Let’s start by defining the word normal. What does it even mean, where did it come from, and how has it been used? According to the Etymology Online Dictionary, the word normal dates back to the 1500s and was used as an adjective, meaning typical or common. Later, in the 1640s, it was defined as standing at a right angle, commonly used in carpentry. As a noun, it dates back to the late 1800s, defining a state or condition of normalcy.
Now that we have the definition out of the way, let’s talk about how living in the shadows of being “normal” actually hinders us from truly practicing self-love. To begin with, who determines what is “normal”? Is there a “normal police” going around telling people they aren’t normal? Perhaps the “normal police” are those in society who think you are different?
Perhaps it’s not even about you being different, but about doing things outside of the accustomed “order”? That would be me! I have lived my life backwards. A lot of people, go to high school, attend college, develop a career, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. Nope, not me. I had kids first, finished high school, went to college for a bit, got married, had some more kids, and then finished college, which took me forever. After all that, I divorced, finished raising kids, and developed a career, but at times, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’ve always done things differently than others, and I have always felt out of place — that I’m not “normal.”
I lived a life of constantly comparing myself to women who were my same age — who were professionals with no children. I compared myself to women who had never been divorced, who dated in their own age range, who owned homes in great neighborhoods, who owned a couple of dogs — you know, the white picket fence dream. In my constant state of comparison, how could I practice self-love, let alone understand it? Happiness was a rare feeling for me. How could I be happy when I was constantly comparing myself to others, and I was always asking myself why couldn’t I just do the same things as everyone else?
The worst times were when I would meet new people. I would start sharing life stories and realize, “Oh, now I don’t fit in.” There were times the desire to feel some type of “normalcy” would overtake me. I would find myself making changes to my life in order to feel like I fit in with the rest of the world. Some changes were as simple as changing my hair color; others were more drastic, like trying to make decisions based on someone else’s way of thinking. None of it ever helped. Feelings of being unworthy became a part of my daily existence.
It took me some time to realize that what I was doing was just making me miserable. In order to have true and pure self-love, we must do away with what society deems normal. Continuing to compare yourself to others is a disaster for your self-love. It does away with being patient with yourself, with having compassion for yourself, with loving your current journey, and with being present. When I started to just live my life the way that I saw fit for myself, I began to experience something I hadn’t before: peace. I finally realized that, in reality, there was no such thing as “normal.” Just because I had lived my life differently didn’t mean that it wasn’t “normal.” It was just MY way of living. Coming to that realization enabled me to begin practicing real self-love and acceptance. I realized that, no matter in what order I experienced the stages of my life, it was the way I had to experience life for myself.
A very great friend of mine, Lah Tere, often says, “You are the expert of your own story.” I love this idea, and I often say it to myself. It keeps me grounded, and it’s a reminder that we each have a story. My story can’t be exactly the same as someone else’s story. There can be similarities, but they will never be exactly the same.
Removing “normal” from your everyday vocabulary allows you to be in the present, to learn from the current situation, and to enjoy the moments of triumph as well as reflect on the moments that are challenging. Normalcy does not allow for uniqueness to shine. We dim that shine when we begin to compare ourselves. We also begin to victimize ourselves when we fall into the normalcy trap. By the time we notice, we are in a puddle of self-loathing, because we think we aren’t doing or progressing in the “normal” way.
When you begin to think differently, you open yourself to radical self-love. You find that you are more patient with your journey instead of being overly critical of yourself. Here are some tips for removing normalcy from your vocabulary and your life:
Your life is yours. Live your life remembering that you have authority over it and can make the ultimate decision of how you live it.
Limit Social Media. Not everything that you read is true. I don’t know how many people go around flossing (slang for showing off) when their reality is very different than what they portray.
Mindfulness. Being in the present and accepting your emotions at that moment makes you aware of how you are reading the world around you.
Be Unique. So you want to dye your hair purple and green? DO IT! You want to shave all your hair off? DO IT! Be your unique self; don’t worry about what someone is going to say or how they are going to look at you. Even if you don’t have the purple and green hair, they are still are looking at you.
Practice Radical Self-Love. This is the hardest of them all. When our society is constantly sending messages that you’re overweight, or that you’re too skinny, or that your hair is not long enough, or that you aren’t keeping up with the latest trends, you tend to not love yourself in the most natural and truest form of who you are.
Believe me, it took years for me to do away with the word “normal.” The key is to begin to chisel away at those feelings of unworthiness. Start today! You are worthy just the way you are. We all are. Whether you have green hair or black, whether you have no tattoos or are covered in them, whether you wear all black or bright neon colors, whether you’re single or married, whether you’re cis or transgender, you deserve radical self-love.
The world is watching. So, as the saying goes, “Give them something to talk about!” At least, you’ll be happy. At the end of the day, that’s all that counts.[Headline image: Black letters against a white background spell out “Normal?”]