Life lessons

On being normal

Normal. A word so commonly used. Especially in the field I work in, normal means has great significance…it means you don’t have to see a psychologist. You are not ‘abnormal’. You do not have any ‘clinical problems’ or any “mental health issues”. You are coping well with life in general. You are normal.

Even in my search for a place recently, I came across a lot of people looking for someone ‘normal’ to share their place. I was told by one person that I came across as being normal to them (which may have had to do with me telling them my profession). I did not end up taking that place by the way.

There was an incident in Melbourne yesterday where a father threw his 4-year-old daughter off the bridge. In a TV ‘interview’ with a neighbour, she described the family as being…you guessed it…”normal”. She was shocked at what had taken place because, you see, the father was so normal. We don’t expect this kind of behaviour from ‘normal’ people now, do we?

Who decides what is normal and what isn’t? If we were to take the DSM-IV (which is how psychologists and psychiatrists diagnose mental health problems) as an example, then it is a bunch of narcissists from the medical field sitting up in their offices making a decision whether I’m normal or not. And who are they to decide whether a person who prefers being by themselves than with others is not ‘normal’? Who are they to decide that a child that does not listen to their parents (because actually, it’s the parents that have no rules) is not ‘normal’? Who are they to decide that if someone prays every time they have a thought that their loved ones may die, is not ‘normal’? Who are they?

Don’t get me wrong — I diagnose mental health problems based on the DSM-IV myself. But I do constantly wonder why we do it. There are some diagnoses I agree with. But then, there are others I loathe such as ‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’ or ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ or ‘Dependent Personality Disorder’. What is it that makes one person more ‘normal’ than someone else?

In my opinion, being ‘normal’ is over-rated. Because no one is. If every person were honest, we would find out that no one meets this ‘criteria’ of normality.

Not you. Not me.

I’m not ‘normal’. I have my hang-ups. I get anxious in new social situations. I get anxious about the future. I strive for perfectionism which only helps in increasing my anxiety. I get depressed every now and then. I rant. I am cynical. But hey, apparently, I am ‘normal’ to the strangers I meet. To the people that don’t know me very well. The same way we all come across to others. Apart from the person muttering to themselves on the street, we all put on a facade of normalcy. Even those medical professionals that wrote up the DSM-IV criteria.

Everyone strives so hard to be ‘normal’ that they stress out more when they are not.

Why not just accept the reality?

Nobody is normal…

And that’s what makes life interesting

Until next time,


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  • Lilly's Life
    2 February 2009 at 6:36 am

    Loved this post. And no I am far from normal or average or whatever is the stupid yardstick people use. Terrible about the four year old girl too. Her father was clearly needing support. So sad all around.

  • Smita
    3 February 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Loved the post…u r so bang on!!! Being normal is a relative thing and I dunno why do we have to be judegmental always…why an’t we take things as they are?


  • Psych Babbler
    6 February 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the comments ladies!

    @ Lilly: yep the dad was definitely needing support…esp given the times we are in with the financial crisis and everything…very sad.

  • Cilla
    14 September 2009 at 10:01 am

    Hey interesting to know your profession…u r right no one as such is normal…but people are generally judgemental…also what could be normal in one culture might seem bordering on insanity in another…there is nothing like normality simply coz there is no specific benchmark…and your house hunt reminded me of similar things I have experienced house hunting in Mumbai…while I have always got the normal tag, there are some of my friends whose dress sense or work timings or choice of friends of the opposite sex makes them abnormal…ridiculous but true!

  • Psych Babbler
    14 September 2009 at 11:14 am

    @ Cilla: Welcome to my blog! And yeah…you are right…that’s a whole different ball park of ‘normality’. Different cultures consider different things as being normal. Which brings us back to how can we say whether or not something is normal! And I can’t believe the dress sense and the choice of friends being included in it…sigh.

  • Sreekara Deepthi
    2 September 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Awesome post!!!I have missed this one earlier…

  • Psych Babbler
    2 September 2011 at 10:36 pm

    It was written a long time ago Deepthi, and despite me being in the business of ‘abnormal’, I try to tell my clients my personal views on normality being overrated….