Why do so many people want to be like other people? The answer lies within you.
From the moment we enter this world, we’re conditioned. There’s no other way around it, by our parents, teachers, friends, and our entire society. The term societal conditioning was coined for a reason, in reference to how you and your story are molded in several ways. If growing up, your parents watched either sports, sitcoms, or soap operas, you’re likely to take to whichever they did. It doesn’t mean you’ll like everything your parents did, but you’re more prone to, theoretically speaking.
Many studies conducted discuss how we develop habits similar to our parents. An obvious example is smoking. If one of your parents smoked, you are at a significantly higher risk of doing the same. It’s not just your immediate family, either. Large in part, your neighborhood environment affects the person you become.
Suppose you live in an affluent, gated community, providing a safe atmosphere to live in; you’re more likely to stay on the right track and finish school. Suppose instead, you grow up in poverty and live in a neighborhood notorious for crime and drugs. In that case, you’re likely to fall into that lifestyle and not finish school, unlike your cross-town counterpart.
Yet, what's not often discussed enough in societal conditioning is the word "normal." Growing up, people become fascinated with this word, even living by it, partly due to their parents feeding into the preconceived notion that "normal" is, well, normal. In turn, placing expectations on their child of the mold they want them to fit in. By definition, the word normal means conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. If history has shown us anything, our world is not okay with those who aren't normal.
Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say the world is okay with something not being normal, so long as it fits an agenda. The exploitation of those who aren’t considered “normal” has long plagued society. Some of the most talented people this world has ever seen were mocked or laughed at as either children or adults, or both, only to be appreciated for their extraordinary work years later, simply because they didn’t complete it in a customary fashion. Numerous generational talents were bullied for not taking the “normal” approach to whatever task was set before them. Because they did something out of the ordinary, they were ostracized and seen as odd.
It shows how people typically equate unusual acts with being abnormal. In many cultures, if you do something odd, you’re likely to be ousted, usually because of the culture that is present in the environment. Some of the most successful companies, such as Google, often let their employees dictate their most productive way to work, even if it’s out of the ordinary, such as colleagues sitting outside on bean bags discussing ideas. This methodology has led to Google consistently being named one of the best places to work by providing a culture that promotes what is considered “abnormal” ways to get work done.
Therefore, whatever is deemed normal around you, will determine what’s viewed as abnormal. It’s where building a culture around normalizing unusual acts comes into play. Another example I’ve seen is where a family thought it wasn’t normal for a guest to offer to wash dishes in their home, even though they were just given a meal. Because the family considered them a guest and thought they should be treated as such, without feeling the need to assist. Why is that?
Well, it goes back to the environment a person was not only raised in but subsequently went through. Some families offer to wash dishes if they eat at someone else’s home as a token of appreciation. In contrast, other families have a rule of thumb that no guests can lift a finger in their home. It’s essential to note that it doesn’t make any specific way of doing things right.
Of course, it’d be more comfortable if everyone was the same, but our world would look so much different, in the wrong way. Everyone being unique makes this world as beautiful as it is. If someone has separate customaries than you, it shouldn’t stoke immediate indignation towards their character. Because not everybody was taught what you consider to be standard, and you shouldn’t shun them because of that.
You may have heard the saying,
“Being normal is vastly overrated.”
I can’t think of a more suitable phrase when I hear the word normal. Normal is what the world drives us to believe we should strive for when in all actuality, you should aspire to achieve whatever your version of normal is while simultaneously remembering not everyone’s version resembles the same. Maybe your normal is a fancy house, nice car, and a white picket fence.
Or, maybe it’s crocheting a sweater for your kitten, who’s not even big enough to fit it yet, on a blustery fall morning. No matter what it is, it’s best if you aim to never judge others for how they carry out their version of normal within their lives. If it’s not negatively impacting them or anyone else, let them live their life, and you, yours. Promote positivity as normal, and together we’ll make the world a better place.