23 wellbeing things. No. 16, Take comfort in being ‘normal’

Couple walking down a sunlit pavement“All the world’s strange, except for you and me… and even you’re a little odd.” ~ Anon.

Everybody has had those days when they stare into the mirror and wonder how they came to be the way they are and not the way they had once planned.  We are all peculiar in some ways.  It is part of being human.  Societies have a tendency to roll everyone together conceptually and average everything out to produce a range of stereotypes and between them a “normal” person that then becomes the spurious role model to which everyone aspires.  This is curious.  As Rosie King observed in her TED Talk, in a society that supposedly calls us all to aspire to be exceptional, why do so many of us want to badly to be average, typical, “normal”?  How about we all try simply to be the best version of ourselves that we can and enjoy the fact that because we are all so we can achieve amazing things when we come together.

This desire to cluster with people who we think are most similar to us probably stems from our evolutionary instinct to fear the unknown because it might hurt or hunt us.  Even small differences in manner or appearance can trigger hostility and fear in some people.  The remedy?  We all need to widen our exposure to different thinking, races, cultures, sub-cultures and people in general until no-one we meet is unfamiliar or scary.

Of course then we have eccentricity and mental health problems.  These are also scary because society has demanded they be kept secret and either hidden beneath a veneer of ‘professionalism’ or away in a hospital.  Only recently has society begun to talk about mental health.  It’s about time.  Most people will suffer clinically significant mental ill health in their lives, and almost everyone has periods of not feeling at all okay.  Returning then to where we started, this is normal.  The founder of psychotherapeutic counselling, Carl Rogers, said that the talking therapies were successful when they helped someone who was in distress return to where they only suffered “the psychopathology of the average person” (Rogers, 1967).  In his view, if you are only as crazy as everyone else, staring worriedly into the bathroom mirror and wondering whether you are wasting your life and making a complete mess of everything, you are doing very well indeed.

Support for when things are really not okay

If you are ever in real distress, overwhelmed by events, doubts or life changes, it is always best to reach out and ask for support.  The University Wellbeing service is there specifically to help you if you need them, as is Talking Change and your GP.  The Samaritans are also happy to listen to anyone at any time of day or night; there is no need to wait until you are depressed before you call them, they welcome calls from anyone.  Friends are useful but they have their own problems and sometimes may not be able to support you as well or as much as they might like.  At these times, professional help can be invaluable in getting you back to “normal”, whatever that means for you.

Photo: Vladimir Kudinov (reproduced with permission)

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