns their own home, and the like. But I dare say, if you have none checked off of this list, you can be accomplished, successful and “normal” simply by loving yourself and loving others.

If you suffer from a mental illness, other debilitating disease or have challenges foreign to many, or desires your grandmother didn’t have, there is no reason to feel like you aren’t normal for not meeting the cultural standard, it is instead to re-define normalcy for yourself, and those you love. And here’s a few steps how:

1. Ask yourself before you do anything, does this hurt myself, or another person, not in the sense of preference, but in a real way?
2. In keeping with the first question, what ways do I desire to express myself that I haven’t for fear my fellow man will disapprove?
3. Am I being lazy, intentionally mediocre because of this, or am I at a stage in life where I simply need to do the best I can, regardless of what others think or don’t think of me?
4. Am I involved in a social group, organization, vocation, or peer group that stifles my individuality, and promotes a strongly homogeneous lifestyle at the expense of others?

There will always be someone in your life who doesn’t like what you are doing, we will never be able to please everyone, all of the time. But if my children are fed, they are fed, whether or not it is top-of-the-line organic food. If my house is functional, able to be lived in, and sanitary enough, it need not look like a catalog so my rich friends can pat me on the back. My nose ring doesn’t hurt myself or others, and my dyed red hair I am certain will not cause the universe great harm. Once again, let others’ ideas motivate, inspire, or encourage you, but not destroy who you are because you do not meet their ideas of a healthy, happy life. Be true to yourself, love yourself, and in turn, find yourself whole enough to love others.

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