Normality is a trap and popularity is the bate

By Aine Nic Dhonnacha. Aine, 26, lives in Galway, Ireland. She is a philosophy, social and political studies graduate. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

What is normal? The definition of normal changes with every culture. It can even change from street to street. One street may leave their outside lights on all night while the other turns theirs off, both streets believe what they are doing to be normal.

Normal is a term used to define the usual, the expected and how most people do things. It is the phrase “most people” that would make anyone who isn’t part of it feel a need to try to be; which to some people does not come as naturally as it does to others. A need to fit in and be accepted and a desire for popularity is what reinforces people into this ideal.

What does it mean for a person to be normal? To be normal, a person has to be similar to the standards set by the society they live in. Few ever question these standards that they are born into and simply accept.

Here in Ireland; normal is going to work everyday, paying bills, engaging in polite chit chat with neighbours and going to the odd social event. Normal is getting married and having children and baptising them even though most people do not believe in the Catholic Church any more, they still fear not following the rituals. Some people live life easily this way. Others do not and for them, as Camus stated, it can take tremendous energy trying to be like everyone else. Some of us stand out more. Some of us look around and question things and have original thoughts that are not what we have been told to think. Originality is not normal. Normal is typical and expected.

We grow up being told how people are meant to behave. We are first taught manners and the importance of them. We are taught not to question authority figures and this is a big shame. Our parents tell us “because I said so” as an end to a discussion. Teachers do the same. What we perceive as normal also depends on the friends we choose and more often than not we choose the ones similar to ourselves because we all have a deep desire to fit in and to be normal. We believe it will help us to be accepted.

So, what happens to the people who cannot live up to the normal standard set by their society? Many unfortunately think they are defected and that something is wrong with them. Media plays a big role in teaching society what “normal” is but who decided this standard of normal? Often psychopathic dictators who believe brainwashing is for “the greater good”; but mainly for their own profit. It’s normal to have tea and coffee now in every house. That’s good for the tea and coffee business. That’s good for the economy.

But what is economy?

Economy is basically the trading of goods and services. It thrives in a society that people spend most of their time working towards that one week off holiday a year and their weekends that they are often too tired to fully enjoy. The wheels keep turning and everyone is in an illusion of a world disconnected from nature.

Who decided that this is the best economy? People with the most to gain from it. Their cooperation, their goods and service and their money is safe as long as the consumer spends most their time working for them and watching TV on their time off. The TV tells them exactly what they need with so much advertising. Our individuality threatens the neat boxes they put us into in their statistics.

We cut down trees, which give us oxygen that we need to breathe. We cut them down and make money out of them. When what is normal is questioned and dissected it can often look ridiculous and many do not wish to question it; “because I said so,” “because they said so” and finally “because that is how it is”.

What about the people that realise time is the true currency? We trade our time for money. We use this money to buy things, which we get a limited amount of time with, because we have to spend most of our time awake working; for money to buy more things. Including basic things we need like water. A society that charges its people for water is clearly more concerned with profit than its citizens.

The Dalai Lama expressed this very well. When asked what surprised him about humanity he said;

Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

That is the normality most of us are trying to live. One that when thought about logically makes very little sense. Or am I just one of the some people Camus is talking about that use up so much energy trying to be normal?
If the Dalai Lama came to Ireland as an individual without a massive following, chances are he would be dismissed as abnormal.

Difference is often looked at with skepticism. Buddhists are taught their culture from an early age. Wearing robes and meditating most of the day is normal for them. A lifestyle that in our western culture would be difficult to imagine, even harder to try pursue. I have always admired the Buddhist culture. They find their happiness within. Most of us seek our validation from an outer source. When our society gives us examples of what we are meant to be, we will likely try achieve its ideal in search of validation that we believe will bring us happiness.

Fear of being judged is another big reason we succumb to normal. I was one of those children in school people found “weird” because I wasn’t like all the rest of them. Many can relate to this and we call it bullying and suggest that it is an adolescent problem. Unfortunately this isn’t the case, it is a universal problem where we ridicule those that are different and find it entertaining. It happens at school, in the workplace, in the park and pretty much anywhere with a large gathering of people.

What would happen if people were no longer afraid of not being normal? The world would be a lot more interesting that’s for sure.

I believe normality is a trap and popularity is the bate. We have a false beliefs that if we are like other people or who they admire, then they might just admire us too. This is a very difficult way to live and has lead many people down roads of severe dieting and plastic surgery while wanting to look and be like celebrities that are popular. Plastic surgery became so normal there are ads on the TV for it now. That is scary. All is takes is a following for anything to become normal and that is quite frightening and also pretty wonderful.

Everything new was not normal until it was popular.

Wouldn’t it be great if you put that extra energy you use to try be normal into your passion and do not fear judgment. If normal is the expected then be the unexpected. Be unique. Leave a mark in this world that isn’t just your birth certificate, wedding certificate and death certificate. Be kind to fellow beings and try not to judge. If you are happy being normal, enjoy it and don’t be ashamed of it. We should all be ourselves regardless of what society tells us we should be, we know ourselves better than any group of people with clipboards and statistics.

Be your own friend, and you will always have that weird friend with you that makes you feel comfortable.


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