Everybody's Weird

I had a client recently who said "I just want to feel normal." I certainly understand the sentiment and yet my reaction when I hear this fairly common goal is mixed. Generally I find that the underlying desire for "normal" is a need to feel OK in your own skin, to feel accepted and acceptable. At the root is some combination of shame and exhaustion: shame (the wellspring of most dysfunction) at feeling somehow defective and exhaustion at trying so hard to achieve an elusive peace of mind.

When exploring the concept of "normal" what often emerges is its feared opposite: the dread of being "weird". There is an old saying about how risky it is to compare your "inside" with somebody else's "outside". It's easy to look at someone else and think they have it all together while knowing that you are complex and conflicted and unfinished and self-defeating and in general pretty darn rough in places. When all is said and done the terrifying question "what's wrong with me?" comes looming up like a ghost or bully.

So in case you haven't figured it out, here's a secret: we're all weird. Everybody is messed up to some degree or the other. Nobody has it all figured out. Some people may be more at peace with themselves than others, and progress and growth leads to greater life satisfaction, but nobody is without blemishes or internal mystery. Some may think they are, but as Oscar Wilde famously quipped, "only the shallow know themselves."

"Normal" is an elusive concept that is always in motion, never static. There is no "normal" anything: it's better to focus on whether a quality works or doesn't, is congruent or isn't, fits or doesn't, is functional or isn't. I'm not the first person to fear that we are a nation that has forgotten how to honor its eccentrics, which marginalizes those who seem to be odd or different. As a result too many of us tend to hide our more distinct aspects of personality and show only the boring and acceptable middle ground.

Honor your eccentricity! Be boldly weird, not to shock or draw undue attention to yourself but to manifest your true nature. It will do others a favor by showing that "weird is the new normal." The watchword is to be yourself.

There is a story I remember from the wonderful book "The Spirituality of Imperfection". I don't recall the exact details but I can paraphrase it. It involves a pious man who strived to live like his Biblical heroes and when he died he reverently apologized to God for not living more like Moses, to which God replied, "my beloved, I did not create you to be like Moses, but to be like you!"

Normal is a town in Oklahoma. I'm sure it's a fine place but you don't need to go there. Be fully who, what and where you are and this fundamental acceptance will honor and fulfill your essential spirit.

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Bill Herring is a counselor, consultant, life coach and author residing in Atlanta.  He is available to help individuals and couples live fuller lives.  He is also an expert in problematic sexual behaviors like pornography addiction and other excesses. 

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