@CommonSense, @ModelThinking

Am I normal?

Am I normal? 

That’s not a question you should ask yourself too often. Without being overly confident, most of the time you should not have to worry about it. Yet it happens to us all, that gnawing doubt if you feel that your message doesn’t come across. You are not understood, everyone goes a different way and ignores you. People are angry with you, give you imprudent advice, and you get the feeling of standing alone. You are (hopefully) not aware of any harm, but you lose control over your contacts with others.

Well, to start with the answer: NO, you are not normal!
You are unique, one off a kind, a genius, a specialist in your field, you are the only one who matters in your universe and nobody can replace you! And then a whole lot more blablabla, reading the many expressions on websites that aim to inspire you. Even though I agree with all those well-meant positive statements, but hmmm … That does not help you at all if you still have that question…. “Am I actually normal? “At least know that being abnormal is both a strength and a weakness. You differentiate yourself, and therefore become special, but at the same time you are no longer fully affiliated with the large group of people around you. In our hearts we want to be both: normal and special, preferably as it suits us best. Perhaps it is good to look at what “normal” actually is, and how to use it in a healthy way by developing a different mental attitude.

In the word ‘normal’ another word is contained: norm. If something is normal, it meets a norm, a standard, but how is that determined? Usually a comparison is made with a reference. For example: in Africa a dark skin color is normal. Then you compare yourself with a very large group of people on that continent. The reference is clearly different in Scandinavia. For you personally there are other references: for example, you normally have (European) shoe size 43, even though there are models and brands that require you to deviate from this value. In all these cases there is a statistical principle behind: a so-called normal distribution, or clock curve. The mathematical background can be found on Wikipedia. For this article it is sufficient to know that if you start counting how often a property occurs in a certain environment, this graph arises. Let us take as an example the length (= property) of men of 20 years in the Netherlands (= certain environment). There is an average length that is most prevalent (the middle of the curve). Small deviations are still regular, but the greater the deviation, the fewer men of that length you will find. We call the smaller values ​​the standard deviation: about 68% of all men fall into that category. If we double that margin (2 times the standard deviation, we thus allow greater length variations), we already have more than 95% of all men. One step further (3 times the standard deviation left and right) and we are at 99.8%. Two things are important here:

  • The property must be measurable and can take different values. The average says something about the chosen environment (look at the example of skin color).
  • The outcome of the census strongly depends on the definition of the particular environment. If you, for example, take men between 20 and 50 years as a group, your distribution will change. If you take the measurement in Japan, you will find a different average length. Choose all 20-year-old men around the world …

In everyday life, the most important lesson that this explanation gives you is the following:

It’s just how you look at it, whether something is normal or not!

Everything always has a place somewhere in the graph. Something is usually considered normal if it falls in the 68% category. However, because you can adjust the preconditions, it is quite well possible to change the perception of what’s “normal”. To make it a bit more complicated: as a human being, you are not just one characteristic. You are a composition of hundreds of facets, and with each of them you take a position somewhere on the normal distribution. The following idea is interesting: look at all people in your area, and take the not so crisp definition to what extent we have things in common. Even then a normal distribution will arise. We all live in the same city, we have all followed the same education system, we all buy at supermarkets, we all have a bicycle… And “we all” is something like 68% of the people, with exceptions thereof (some live in a nearby village, or go to the bio-farmer, etc). So usually there are only a few special features that make you “jump out.” That could be talents, but also obvious weaknesses. In general, as I call it, we are multivariable normal. Where one excels in something, the other person needs help. That applies to you, and to everyone else, and we all have the right to find our place somewhere with our particularities. As long as these individualities add value to others, you are special. If your environment suffers from your uniqueness, or sees it as a threat, you will soon be labeled as abnormal.

People have the annoying attitude of enlarging some details in their lives. Often that strong that it seems this property is the only thing that matters. With that, unconsciously you want to prove that you are still normal, despite everything. But that does not work out of course: you belong to the minority who is, for example, transsexual, or who is addicted to smoking. Generating excessive attention somewhere usually works polarizing. If such a conflict is difficult, you can better focus your attention on the similarities with others (where you fit in the 68% group). Remember that as a person we are more versatile than those few things that we are all too happy to emphasize. Doing so, there’s no need to deny or suppress your special characteristics and qualities. The strategy is to cultivate sufficient bonding by agreement on commonalities, making everything else easier to accept for everyone. Sometimes that strategy does not work. In that case, you can do two things: you shift your own priorities to other qualities that suit the group better, or you are looking for a new environment where your specialties fit in better. It is really important to make sure you can be yourself and get appreciation for what you bring in this life. Fighting for your rights against all knowledge only gives you stress. This weakens the energizing “we-feeling”, and strengthens polarization with your environment.

There is another area where the normal distribution does not apply, and where standards are used that determine whether you belong to a group or not. That area is characterized by unilaterally propagated ideology. That can be religious fanaticism, but also a political conviction or simply a populist power struggle. Just look at the current group of leaders in different countries, and how they try to manipulate what is normal by proclaiming dogmas and wild decrees. These are false standards that are not really supported by the majority of people. That there are followers of these dubious men comes through fear, profit or simply brainwashing through the media. Incidentally, this can also occur in companies or associations. If you are aware of this, you have to make a choice how to deal with it.

If you ask yourself: “Am I normal? “, immediately think who makes you doubt. You or someone else? That is already part of the solution. The rest follows from the awareness that the other person is also normal in his own way, because what applies to you also applies to someone else. So, no, by definition you are not normal. Nobody is. Fortunately, there are many similarities with others, and you have a few special features that allow you to do something meaningful in this world.

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