Mental Health A-Z: N is for Normal
Normal: conforming to a type or standard.
Initially, during our school days, all we want is to fit in. We want to blend in with the rest of the crowd; liking the right kind of music, writing with the right sort of pen and owning the right sort of pencil case. Being accepted into a group is of paramount importance in our small social circles, constantly altering our identities to fit the mould.
In its humble beginnings, normality is simply a case of following a series of trends. Wearing knee socks, or wearing skin tights; growing hair long, or cutting it short. Whatever the tendency, we are told; screamed at, even – to follow it blindly, as a moth to a flickering light.
The unordinary are punished; left to struggle against the dominance of the popular, normal ones. Last week, that boy with chubby cheeks was punched behind the science block until he bled. This week the girl with freckles was teased then spent the afternoon hiding in the toilets.
Kids like these are thrashed at by words, bullied by fists and left silenced among bookshelves. Only the ordinary can prevail.
Yet, suddenly, we reach a stage when normality is no longer desired. This is where differentiation creeps in, as we discover our identities.
That quirky blue-haired kid from high school is suddenly able to come out of her shell, admired by the indie crowd. Creativity and funky outfits burst from the school gates, as difference is embraced and explored, new trends clashing and syncopating with and against one another.
Being normal, however, becomes synonymous with being bland, nerdy, and lacking interest. Here the teens without different or abnormal traits become the less popular ones.
But quickly the tables turn again. Upon reaching adulthood, the opposites reverse as we digress back to childhood, with the world telling us to become ordinary once more.
Look to the Oxford English Dictionary, and you will find that a normal adult is simply ‘physically and mentally sound, free from any disorder, healthy.’
Adulthood is obsessed with this idea of a healthy mind and body; the ideal of which is a person with no diagnosed issues or negative emotions. Which, considering the sad happenings within today’s world, is fairly unrealistic and excluding.
In short: if we are mentally ill, we’re strange. If we are quiet among others, we’re antisocial. If we are wear different clothes, we’re weird. And so on.
Throughout our lives we are thrown to and from this concept of normality. And yet we are never told what normality means. We’re never shown a diagram or given a checklist, nor do we learn about it in classrooms. Instead, we are simply pointed towards what is abnormal.
By exaggerating traits deemed to be unusual and strange, ‘normal’ has emerged as a polar opposite, dragging generations of us towards this unspecified state.
Put bluntly; the concept of being ‘normal’ simply does not exist.
Therefore, our yearning for normality should, likewise, become extinct.