Have you ever been at work, school or a social gathering and not felt part of what’s going on?
Have you ever switched on TV and sat astounded at the world you see in front of you?
Do you ever feel that other people just don’t give a sh#t and generally won’t make an effort with you?
Do you find yourself gravitating towards, or pretty much forced into, spending a lot of time alone?
If any of the above apply then this article is for you. I’m writing it because I know what it feels like to be called ‘weird’ and spend a large part of your life believing that you’re not ‘normal’. I want to share my experiences with you in the hope that you’ll start understanding your individuality as a blessing instead of a curse.
The first inkling of my ‘abnormality’ hit me when I was 11 years old. I had a happy childhood but my bubble was well and truly burst when I started secondary school. Class mates would abandon their tables when I pulled up a chair next to them, I’d spend lunch breaks wandering around on my own and as I moved into my teenage years, I wasn’t at all interested in the world of smoking or doing drugs.
This sense of not being ‘normal’ became entrenched while at University. I entered a culture where alcohol was the number one facilitator of social interaction. As a non-drinker (I literally didn’t touch a drop the whole 3 years at university), I looked at a world where students were consuming 20 to 30 units of alcohol a night, regularly throwing up, experiencing energy sapping hangovers and were unable to remember what they’d done the night before and wondered if my entire peer group had collectively lost their minds.
As a result of my disillusionment with the socially acceptable way of having fun, I became very isolated. In my childhood, I felt a connection with kids my own age and enjoyed the fun we had together. However, in my early adulthood, I couldn’t find anything in common with the people I’d once been friends with. Although I must have had a strong sense of identity to resist the overwhelming peer pressure to drink, the lack of people I encountered similar to me, led me to believe the majority were ‘normal’ and somehow I was odd.
The impact of this belief, not only crushed me at the time, but was to shape my life negatively for years to come. Because I believed I wasn’t normal, and that other people wouldn’t accept me, I wanted to hide. At university this meant making no effort to communicate with other people or form friendships. Post university, it meant presenting a ‘nice guy’ image to the people I worked with, all the while hiding my true feelings, interests and beliefs.
Most catastrophically of all, though, was the way this awareness of not being ‘normal’ affected the approach I took to promoting my book. Although I put my soul into writing it, and it’s words were a true reflection of my deepest convictions, I didn’t want to tell anyone I knew about it. I published it on Amazon Kindle and promptly ran for cover. I was sabotaging myself. Because I feared I (and my work) wouldn’t be accepted or understood, I was loath to make a noise about something that had the potential to create the life of my dreams.
Self-sabotage was the outcome of living my life believing I wasn’t normal. I don’t want this to happen to you. Therefore, if you are currently living under this erroneous belief then here is what you MUST do.
1. Look deeper into what not being ‘normal’ means. There is no such thing as being normal. Everybody is different. If being a hypnotherapist has taught me anything, it’s that we ALL have our secrets and insecurities. Being considered not ‘normal’ is not a negative reflection of your value or whether you’re a good person. All it means is that you don’t easily fit into the dominant culture in which you were born.
This isn’t a bad thing. Although you may struggle when coming to terms with being an ‘outsider’, there are benefits to being one. Firstly, it frees up your time to pursue a dream of great importance.
When I used to feel lonely, I would remind myself of the George Washington quote, ‘It is better to be alone than in bad company’. Approach your loneliness from this perspective and suddenly you have a world of time to dedicate to something worthwhile. While other people are out conforming to socially accepted norms, that never truly make them happy, you have the opportunity to fill your life with the activities, interests and people, that inspire you.
2. Stop trying to fit the mould. There is an important message I need to convey to you. I want you to consider the possibility that there could be a deeper reason why you don’t feel part of the culture you find yourself in. Has it ever crossed your mind that you are here to change it in some way? Have you ever considered the possibility that you not feeling ‘normal’ means you have a greater calling?
Whether this involves facilitating change in a political sense, a technological one or even creatively, progress in all fields is usually sparked by the people society doesn’t consider normal. Therefore, you understanding the world differently could be exactly what is needed to bring about the new discoveries that humanity relies upon to continue its advance.
So please, whatever you do, don’t force yourself to ‘fit in’. You’ll be turning your back on a gift that could see you living an extraordinary life in favour of nothing greater than surface level acceptance amongst your peers.
In the words of Ian Wallace, ‘Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?’
I want to end this article with a reference to Alan Turing. A brilliant mathematician, code breaker and designer of the first computers, Turing was a brilliant man yet he was far from what society considered normal. He was homosexual in a time when it was illegal to be so, a loner, some would say arrogant and didn’t understand or care for the normal graces and etiquettes of society.
His story is brought to life by the 2014 film, The Imitation Game, which focuses on the work that Turing, and a team of code breakers, undertook during the Second World War attempting to break the Nazi’s Enigma code. The Nazis used this code to encrypt the orders for their entire war effort and it’s estimated that the success of Turing’s team resulted in the war being shortened by two years and over 14 million lives saved.
However, despite this service to humanity, Turing was treated shamefully by The System. Never publicly acknowledged for his work, he was forced to undergo ‘chemical castration’ after being found guilty of gross indecency for engaging in a relationship with another man.
During his ‘treatment’ we see Turing (brilliantly played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film) at his lowest ebb. He’s paid a visit by his old code breaking friend Joan (played by Kiera Knightley) who attempts to raise the spirits of her distraught companion. He looks at her seemingly happy life, compares it to his lonely and tortured existence, and remarks that,
“You got what you wanted, didn’t you? Work, husband, normal life.”
Her response is something I want you to keep etched in your mind. If you ever struggle with accepting yourself and embracing your individuality and wish that you were ‘normal’, then you must remember these words.
“No one normal could have done that [referring to Turing’s work]. Do you know, this morning, I was on a train that went through a city, that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you? I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn’t for you. I read up on my work, a whole field of scientific enquiry, that only exists because of you.
Now if you wish you could have been normal, I can promise you, I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.”
(Image taken from Elliott Brown photostream flickr.com)
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