The Illusion of Normal

It seems as far as I can remember, I found myself desiring to fit in, to belong.

For me, this often lead to me doing things that weren’t always truthful, wearing clothes that didn’t quite fit, and acting like someone who wasn’t quite me.

As children, as soon as we become known to ourselves we are told how to be, how to act, how to fit in with everyone else, and to avoid anything that causes us to stand out.

Webster defines normal as: “Conforming with, adhering to, or constituting a norm, standard, pattern, level, or type; typical.”

What I find remarkable, is how if each moment, each breath holds its own uniqueness, how can anything be typical?

Without sounding too cliche, like falling snowflakes, each person, each moment, truly is unique on so many levels.

Yet, our minds aren’t always so good with the fluidity and uncertainty of people and their often unpredictable actions.

Therefore it seeks, strives, and, more often than not, craves normality even if that means giving up a sense of curiosity and possibility.

The irony is that, with some objective consideration, we can easily recognize there really is no such thing as normal, ordinary, or typical.

What there is instead is an ever-present invitation to be exactly who we are in each moment: infinite, creative, and always changing.

The challenge is that we live in a culture that not only does not celebrate uniqueness and instead it seems to tell us who we are is too much, too weird, and much too big.

As humans, we are deeply social creatures, and as such, a big part of how we learn comes from watching others and modeling their behavior.

This can be tricky as all too often how we get our education and socialization is through what is represented on television, movies, the news, and now social media.

The danger of this is that by ascribing ourselves to given models of being that are quite unrealistic and unattainable, we inadvertently create dissonance within our psyche, which leaves us vulnerable.

Vulnerable to programs, thought patterns, and false narratives of what it means to be human. This leads us to feel disconnected from reality, others, and ourselves.

We see perfection, and yet we feel and inexperience our imperfections never knowing that we are, and always will be, perfectly imperfect.

When we see a glossy print of a smiling man or woman living their best life, or a fabricated photo on social media, we forget that it’s not real life.

We forget that more often than not, we are being sold, and our desire for belonging and connection is being used against us all for the sake of diminishing our inner light and keeping us in line.

How does this play out in our daily lives and relationships?

It’s far too common to project upon ourselves and others an idealized version of how we should be, look, or act based on the prescribed standards of beauty and desirability.

We place unreachable expectations upon ourselves and our partners, creating not only distance between our hearts but also inner conflict as we struggle to figure out why we’re don’t feel good enough or why our relationship doesn’t look like it should.

Without awareness of these dynamics, we experience the day to day activities of relationship (paying the bills, waiting for the bathroom, washing the dishes) as somehow not quite fitting the Disney picture-perfect view of what it means to live well and how relationships should be.

When we or those we love break character, our mind does not like it and often responds by resisting “what is” by projecting expectations, judgements, and demands upon ourselves and those around us.

We desire our men to be chiseled, stoic, able to handle any and all situations without breaking a sweat. We desire our women to be graceful always, dressed to play the part, and smell like roses and sunshine every day and night.

Worse, we desire so much more from ourselves.

The way I’ve found to soften this dynamic is to bring the focus back to myself through practices of discernment and self-honoring.

To remember that what I see on screens and print may not always be reality. This recalibration takes time, and like any unraveling process, is best when done with gentle heart and patience.

For some, simply this awareness will open up new possibilities and ways of being. Follow those impulses.

For others, it may take some attention and vigilance to deprogram ourselves away from the control programs of media, the entertainment industry, and social media.

The process may take time but what’s at stake is our inner freedom, our expression, and our personal and shared joy.

In the end, we are each vastly unique and something very much to be celebrated.

So be weird,
Laugh at the wrong time
Speak truths that seem out of place
Live lives that no one has ever lived.

When you are you
And I am me
Then, at last, we are free.


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