What is normal? Are you normal? Am I normal? Are we all normal?  Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as “usual or ordinary; not strange.” When we ask ourselves these questions, or when we respond to the next statement in parenthesis, as I often do (you’re so weird), do you ever wonder by whose standard we are judging ourselves against? What does Webster know about being normal, anyway?
Growing up, I was always a little, well, different. My teeth were crooked. I had a high pitched laugh. I was a little nerdy. Okay, very nerdy.  I was also sheltered so, hence, extremely socially awkward. I walked around with a bull’s eye pasted across my chest, serving as a moving target for the big bad bullies who continuously pushed me around. No, really – I mean that in the most literal sense. Every afternoon in the second grade, I would skip across the school parking lot in my OshKosh B’gosh overalls and my He-Man book bag. (How is that for an image of cool?) And every afternoon, this one boy would push me down. He would just walk up to me and say “you’re weird” and then push me, for no reason at all, every single day.

©iStock.com/Andrew Rich

For many years I tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to conform to the notion of normalcy as defined by everyone around me. We all do it. Shape magazine publishes an article on a slim-down diet, features a slender model overexcitedly eating an apple and we decide, “Yep. I want to look like that.” You convince yourself that you should look like that – because that is normal – and what you look like is not.  Each year, millions across the globe are steered under the knives of plastic surgeons that tuck and lift because stretch marks, sagging skin, wrinkles, small breasts … none of that is normal. But according to who? Your favorite celebrity? Mainstream media? The fashion industry? Your coworkers? Your friends?  Who decides the standard by which we judge what is normal?
Sometimes, we are influenced by imit-haters. Yes, that’s right, the imit-haters – the opinionated portion of the population who hate first, then imitate later. These are the people who insistently mock you for choosing an iPhone over a Samsung, wearing red shoes, shopping at Walmart, shaving your head, listening to jazz and, well, you get the idea. You may have heard it before: “Seriously? You’re so weird. I can’t stand [fill in blank].” Soon thereafter, these same people will be doing, wearing and liking the same things they initially criticized you for. In other words, they judge you based on their standard of normalcy, then hypocritically go against that same standard.
I have tried to conform to the notion of normalcy imposed by society. It never worked. Do you know why? Because the quirks about me that others identified as oddities made me, well, me. Sure, at the core we all share the same single fundamental characteristic. We are all human beings. However, our genetic makeups and independent environmental triggers create distinguishing characteristics between us from physical appearances to mental abilities.  The entire world is comprised of seven billion people of different shapes, colors, religions, ethnicities, personalities and in this mishmash of diversity, there is not one person who will ever be identical to you. You will always be a smidgen different than the rest.  You will forever be you to the core; not her, not him, but you. What is so wrong with that? Why do we insist on imitating others, on trying to change ourselves, when there is beauty in variety, in uniqueness? Because someone else thinks that we are weird?

youre-weird-wood-printTwenty something years have expired since those Oshkosh B’gosh days and a multitude of things have changed. My numerical age, for one, my vertical height, lingual abilities and the faint definition of laugh lines. Notwithstanding all of that, certain things have remained the same. I still burst a high-pitched laugh when something is ragingly funny. I am still (and will forever be) very nerdy. I tell bad jokes, dance in public and sing to myself. But do you know what? My boyfriend loves all of this about me. That quirk, that small, diminutive distinctiveness about yourself that you may try to change is a quality that someone will eventually fall in love with.
Can we think about this for a moment?
Maybe, just maybe, being normal is what is weird. Normal is boring, repetitive and average. Weird is unique, distinctive and original. Stretch marks are beautiful. Laughs are inimitable. Wrinkles tell a story. Be proud of what sets you apart from the rest.
In closing, please remember Dr. Seuss’ advice on self-actualization:
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”