Many of us struggle with the idea of being normal. But if it’s actually society that’s not normal, we can let go and find our own path to happiness.
Our society has certain expectations of people. This is often nothing to do with the health and well-being of the general population. Rather, it is because of those in charge who need us to behave in certain ways so that they can profit from our lives. In order to do this, they influence what being normal means. As J. Krishnamurti said, ‘it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’
There are several spheres of our lives that are dominated by social conditioning.
With the industrial revolution, industry owners found that factory workers would work only as many days of the week as they needed. Bosses were unhappy about this because they needed a reliable workforce to meet their targets. The industry owners came up with the idea of schooling. This made sure that the workforce had the necessary skills to work, such as literacy and numeracy, but more importantly, it trained people to conform to a full working week. At school, students were taught to learn the rules and study what their betters told them was true. They were taught not to question or have any new or creative ideas of their own. Most importantly, for the business owners, they were taught to turn up on time every day. Eventually, working six days a week became a sign of being normal.
Religion has also played its part in brainwashing us. Notions such as the protestant work ethic, made people feel that they must work hard to be guaranteed a place in heaven. Most of us don’t actually believe this anymore, but it’s an idea that lingers in our mindset nonetheless. This is why we sometimes feel guilty if we take time off to rest or enjoy ourselves. We have been pressured to be busy and productive at all times in order to fit the idea of being normal.
Media and advertising
Where religion is losing its influence, the media and advertising industries have been quick to step in to fill the gap. Have you ever wondered why so many media stories are negative? It’s to keep us living in fear. People who are frightened, of losing their jobs, or homes, or being attacked by others, are more likely to stick to the rules. Advertising also plays on our fears and creates unrealistic images of how we should look, and what we should do with our lives to keep us spending money.
Even science has manipulated our thinking, guiding us to believe that we live in a material world with no numinosity or spirit. We have been taught that the universe is like a machine or a clockwork model that runs according to certain laws. While modern scientists understand that the universe does not resemble a clockwork model at all, but more of an evolving organism, again this idea has stuck. We feel disconnected from spirit and from the earth. Admitting to a belief in anything more than the materialistic world can make us seem weird.
Society then rewards this kind of behavior with money and status. We have become like trained monkeys doing tricks for rewards and fearing punishment for breaking the rules. Living this way is seen as a sign of success. However, for those who have different ideas, who are sensitive, creative, imaginative and not driven by material rewards, this society does not work so well. This can lead to depression and self-doubt, even self-loathing and suicide. All because the people in charge want to ensure the money keeps flowing into their big businesses and bank accounts.
So how can we break free of this idea of being normal and live a life that is more conducive to our happiness as individual, creative, compassionate human beings?
We begin to break free of these bonds of conditioning the minute we begin to understand them. If, after watching a commercial for hair care products or anti-aging cream, we notice that we begin to worry about how we look, we can learn to think differently. We can turn away from the fear of not being attractive enough or young enough and begin to look for stories that tell a better truth about humanity. We can begin to honor the wisdom of the older people in our society or begin to look more deeply at who benefits from our fears and this can help us to break free. We can seek healing voices rather than those of hatred and despair.
Self-belief begins when we value our own opinions. We can stop looking at news stories to tell us how to think and begin to trust our instincts. Then, we can learn what makes us happy and fulfilled rather than what society says should make us feel good. We can build on our creative skills; start a side project or pick up a hobby. We can remember what we used to love when we were children before our conditioning got too strong. We can begin to value ourselves for more than the financial contribution we make to society. And we can be proud of our efforts to help others, be compassionate and creative or help to safeguard our precious planet.
By finding a tribe of like-minded people, we will find support in strengthening our understanding and self-belief. There are plenty of people out there who feel like they don’t fit in. There are entrepreneurs who care about people and the planet, homesteaders who want to live a more natural life, artists, and healers who have the drive to make the world a better place. We can find these people in the real world or online. We can choose to join a choir or a green project or have lessons in pottery or carpentry or business. When we follow our instincts and desires they lead us to our purpose, but they also lead us to the people we need to be around to be healthy and happy.
We must be aware of those who are close to us that fear for us too. When our loved ones try to guide us back to conforming and fitting the mold, they may do so with our best interests at heart or they may do so because our changes are making them confront their own lives and they are not ready to do that yet. Either way, we have to continue to follow our path. As Marianne Williamson said, ‘There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.’
It can take courage to rebel against society. Feeling that you do not fit in can cause considerable mental and emotional anguish. But the benefits of living the life you want to live are worth it. There is no point in wasting another second of your life living in a way that makes you unhappy, just because ‘everyone else’ is doing it that way. It may not be easy. You may lose some friends along the way. You will have doubts. Others will judge you.
But if you stick with it, distance yourself from the comfort of the herd and forget being normal you will find a way. You will find a way to live a life that is beyond your current imagination because it is full of light and love, courage and creativity, passion and pleasure, fulfillment and faith.
Life is a dance and we all need to step to our own inner music.
Let us know in what ways you choose being yourself rather than being normal.
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