NOT NORMAL – CONFORMITY, SAFETY, AND FEAR OF STANDING OUT
Do you feel pressure to be normal?
Whatever that means to you.
Maybe you don’t want to have kids, but feel pressure to start a family.
Maybe you want to have lots of kids, but you fear judgment for not focusing on your career instead.
Maybe you want to run off to Barbados to live a bohemian life and go surfing everyday, but grew up in a family of city-dwelling investment bankers who expect you to follow in their footsteps.
Whatever conception of “normal” we grew up with, most of us feel some pressure to conform. Meaning, we feel the need to act the way other people are acting, to follow a certain set of rules and codes of behavior that exist in our communities. Or at least that we imagine exist!
Some of these codes, like, say, the rules found in a strict religious community, are real and explicit.
Others are more amorphous and implicit, like the rules that govern a social community.
Some of them are entirely made up inside your own head.
In all cases, though, you can think of conformity as tied to a fear of rejection.
And in this light, it’s no surprise that so many of us feel the need to conform.
Because humans evolved to fear social rejection.
Our ancestors lived in small tribes where social acceptance was literally life or death. If the tribe decided to shun or banish you, you were dead. Even if you had a falling out with just one or two people, it could affect your survival.
In this context, our literal safety depended on our ability to conform to the norms of our communities.
We did this by constantly scanning for what seems normal in our immediate community and looking for the ways we are DIFFERENT from those around us.
This is why even now, most of us secretly harbor a deep fear that we are not normal.
Because evolution trained our brains to fixate on what might separate us from our community, and to label our differences as potentially dangerous.
But “normal” is an entirely made up concept.
A lot of what we think is normal is based entirely on what our community or friends or social peers tend to do.
For some people, getting married in their early 20s is normal.
For others, never getting married at all is normal.
The only commonality that most everyone shares is a propensity to think that we are not normal.
So what can you gather from all this?
First, you can realize that normal is all relative, and that you’ve made it up in your mind. You cannot trust your brain about what it tells you is normal because it’s a biased narrator that is only primed to see what is “abnormal” about you. It thinks that it’s trying to protect you by doing this, but it’s not actually helpful.
Second, you can realize that even if your perception of normal WERE true, being normal isn’t what makes someone happy or unhappy. You can be the most “normal” person in the world, and if you were having thoughts like “everyone thinks I’m a freak,” you’d feel alienated or anxious. Only your thoughts can make you happy, full stop.
Third and most importantly, you can understand that everything amazing you want in your life is going to be the opposite of normal.
Because amazing isn’t normal.
It’s normal to believe that other people cause your feelings.
It’s normal to believe that all your thoughts are true.
It’s normal to believe that you have to make do with what you have.
It’s normal to believe that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve to be happy, that you can’t have what you want in life.
It’s certainly normal to believe that only a few exceptional people in the world can find their soulmate or make a million dollars or travel the world or publish a book or make change.
It’s normal to believe that you yourself are not one of those people.
Those are all totally NORMAL things to believe.
But if you want an exceptional life, you have to be willing to stand out.
You have to be willing to not be normal.
After all, it’s not normal to believe you can create whatever result you want in life
It’s not normal to believe you can choose how to think and feel on purpose.
It’s not normal to believe you have infinite capacity and ability to develop, especially as a woman in this society.
It’s not normal for women to accept or love their bodies.
It’s certainly not normal for them to prioritize their own happiness and fulfillment over other people’s opinions of them.
It’s not normal to dream big, to go after huge goals, to live life on your own terms.
It’s not normal.
We try to conform to feel safe, to avoid rejection.
But when we stifle our true selves and true potential, we never actually feel safe because we are rejecting ourselves.
We are ignoring our true selves in the hopes of gaining approval from others, and there is nothing more destabilizing than valuing the opinions of others over our own desires.
When you ignore your true self, you will constantly feel rejected. You will constantly feel unstable.
When you accept and embrace yourself, you will feel so grounded that no one and nothing can destabilize you, no matter how “abnormal” you may think you are.
When you have your own back, it doesn’t matter what ANYONE thinks of you.
We spend so much time wanting to be normal and accepted, but everything about you that is the most wild and special and free and world-changing is what is DIFFERENT about you.
Nobody changes the world by being the same as everybody else.
And conforming does not keep you safe.
True safety comes from deciding to be YOURSELF, fully.
And you can choose it any time. It’s never too late to stop trying to be normal, and to be your wonderfully weird self instead.
Ironically if we all did that, that’s what would become normal! Let’s start today.