What Is Normal Anyway?
My search for meaningful connection
Before I started out on this journey I had a very different outlook on what it meant to connect. I thought I needed to be more like others, that I needed to be like them to fit in.
As a result I spent a huge amount of effort hiding away those parts that made me ‘different’, worried that I would be labelled as ‘weird’ or ‘odd’. I wanted to be seen as one of the crowd, to be like everyone else. I didn’t want to be seen as the worrier, or the quiet one, or the consistently lonely one, even though I was all those things and more.
I would present an image that wan’t the real me. I took the parts of myself that I felt were more acceptable to others and magnified them, putting those aspects on display for everyone to see. I wasn’t being true to myself, and where I was able to ‘fit in’ it wasn’t the real me that was fitting in but what I chose to show the outside world.
That left me with very little. Because what makes me different is a big part of what makes me me.
Over time and as I got older the differences between myself and others grew bigger and more apparent. It became more difficult to cover them up. How could I hide the fact that I hadn’t settled down or had children when most of those around me had? To some extent I could still try and hide my life with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but after more than twenty years that was becoming increasingly exhausting.
Eventually I started to withdraw. I could no longer present an image that I was the same as everyone else.
When I look at it that way, it seems so obvious why I have trouble connecting.
But now I’m starting to question why I feel the need to hide parts of me away. Who’s to say what is ‘normal’ and what is different?
I see it everyday. I see others projecting their own definitions of this into the world. I did it myself when I hid parts of me away.
My own situation has now made me question why we see things like getting married, having children, getting promoted or even buying a new house or car as some of the only achievements worth recognising.
Yes, it is right that we celebrate those things.
But we can also acknowledge those who, just by opening the front door and stepping outside, have achieved something huge. We can notice the person who despite having numerous knock-backs continues to stand up each day and face the world. We can appreciate those who show up and are brave enough to be themselves when circumstances make this difficult for them. We can applaud those who have that courage.
I realise that by hiding myself away I have contributed to that picture of what is seen as ‘normal’ and what success looks like – to the image that many of us strive for, and which, if we don’t achieve are left with a sense of failure.
But now I’m beginning to embrace my differences and recognise that success and achievement is very individual and means different things to different people.
I am realising that my story is normal, simply because it’s mine. I can’t deny it, because if I did I’d be turning my back on myself. I want to start showing the real me to the world, and not be constrained by a fear that I don’t fit into this picture of normality.
I believe this will play a big part in my journey to find connection. Celebrating each other’s uniqueness and embracing the things that makes us individuals, including my own – this is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned recently. So big that it deserved a blog post of its own.