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Beyond the Search for Normal

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

At one point or another, most of us have said it (out loud or to ourselves). It’s that end of our rope, frustrated, and lonely wail – “I just want to be normal, like everyone else!” Well, if you have not said or thought it, good for you - perhaps.

But many of us have fallen prey, at one time or another, to the longing to be “normal” because it seemed like the answer to so many problems. This longing to be “normal” feeds the ego’s desire for more of anything and everything that might make us appear to be “normal”… to be like “everyone else”… to be accepted.

Some people build entire personas around this desire to be “normal” while, at the same time, struggling to determine exactly what “normal” is in the first place. It is very time consuming, energy devouring, and stressful to keep trying to figure out what “normal” is on any given day and to achieve, acquire, and maintain whatever it takes to keep up with “normal”. We have two income families, a multi­billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, and reality TV to thank for what seems to be the never ending quest for normalcy.

In the quest for normalcy, however, we often forget how beautifully unique each and every one of us actually is. We forget that we are all individual expressions of divinity, special in our own ways. And that is a good thing! Too often, we feel like what makes us special is a curse, a liability… something to be hidden and tucked away in exile because revealing who and what we truly are might mean subjecting ourselves to criticism or disapproval.

It seems to me to be a strategy that hasn’t really worked out for most of us. Of course, there are certain societal norms and social contracts we must all adhere to because concepts like manners, courtesy, consideration, and cooperation are what make us civilized.

If we are not careful, however,… if we do not allow ourselves to simply be ourselves and to express ourselves in ways that are meaningful to us,… we not only stifle our ability to be happy but we suffocate our spirits. And that is never a good thing!

Let us consider, for a moment, how little we know about this thing called “normal” anyway.

Dr Carl Jung once described “normal” as the ability to adapt. On its face, it seems like a simple enough observation. But it inevitably leads to the question – “adapt to what?”

If we were to measure normalcy by what the majority defines as acceptable and understandable behavior, how would we define it today? By whose criteria would we establish the standard for normalcy?

Would the successful businessman who is a workaholic and maintains only perfunctory relationships with his wife and children be “normal”? Or would it be the beautiful model who starves herself to maintain an acceptable weight? Would it be the pious Sunday school teacher? The passive aggressive? The openly aggressive? The pensive loner? The socialite?

Who among us is this elusive thing we call “normal”? By whose yardstick are we measuring ourselves and each other when we reach for the holy grail of normalcy?

The truth of the matter, at least as I see it, is that we all have our crosses to bear, our wounds to heal, our issues to deal with and our peculiar idiosyncrasies. None of us is without error or without flaws. As such, anything that could be considered “normal” would still be imperfect.

In reality, there is no such thing as “normal”. It is a truth so self-evident that it often gets taken for granted and overlooked. As such, we forget to have compassion for one another and compassion for ourselves when we are deciding what acceptable human behavior is. We become critical and judgmental… intolerant, as much of our own imperfections as those we see in others.

We forget to see each other… and ourselves … for who and what we truly are — inside. In doing so, we become disconnected – from one another and from our higher selves. This sense of disconnection often leads to a feeling of loneliness and isolation that becomes the root of much of our unhappiness.

So, as you continue to move forward with the processes of healing, happiness, and self-realization in your own life, try to remember to be gentle with yourself when you are deciding whether it is okay to just Be Yourself.

Try not to judge your thoughts, your feelings, your ideas, or your dreams by anyone else’s standards. Try not to confine yourself to anyone else’s expectations. Shake off the yolk of trying to be “normal” and just Be You — whatever that might entail. Be spontaneous or predictable, outgoing or reserved, ambitious or content, serious or funny… or be a little bit of all of these things and more.

What I believe you will find, is that the liberation and gratification you gain by just ‘being’ yourself far outweighs the heavy burden of a life spent wishing you were like anyone else.

“Set yourself free from anything that might hinder you in becoming the person you want to be. Free yourself from the uncertainties about your abilities or the worth of your dreams… Set yourself free from the expectations of others, and never feel guilty or embarrassed if you do not live up to their standards. You are most important to yourself; live by what you feel is best for you. Others will come to respect your integrity and honesty. Set yourself free to simply be yourself, and you will soar higher than you’ve ever dreamed.” – Edmund O’Neill

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