The Myth of Normal - Humantold

The Myth of Normal

Karen Veintimilla, LMHC March 10, 2022

The key to finding fulfillment is embracing your own uniqueness and not shrinking yourself to fit some idea of “normal.”

Normal is a myth.

When I’m doing an intake session, clients will often tell me that one of their goals is to “just be normal.” My standard response: “What does normal mean to you?” Usually, they tell me things that are often understood as normal and routine: being able to sleep for 8 hours; work in a socially acceptable/lauded field/career; and walk, talk, and think in ways that aren’t natural for them, but that they perceive from the outside looking in as “normal” and acceptable.

It begs the question: is there such a thing as “normal,” anyway?

The short answer: no. The longer answer: still no—however, oftentimes when people describe oddities about others, they throw that word around a great deal but forget that normal is a social construct, to begin with. There is no singular definition of what constitutes “normal.” What we have is a set of social etiquette that most people can agree on when describing certain actions and thoughts, but everything outside of that construct is often viewed through a negatively-tinted lens. 

Many of the negative ideas we have about ourselves that we want to hide are born from a desire for acceptance. As people, we survive as a species and thrive as individuals when we gain acceptance into a larger group. For some, acceptance means having to squash or bury the traits in ourselves that we fear may negate our ability to gain collective acceptance. In order to become part of the desired group, we conform to something that we may not necessarily want to—or that may not be true to how we want to live our lives. We fall into the erroneous belief that acceptance requires perfection, and within perfection, there is no space for the abnormal.

But what if there is no such thing as perfection? Although we’re aware, cognitively, that perfection is elusive to the point of nonexistence, there are still people who constantly try. They strive to be the best at something despite knowing this may be unachievable. So, what does this have to do with being normal? To some people, perfection is the epitome of normalcy. Many would consider a normal person to be a perfect person (i.e., a good job, good relationship, good life). 

So, what can we do about it?

The most radical thing we can do is embrace our oddities (assuming, of course, that they’re not harmful to you or others). This means embracing the people we’ve shaped ourselves into being and the things we already love—because the odds are you’re not alone in what you enjoy anyway. We might attempt to repress our enjoyment of something because we fear judgment and social ostracization, but why not save ourselves the hardship and simply focus on enjoying what we love instead? As adults (and even grown adults—looking at you, teens) we tend to think about what others in the “group” will want and accept first. This usually results in hiding and shame. But once we accept our true selves, we can finally find ourselves at peace. 

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