You’re Not Normal

Looking in the mirror, you probably say to yourself in particularly self-hating moments that you aren’t normal. Everyone else seems able to hold down a job, maintain emotional equilibrium, and manage healthy relationships; it is you, and you alone, who are singularly cursed to abnormality. If only you could change, be different, be normal…

But, of course, this type of thought process is myopically narrow. You have no idea about the destructive storms raging within the hearts and minds of those around us; you merely assume because their outer appearance is calm, their inner experience must be too (imagine how you must appear to those around you).

But, other people aren’t as normal as you might imagine. You can tell when more than one person watches a video on topics like No One Is Normal by the School of Life or Am I Normal on Ted Talk; we all feel, deep down, a little bit like imposters, a little bit like sickos, a little bit ‘not-quite-right’.

We are unintentional solipsists, forgetting that other people have internal worlds and are suffering just like we are. We would do well to remember that everyone wears a mask. If you think other people are completely normal, you’re just an emotional wreck and psychological freak, I guarantee others are surely thinking the same thing about themselves when they see you. Do you smile for a photo even if you feel dead inside? How do you know others aren’t doing the same?

You aren’t the only one who has driven down a road and thought ‘I could drive onto the sidewalk and hit 20 pedestrians right now if I wanted to’, you are not the only one who has been at the top of a tall building and thought ‘I could jump off right now’, you aren’t the only one to have an inappropriate sexual thought about a friends partner, and you aren’t the only one who might sniff, scratch or taste a weird part of their body. The only difference between you and other people is you know all the weird, messed-up and frightening thoughts, feelings and impulses you’ve had. Not knowing them in others doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

It might not be normal (whatever that means) to cry at a cartoon movie on Netflix, but that sensitivity is what makes you such a great listener and artist. It might not be normal to disdain eating meat, but that empathy is what makes you such a great friend. It might not be normal to want to spend nights alone instead of going out, but that dedication to your internal world is what helps you maintain emotional equilibrium. What might be weakness and weirdness in one setting becomes a defining strength and a sign of character in another.

Trying to be normal is an attempt to ‘fit in’; to become a part of the background, the wallpaper; to be an unassuming and invisible brick in the wall. In a weird way, it speaks to a desire to delete a part of ourselves in order to deal with the pain of being ourselves. But, this type of partial suicide will never rescue ourselves.

Saving ourselves begins when we realise that everyone is weird (in different ways, to different degrees); you’re not normal, no one is.

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