In writing “Is Normal Killing Us?” last month I made the point that as youngsters we found ourselves in a reality that we never asked for and most of us did our best to fit in to what seemed to be expected of us.
After publishing it, I was left pondering where our responsibility might lie in making normal so powerful, so impactful that millions of youngsters turn themselves inside out to comply with its seeming dictates – the definitive boundaries of a normal way of living. Some can’t comply and some of them die by suicide.
Others might be labeled “misfits” for years to come; but most of us conform and live out our lives normally.
Leaving me with the question: If the dictates of normal are defined by society, what continues to make it so powerful and influential?
It occurred to me that each youngster who conforms to these standards and does their best to “fit in” adds legitimacy to whatever standards have been adopted for normal. The more people join the ranks of normal, the more compelling it becomes.
So while it is true that we have a reality we never asked for, by joining the ranks of normal we gave it even more power to influence more and more people in the future. The conclusion is that we are complicit in making normal our reality, like it or not. You could make a case for us not knowing better at such a young age but, nevertheless, we joined the ranks and helped make normal more seductive for others.
Without dwelling on who is responsible for the condition known as normal in our world, let’s apply responsibility to liberating those parts of ourselves that have been suppressed or squelched since we joined the ranks of normal.
Let’s revive our uniqueness! Let’s escape from the mold of normal and see who we are without the contortions, without hiding those parts of ourselves we might have thought of as “weird” or otherwise unacceptable to normal.
Who knows, we might discover our inner genius, or an exquisite artist, or a master in some other form of self-expression.
I’m reminded of the George Bernard Shaw quote about reasonableness for it is certainly reasonable to fit into normal, especially when we are searching for acceptance as young children. But this reasonableness costs us dearly, as the quote goes (adapted to modern gender) – “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world; the unreasonable ones persist in trying to adapt the world to themselves. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable person.”