We Shouldn’t Need to Bend Ourselves Out of Shape to be “Normal”

Man in a tangled contortionist pose

Dr. C, my family’s physician, was in a class by himself. He and I always spent the first fifteen or twenty minutes of my appointments just sitting and chatting, before he ever examined me. He was interested in health, not sickness, and that’s what he promoted. And that’s how he lived: He was a dedicated runner and swimmer and rode his bike to work every day.

I’ll never forget him saying, “If I was in normal health, I’d commit suicide.” His comment applies to more than just fitness and health. Much of what we accept as “normal”—because it’s common, it’s what “everybody” is doing, it’s got society’s stamp of approval—is not good enough. Not good enough for us, for who we truly are and what we’re truly capable of. Not good enough to satisfy our inherently high inner standards. Not good enough to make us and those around us truly happy.

Think about what’s “normal.” It’s “normal” to give in to peer pressure, even against our better judgment. It’s “normal” not to know our neighbors, even after living next to them for years; it’s “normal” to distrust everyone. And, especially since the pandemic, it’s “normal” to be lonely. Is this what we want to consider “normal”? Is this what we actually hope our children will become?

Not really, and we know it….

It’s also very common for people to disagree with the status quo in their hearts, even when they outwardly go along with it. It’s practically universal to deplore—and rightly so—the materialistic values that guide corporate decisions all over the world; the advertising messages that stalk us everywhere we go, tempting us to want things we don’t need; and the greed and self-interest that are almost universally accepted as worthy motivations.

Yes, and our dissatisfaction with “normal” goes deeper than that, and pains us more personally. In our hearts, many of us wistfully remember a time when we were more alive, simpler, nicer, happier than we are today. We know we’re not “ourselves” anymore—the person we naturally are—and we long for the way we were.

What happened? So many of us decided it wasn’t safe, or smart, or acceptable, to be as generous, adventurous, trusting, playful, passionate, and open-minded as we once were. We’ve trimmed off the “extra,” trying to fit our huge, colorful, uninhibited selves into what’s considered to be “normal.”

But in our hearts, we are far more generous than normal. We are far more loving, compassionate, tolerant, honest, forthright, than normal. We are far more willing to take risks. These are all things people will warn us against, but they a part of who we truly are. They are normal for us. We may not live those qualities, but our conscience bothers us when we don’t.

Friends, a better definition of normal would be to live in a manner which is consistent with the authentic values of our heart, and not to violate them in order to conform to some other standards and values.

“You are a fire, and you have a responsibility to burn bright. Far better to be exactly what everyone says is dangerous, uncool, too vulnerable, than to die of self-protection. Be too loving, too feeling, over the top. ‘Don’t go gently into that good night. Rage against the dying of the light.’ Don’t put out your fire with the wet blanket of ‘normal’ living. If you do, we’re all left with a cold, dark world. It’s up to you! “

— What Is Normal, cardsforliving.com

For more on this subject, see the What Is Normal Card. You can read it or download it for free on the Cards for Living website.


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