Q. I have never felt I was a normal person. Other people seem to be happier, more self-confident and better organized. I wonder about what is normal because my mother was mentally ill throughout my childhood. My Christian faith has helped me and I’ve had some counseling about this but I still wonder, am I normal? Can you give me some guidelines to tell me what is normal?
A. There are two definitions of normal. We are normal when free from a mental disorder; when not paranoid, not psychotic, not schizophrenic, not psychopathic, and not neurotic. By definition also, we are normal if we behave the way most of us behave; if we conform to what society expects of us.
There is a wide range of what is normal. Two people can be very different from each other but both can still be normal. We are all crippled or neurotic or abnormal in some way yet most of us are normal in most ways. With these ideas in mind here’s my definition of a normal person:
It is normal to have problems, struggles and difficulties in life. Normal people have days when they feel depressed or overwhelmed or dissatisfied. Normal people are not perfect. We fail at things. We lack confidence. We make mistakes. We forget. We procrastinate. We make excuses. We do dumb things. We have flaws.
A normal person is in touch with a variety of feelings and can express these feelings in appropriate ways. A normal person has feelings of anger, sadness or fear in certain situations. A normal person is neither overly dependent nor overly independent. A normal person needs attention, connection and affection from others. A normal person also enjoys time alone. A normal person is able to adapt to changes, able to cooperate, able to be flexible. A normal person is able to be assertive when appropriate; able to set limits, doesn’t tolerate abuse.
A normal person has awareness of the needs of others, cares about others and gives of themselves to others. A normal person also pays attention to their own needs. A normal person spends some time at work and some time at play. A normal person is interested in life and enjoys a variety of activities.
When life is difficult a normal person does not go to extremes. Even when very upset inwardly, a normal person keeps some perspective on their life and realizes that they will survive. A normal person does not become self-destructive or suicidal, or withdrawn. A normal person does not explode with out of control anger or become paralyzed with fear. A normal person does not turn to drugs or alcohol or some other addiction to solve their problems. A normal person maintains some emotional balance even in the midst of a crisis. A normal person also will recognize when they need to ask for help from others.
In view of your background it’s no wonder you are uncertain about what is normal. Your mother’s illness prevented her from modeling what is normal and kept her from affirming your worth. I hope these ideas will give you some reassurance and help you believe in yourself. You need to stop comparing yourself to others. We are each unique. Also, when we compare our insides to others outsides we are bound to come up short. Learn to love who you are. And remind yourself that God loves you. If your doubts continue, further Christian counseling can help.
“God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.” 1 John 4:17