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You Don’t Have to Be “Normal” to be Happy

I remember a popular bumper sticker that read “Why Be Normal?” It is a good question. It seems that as human beings we strive for “normalcy” – if by normal we mean conformity, since most would agree that there has to be some level that a society defines as “normal” – or we run the risk of total anarchy.

As youngsters, we feel immense pressure to be “normal” – to fit in, this is why most teenagers look alike, sound alike, and like the same music. As adults, a definition of normal and accepted group behaviors is what allows groups as diverse as cooking classes to networking organizations to function.

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Yet, what is so great about normal? Is not another word for normal “ordinary?” Who are the heroes in your life – the people you admire? Would they be considered “normal?” or extraordinary? Were Galileo, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Einstein, even John Lennon or Elvis for that matter –considered “normal?”

While there is probably something very basic to survival that drives normalcy, but, the instinct that keeps one from “standing out from the crowd” so as not to be picked off by a lion on the plains of Africa – also stifles creativity.

Break the Bonds of Normalcy

Certainly, there is security and reassurance in adopting the “normal” behaviors of a given group. Conformity provides a sense of assurance, well-being – and identity. I am sure there are many people who are perfectly happy to be normal. There is a certain comfort in complacency.

And yet, I believe, there are just as many of us who are straining at the bit, just dying to break out of the constraints of normalcy – and for them the road to true happiness is not to be just like everyone else – but to dare to be considered different!

There are many things that can stand in the way of happiness and success. Having a negative self-image is certainly one of them. However, a misplaced belief in what you think you need to do to be considered “normal” can be another roadblock — and one that is often overlooked. Renowned motivational writer and speaker Wayne Dyer, wrote in his book Excuses Begone, that we need to make a list of all the things we are “unwilling to do to achieve the life we want” –with the ultimate goal of having a blank sheet.

So, what should you take away from this as a parent? Simply this, if it is not in the extreme, it is probably OK to let your kids, especially your teens, experiment with being a little “out there,” Of course, it is important to watch for signs of true anti-social, or sociopathic behaviors, especially in light of so many school shootings, and teen suicides. But, in the absence of those extremes, its ok, to let your kids break from the norm a bit –it’s all part of them finding themselves.

And you know what mom? The same goes for you too!

Now, I am not suggesting being weird for weirdness sake, and that you go to your next networking or PTA meeting dressed as a chicken. However in each of us there is an opportunity to step beyond our comfort zone just a little bit, and in doing so you might surprise yourself, and others with just how extraordinary being “abnormal” can be!

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