Am I Normal?
Conforming to the
standard or the
Many of us strive to consider ourselves normal and frequently beg the question, “Am I normal?” Often, one will intensify this level of self-doubt by asking more questions. “Is my child normal? Is my family normal? Is my experience normal? Is my reaction normal?” As these questions circle in one’s head, the idea of being abnormal begins to impose an unbearable negative state.
I often encounter individuals who have exhausted variations of these very questions and seek guidance into understanding what’s normal and how to get there. Often times the individual holds a distorted belief that if he/ she is not normal,then he/ she must be crazy!
As one looks closer at how to define normal, the questions can become more complicated. For instance, some defend individual ideas of normal by describing behavior to be ‘the way it’s always been’ or that ‘it comes naturally.’ Some consider their own behavior to be a part of a ‘regular routine.’ In comparison to the actual definition of normal, these statements are a good fit. On the other hand, some may contend that there is no ‘normal.’
So how does one go about evaluating what’s normal and what’s abnormal? Is it really that black and white? The biggest predictor is based on how one thinks. Thoughts are very powerful in how we feel! If one is constantly asking himself to evaluate normalcy, it’s likely he/she is going to feel increasingly negative. Without a clear standard to evaluate normal, self-doubt begins to loom. As one furthers these judgments of himself/herself, he/she may begin to respond with insecurity and anxiety. In turn, this creates symptoms that are ‘abnormal’ to the individual and become self-fulfilling in the original prediction.
For instance, one may consider his/her sleep patterns to be regular, natural, normal. He/she may strive towards getting nine hours of sleep each night, sleep-in whenever possible and take naps when the opportunity arises. This may seem fairly standard to the individual until he/she considers the standards of another family member who may only sleep six hours at night, wake up early every day, goes to bed later than any of the other members of the family, and hardly ever complains about fatigue. If such individual asks the questions, “Am I normal?” the self-doubt can begin. “Am I sleeping too much? Should I be trying to sleep less? Does everyone sleep as much as I do? Is there something wrong with me?” It can become difficult to maintain positive thoughts about one’s ‘normal’ behavior when he/she considers another behavior that is fairly opposite to his/her own.
Ultimately, values and societal norms can play a significant role in the normal versus abnormal debate. Yet there are times when a disorder creates abnormality that may require clinical attention. This is typically defined by extremeness, disturbance of others, subjective distress, or interference with daily functioning. (Rosehan & Seligman, 1989).
It’s helpful to be conscious of cognitive biases related to what’s normal. Consider the criteria used to develop the judgment about normal. Pay attention to the thoughts, the frequency of these thoughts, and rationality of these thoughts when considering what is normal. Also consider how the thoughts make you feel. Be conscious of making comparisons. Finally, seek consultation with professionals to assist in evaluating whether normal or abnormal conditions exist.
Rosenhan, D. and Seligman, M. (1989). Abnormal Pscyhology. New York City: W. W. Norton.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work. She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
LATEST ARTICLES BY Jody Johnson
Sign up to receive the latest mental health tips and inspiration