Normality Debunked

by Song Y Yoon. Song Y, 21 is a university student from Seoul, South Korea. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Why would any individual desire to be normal? Perhaps he or she is abnormal, according to a certain set of standards, and is reprimanded for being so. Hence, they try to achieve the norm. But what is normal? What differentiates an abnormal individual from a group of normal people? More importantly however, is being normal even possible?

What was considered normal a century ago might not be normal in the present day due to the constant changing of culture. The norm is a set of standards created by the majority of a society, majorly influenced by culture. For example, it was not until the early twentieth century that women started to challenge the norm and wear trousers like men. Before that time, women mainly wore skirts that many criticized as restricting and unsuitable for work. Now, in most parts of the world, it is considered normal for women to wear trousers since the norm has changed along with the culture surrounding women’s wear. Therefore, as the given example shows, what is considered normal is constantly changing with time due to the influences of culture. Considering this constant change, it is no wonder why people spend “tremendous energy merely to be normal”. Just as the wind changes, one must be willing to constantly change to fit into the mold of the norm.

Most, if not all, individuals would agree that every person is different. Some could share similar personality or physical traits, but each is different, like a snowflake. It is ironic though that different individuals wish to be alike. As being normal sets certain standards, each individual must try and meet those standards and by doing so encounters others doing the same, therefore creating a group of “normal” people. This can also be seen as one trying to fit into a specific clique. However, there are many different kinds of normal depending on which group one wishes to join. For example, there is the normal person in society as whole. He or she might seem tamed and well-mannered by abiding by the laws set by the government. At the same time, there is a set standard for the normal person in the office space. A worker in the office would seem normal if he or she dresses formally, but not if they dressed as if they were going out to a bar. Therefore, one must constantly change throughout his or her life in order to meet the standards of the norm set in each group of people they meet. If one views normal in this way, as not one but several models of people dependent upon the social group, one can speculate that “normal” might not be so normal.

If one is called normal, most would not take it as a compliment, but equally, being called abnormal or bizarre can be quite insulting and demeaning. When one thinks about why however, they might find that being normal is bland or boring because most people are normal. However, is normality an achievable standard?

When looking at the standards set by the norm in any social setting, most are achievable but not all at the same time. This is due to the fact that everyone is different and therefore is bound to bend or break the standard at a certain point. Also, if one considers the many different standards set by different social groups, it is impossible for one to conform to all of them at once. Therefore, it is impossible for one to be “normal”. Normalcy is a thin line that exists within the boundaries of abnormal or different. At times, it can be argued that it is a non-existent notion created to suppress difference, which could influence change. For that reason, it is important that one asks where the norm originated from and what sort of influence it can have on society.

Camus was right to say that “some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal”. Due to the constantly changing standards, one must keep following the norm without rest. Additionally, since everybody is different, the standards set for one to achieve normalcy are impossible to attain, as they also change depending on the social group. To be normal might seem easy or comfortable as one is not judged for being an outsider, but normal is non-existent. Therefore, one should embrace their differences rather than chase the impossible, since the norm does not exist to be achieved but merely to be chased after.

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