You might be quite normal just the way you are but if you try hard to fit in; to be normal; then you won’t be yourself, you won’t be natural, and you certainly won’t be truly happy!
It’s been a while I wanted to write about the differences between ‘normal’ and ‘natural’; mostly because I see a lot of harm, judgement and blame (to self and/or others) arising out of our beliefs about normality and trying to fit in.
Normality is simply a statistical notion, it is not a natural or biological one. Normal could be different from place to place and time to time. The more you try to be normal, the more you would distance yourself from your true self and this is bound to cause stress and disharmony in you, leading to agitation, conflict and lack of inner happiness.
I will write more on this topic later but for now I thought to share with you an article by Agustin Fuentes that I came across in Psychology Today (Agustin is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame). Below is an excerpt and I encourage you to read the full article.
When we start defining “normal,” we head down a dangerous path.
Published on March 17, 2014 by Agustín Fuentes, Ph.D. in Busting Myths About Human Nature
The myth of normal tells us that that being within the range of what is considered “normal” is a core feature of successfully being a member of society—and that is simply not true. The myth of normal is very strong and very wrong.
Being “normal” is usually assessed by one’s being in or around the average for any given trait: height, weight, body type, sexuality, physicality, sociability, etc. And we largely assume that, with a few exceptions, it is best to be as normal as possible to fit in with those around you. In this notion, the average for any given trait, and maybe one, or two, standard deviations from that norm is fine, but once you get far away from the average, there is something wrong—you are not being human the right way.
This premise results from two misconceptions:
- A very poor understanding of the range and patterns of actual human biological and behavioral variation.
- An assumption that the average in any population or group is more or less a measure of the “right” biological and social way to be.
If we are getting “normal” so wrong for things as easy to measure and understand as height and weight, what about things like gender identity, sociability, imaginative interests, etc.? Is there one average (and thus “right”) way to be a boy or a girl? No. Gender is a highly complex and broad spectrum with individuals being a mix of a range of elements from across the feminine-masculine spectrum—average patterns exist, but they are statistical measures, not assessments of happiness, success and contentment. Should everyone be expected to feel more or less the same in social situations, have more or less the same number and types of friends? Of course not—there are many feasible options for sociability, and most people within that broad range do just fine. Is it evolutionarily, socially, or psychologically better to force oneself to be interested in the books, movies, themes, and ideas that are held as “normal” in a given society? It might make some people more comfortable, but it does not necessarily lead to flourishing and happiness in most individuals.
It is the very human ability to range far and wide in body and mind that has enabled us to do so well as a species, and the myth of normal cuts that range down to a minimal “norm.” Again, I am not arguing that anything goes—rather, that by continuously imagining that there is a direct connection between the statistical norm and the “right” way to be, we are making the lives of many people, across the range of variation for any given trait more difficult, and denying them a seat at the table.
Photo courtesy of “Am I enough yet?” blog.