What’s “Normal”?

I’ve been noticing more and more lately, particularly in those who have mental/developmental disabilities, the feeling of “victimhood,” i.e. – the belief that they are “victims,” being persecuted in an un-caring world. They have the mindset that because of their disability or diagnosis, that it makes them “freaks” or “pariahs” in a world that won’t accept them because they’re different. They wish more than anything else that they could just be “normal,” and blend in with the crowd. And while I can certainly understand where these feelings come from, I don’t support the idea of expecting others to change just for you just because you think they should.

I am on the Autistic spectrum. I’m not ashamed to admit it, nor am I ashamed of the condition itself. I was diagnosed 13 years ago, and since then, have ridden a roller-coaster ride of emotions and sentiments regarding the fact that I have Autism. However, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to be “just like everyone else.” I didn’t want to blend into the crowd and disappear. I didn’t have the desire to be “normal.” For what is normal? Is normal what everyone else is? Because no one is “everyone else.” We’re ALL different…no one is like someone else. We can do our best to emulate others or try and live up to our various role models by trying to follow their beliefs/lifestyle/habits/appearance. But in the end, no matter how much you try and become like someone else, you are still you, and that will never change.

Can you imagine how life would be if we were all exactly the same? No one would argue, no one would disagree, and no one would ever have a different point of view. We would be automatons, with no real purpose in life or qualities that make us unique. As much as some of us may hate to admit it, we are ALL unique. There are 7 billion people on this planet, and not a single one of them is normal.

The feeling of “segregation” that many people have comes from the mindset that because of their varying conditions, that everyone else doesn’t understand them, and as a result shuns them. But it is my view that in general people who think this way do very little to attempt to integrate themselves into society. They believe that the world should adjust to them while they sit back and watch it happen. However, such a thing will never come to pass. Forming any kind of relationship with any one is a give and take. If someone doesn’t understand you, then you need to make every effort to attempt to make them understand. The more they learn about you, the more you learn about them. No one is going to suddenly approach you and say, “hey, I don’t know anything about you…but we’re best friends now.” It doesn’t work like that. In order to truly become part of your environment, you must begin adapting to it, before it begins to adapt to you.

This is not to say that it’s easy. On the contrary it can be extremely difficult. Neurotypicals (people not diagnosed with any kind of disorder) have just as difficult a time forming relationships as anyone else. They may not encounter the same obstacles, but it’s still not easy for them. For more on tips for forming meaningful relationships, you can refer to my earlier post about relationships and communication. It is true that people often fear what they don’t understand, and this can indeed lead to problems. That’s why it’s important, especially for those who consider themselves to be “disabled”/“debilitated” because of their given condition, that they preserver and not allow the close-minded to hinder their efforts for acceptance. It goes without saying that not everyone is going to welcome you with open arms and beg to be your friend, but trust me when I say your friends ARE out there…even if you haven’t met them yet. You will eventually meet the people you’re going to spend the rest of your life knowing, but only if you seek them out and attempt to get to know them while they get to know you. That’s the very essence of what a relationship is.

One final thing I’ll say is that every one of us should strive to be the best we can be, but no more than that. Nobody’s perfect and trying to be perfect is a waste of time. And anyone who demands perfection holds unrealistic expectations. You’re going to make mistakes along the way, you’re going to trip, fall, stumble, and skin your knee a few times. But we can’t just lie down and cry when we do. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start again. We all make mistakes. But we must learn from those mistakes. If we learn nothing, we don’t grow, and if we don’t grow, we never amount to anything. So before you go accusing the world of not growing to meet your expectations, take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself, “are my expectations reasonable?”

We’re all unique and special in our own way. Wanting noting else but to be normal is a fallacy. We all have our ups and downs. We all have obstacles we deal with on a daily basis. No one’s life is completely perfect. And the more time we spend trying to chase after perfection — trying to become someone else other than who we are, the more we forget who we were before.